We meet today to mark an historic occasion, when our Afghan brethren take a major step forward in their long quest for peace.
Indeed, a long phase of tribulations seems ending. A new dawn is upon us.
This journey has not been easy. There have been obstacles and setbacks; moments of doubt and despair.
Yet, progress has been made, and preserved.
Arriving at this inflection point has been an accomplishment, and this success belongs, first and foremost, to the Afghans.
Pakistan has walked along-side you in every possible way, by encouraging reduction in violence and by urging dialogue and negotiations.
Pakistan has fully facilitated the process that culminated in the U.S.-Taliban Peace Agreement in Doha on 29 February 2020 and has reached this juncture.
Commencement of Intra-Afghan Negotiations, today, is the fruit of our combined efforts.
Pakistan and Prime Minister Imran Khan has long maintained that there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan. Political solution is the only way forward.
We are gratified that our perspective is now widely shared across the international community.
We are also gratified that we have fulfilled our part of the responsibility.
It is now for the Afghan leaders to seize this historic opportunity, work together constructively, and secure an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement.
The forthcoming negotiations are for the Afghans to decide about their future. The Afghans alone must be the masters of their destiny, without outside influence or interference.
Spoilers, from within and from without, will pose formidable challenges. Constants vigilance will be required to guard against their machinations.
We hope all sides will honour their respective commitments, persevere in the face of all challenges and setbacks, and remain unflinchingly committed to achieving a positive outcome.
Besides Afghanistan, Pakistan is the country that has suffered the most from the Afghan conflict.
Over the past 40 years, we have endured terrorist attacks, loss of precious lives, mass population displacements, instability at the borders, and huge economic costs.
But we have persevered in the face of all difficulties and negativity.
Our citizens and law enforcement personnel have rendered invaluable sacrifices. Our leadership has decisively demonstrated that Pakistan will only be a partner for peace.
At this historic juncture, it is imperative that the mistakes of the past are not repeated. The Afghan people must not be abandoned, as happened before. The progress achieved must not be frittered away.
A peaceful and stable Afghanistan will bring new opportunities for the progress and prosperity of the Afghan people. It will also open new vistas of cooperation and connectivity in the region and beyond.
I suggest a four-pronged way forward. We call upon the international community and all concerned:
i. To continue to support the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process while respecting the consensus that emerges from Intra-Afghan Negotiations.
ii. To ensure that Afghanistan neither witnesses the violent days of the past nor becomes a space for elements who would harm others beyond its borders.
iii. To deepen and sustain economic engagement with Afghanistan for its reconstruction and economic development.
iv. To ensure a well-resourced, time-bound return of Afghan refugees to their homeland with dignity and honour.
At this moment of hope, I reassure our Afghan brethren that Pakistan will always be in full support and solidarity with them as they continue their momentous journey on the path of peace, security and development.
Pakistan will always support a peaceful, stable, united, democratic, prosperous and sovereign Afghanistan, at peace with itself and with its neighbours.