The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Defence and Defence Production, Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed has termed the 4 day visit of the Senate Defence Committee to Kabul as a “first of its kind, historic, path-breaking” between the two countries since it has institutionalized the first-ever dialogue on defence, security and military related issues between the two neighbours.
Addressing a press conference at the Parliament House this afternoon, he said the composition of the high-powered delegation was somewhat unique, since it comprised leaders of five major political parties belonging both to the government and the opposition, representing all segments of public opinion, and for the 'first time, we discussed defence, security and military related issues'.
As a result of the visit, Senator Mushahid Hussain said, the two sides signed a MOU to institutionalize the dialogue, the next round of which will be convened in Islamabad after the Afghanistan presidential elections in April 2014.
The two sides also issued a joint declaration which was mutually agreed upon, which presented a common vision of problems faced by both countries, and both sides agreed that peace, security and stability in the two neighbours is inextricably intertwined.
The Committee, during its visit, had excellent meeting with President Karzai, who spoke in chaste Urdu and broke with protocol to personally see off the delegation, coming all the way down the stairs in the presidential palace in Kabul.
Mr Karzai also welcomed the results of the APC and the decision to have dialogue with the militants. During the meeting with Defence Minister, General Bismillah Khan and Chief of Army Staff, General Karimi, both the Afghan Generals praised General Kayani for his 'sincere and serious approach' on military related and other border issues.
Briefing the media, Senator Mushahid Hussain said that he was informed in Kabul that within the next two months, a bilateral security agreement between Kabul and Washington will be signed as a result of which, approximately 20,000 American and NATO troops will remain in Afghanistan residing in nine different bases in different parts of Afghanistan.
He also mentioned that according to informed sources in Kabul, there were over 100,000 American contractors who were engaged in various security and other related responsibilities for both Afghanistan and Pakistan. This number would not be affected by the draw-down of NATO troops.
Senator Mushahid Hussain also referred to growing confidence and better rapport between the government and military establishments of the two countries, which is exemplified by 20 visits of President Karzai to Pakistan in the past decade and 12 separate visits by General Bismillah Khan to Islamabad.
Referring to people to people contacts between Pakistan and Afghanistan, Senator Mushahid Hussain said that the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul was issuing 1200 visas a day without charging any visa fee while at least 55000 people cross over on both sides of the border on a daily basis via 124 various crossing points between the two countries.
Referring to an initiative for greater people to people contact, Senator Mushahid Hussain announced that a Pakistan-Afghanistan Peoples Friendship Association was being launched with Senator Afrasiab Khattak as its President and Senator Dr. Jehangir Badar as the Secretary General, which would hold a big Pakistan-Afghanistan Peoples Friendship Festival in Kabul during October 26-28, 2013.
Concluding, Senator Mushahid Hussain referred to the upcoming challenge of 2014 which will be the biggest logistical exercise after World War-II in military terms since 750,000 pieces of armaments, ammunition, equipment and vehicles, worth a total of 35 billion dollars, would have to be taken out of Afghanistan, 70% percent through Pakistan while the rest would go through the Northern Distribution Network via Central Asia.
During the visit to Kabul, all the Afghan leaders profusely thanked Pakistan for its warm and generous hospitality, accorded to Afghanistan by hosting over 3 million Afghan refugees. Senator Mushahid Hussain also thanked the Afghan people for their sacrifices in resisting foreign occupation.
He said that Pakistan was thankful to the Afghan people for its resistance during the crucial decade of 80s since it eased up the international pressure on Pakistan’s nuclear programme and such an environment proved conducive to Pakistan’s quest for nuclear weapons. This aspect was highly appreciated by the Afghan leadership as well.
The delegation was led by Senator Mushahid Hussain, comprising Senators Chaudhry Shujat Hussain, Aitizaz Ahsan, Jehangir Badar, Sehar Kamran, Haji Adeel, Najma Hameed, Saeed Mandokhel, Afrasiab Khattak and MNA Maulana Mohammad Khan Shirani.