The seminar was moderated by Paulo Casaca, Director of the Brussels-based South Asia Democracy Forum. The speakers included Petras Austrevicius, Member of European Parliament (MEP) and President of the delegation of the European Parliament for relations with Afghanistan, Muhammad Zaland, civil rights activist and professor at Kabul University and Asaf Romirowsky, Fellow at the Middle East Forum, a Philadelphia-based think tank.
Opening the discussions, Paulo Casaca expressed his deepest condolences for the victims of the recent terrorist attack in Kabul that killed more than 100 people. Referring to the same attack he contended that though Pakistan had denied any role in the incident, Casaca raised concerns that Pakistan had previously denied having knowledge of Osama Bin Laden’s location, but the Al-Qaeda leader was finally found living in a safe house in Pakistan. Muhammad Zaland’s presentation conveyed the view that a stable and strong Afghanistan did not suit Pakistan’s strategic interests, and that the recent emergence of ISIS in Afghanistan was in no way linked to ISIS operating in Iraq or Syria. Instead, he stated, that the new group in Afghanistan had been floated by the Pakistan intelligence service.
In his speech, Asaf Romirowsky stated that troop enhancement by the US in Afghanistan would not improve the situation on ground, given the ongoing instability in Pakistan. He stated that even though more than US$ 30 billion had been provided in assistance by the US to Pakistan since 2002, the Haqqani network, from its safe havens in Pakistan, continued to carry out deadly attacks against US soldiers in Afghanistan. He suggested that it was time that the US facilitated a political settlement involving all elements of Afghan society, and urged that prior to initiating this process, Pakistan should be categorically conveyed that in case it wanted a say in the reconciliation process it was required to take verifiable steps to curtail the financing and arming of the Taliban and target Taliban elements that oppose talks with the Afghan government.
MEP Petras Austrevicius informed the audience that there was no difference of opinion within the European Union Council on assisting Afghanistan, whether financially or technically, with its reconciliation process. He, however, lamented that despite large scale international support, the major obstacle to Afghanistan’s development was cross border terrorism originating from Pakistan. He stated that the establishment of terror camps in Pakistan was pushing terrorists into Afghanistan to carry out incidents of violence. He concluded that as long as the Afghan Taliban and the newly formed ‘so called ISIS’ were enabled by Pakistan, Afghans would continue to live in an atmosphere of terror.
During the Q&A session, Prof Muhammad Zaland displayed photographs of the large scale destruction of villages along the Afghan-Pakistan border resulting in displacement of population.
SOURCE South Asia Democratic Forum