ISLAMABAD - President of his own faction of Pakistan People's Party, Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao, has said that the regional powers, including Pakistan, wanted some commitments and clarifications from the United States and its allies on post- 2014 scenario in Afghanistan and the upcoming daylong Istanbul Conference on Nov 2 would focus on it.
Talking exclusively with TheNation Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao, who is in the know of the developments on this front, said that no major breakthrough would be expected at Istanbul Conference as the regional states would hardly draw the contours of their strategy for the upcoming Bonn Conference in December wherein some 90 nations would sit and discuss the Afghan peace and the exit strategy of the NATO forces and sustainable peace in Afghanistan. Besides Afghanistan Pakistan, India, Iran, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the UAE, the US and the UK would be attending the Istanbul Conference.
To a question Sherpao said that Pakistan's concern about the exit strategy and the post-2014 scenario in Afghanistan were genuine and especially the situation become more complex where United States was even not clear on it and till the time the US would come up with some concrete and definite plan the confusion would continue to loom large on the regional states.
To a question he said that India was attending the Istanbul Conference for the first time and similarly the Iran would also raise its concerns about the post-withdrawal situation in restive Afghanistan. Iran would likely raise the issue of establishment of Peace and Reconciliation Commission between Pakistan and Afghanistan and would like to have similar arrangements with Afghanistan as well.
Accepting that the Pak-US relations are passing through a critical phase where the trust level between the two key allies in war against terror is at all time low. The former interior minister said that both US and Pakistan agencies needed to sit down to thrash out their differences, but quickly added that United States has to keep in mind Pakistan's interests and limitation in the whole process. He also stressed the need of a serious and threadbare review of Pak-Afghan relations and to remove the growing mistrust between the two states. He suggested that people to people and government to government level contacts should be enhanced and both the states should evolve a joint strategy to deal with the situation.
To a question about the withdrawal strategy Sherpao said that now United States and its allies in the ongoing war in Afghanistan were talking about 2014 plus 10 years formula and wanted to keep the NATO presence in Afghanistan for another 10 years after 2014, ostensibly to help Afghan civil and military establishment to manage the things after withdrawal. He said that the formula of 2014 Plus 10 years would definitely figure in the Istanbul Conference and would be discussed in detail in Bonn conference in early December. When asked to elaborate the 2014 plus 10 years formula Sherpao said that NATO forces would keep the presence of their forces up to the total strength of 30,000 in Afghanistan, which would confine itself to their military basis and would help facilitate the Afghan National Guards and their civil administration in maintenance of peace and order in the country. To a question about possibility of some joint control of Pak-Afghan border to check the cross-border movement of militants Sherpao said that no such formula would be workable as the regional states involvement in monitoring of the border between the two states would be of little significance and many states would also not accept it.
He said that both the countries had established biometric system at some points to check the cross-border movement but it had also failed to yield desired results and added that he and many other Afghan leaders had proposed that both the countries would jointly monitor the cross-border movement with the active support of the tribes inhabiting the areas on both sides of Pak-Afghan border.
To another question about the fencing of the Pak-Afghan border he said that firstly it was not possible to fence over 1,400 kilometers of border with difficult terrain and secondly it had political implication and would not be workable. To a question about the prospects of negotiation with various militants factions Sherpao said that winning over various militant factions through dialogue is prerequisite to bring lasting peace in Afghanistan and said that America and its allies in Afghanistan should understand the importance of negotiations.