Said Rasool Betani
PESHAWAR: The academics and students of Pakistan and Afghanistan have emphasised the need for a combined strategy to improve bilateral ties and reduce tension.
It was stated at a conference organised by the Bacha Khan Trust Educational Foundation at the University of Peshawar (UoP). It was third such conference arranged by the academics for finding ways to improve bilateral ties between the two neighbouring countries. The first function was organised in November on the occasion of signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Peshawar and Nangarhar universities on promotion of Pashto literature, while the second function was organised at Afghanistan’s Uloom Academy on the occasion of an international conference on the personality and services of Khushal Khan Khattak.
Traditionally, politicians attend such conferences and make speeches, but in these conferences, civil society representatives, professors, teachers and students from different universities also made their presence felt.
Nematullah Baheer, who came from Afghanistan to attend the conference, said while talking to TNN that the event was significant because it will give a message that people on both sides of the Durand Line want peace and prosperity. He said an impression was made in Pakistan that Afghanistan was following the dictates of India, but there is no truth in this assertion. He said the people of Afghanistan want peaceful and friendly ties with all the neighbouring countries. He said war cannot resolve any problem, therefore, the youth from both sides should play their role in promoting peace.
Professor at Pashto Academy at the University of Balochistan Dr Barkat Shah said Pakhtuns on both sides of the Durand line have strong bonds and relationships since centuries. He said Pakhtuns from both sides also have business ties. However, he said, the process of fencing the border for the last two years has created a tense situation in the border area and the common people are the worst sufferers.
Dr Barkat Shah said people now had to adopt a long route to enter Pakistan via Chaman or Torkham borders in case of unavoidable visits for medical emergencies or other purposes. He said strain in the ties also results in difficulties for people on both sides to get visas and other travel documents. He said such issues badly impact the trade activities.
Professor Samina Afridi from the Philosophy Department of the UoP, who also attended the conference, told TNN that people of both the countries are facing similar problems. She said the women, children and elderly people suffer the most in the atmosphere of tension. She said education is the best solution to all problems.
Ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan have witnessed continuous decline during the last few years mainly due to difference over the border management issues and increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan.
Rights activist Amna Haideri, who also came from Afghanistan, said the conference will prove effective in removing misunderstandings between the two countries. She said such events should be organised on a regular basis to compel the rulers on both sides to focus on peace. She said the governments from both sides should sponsor such events and send their representatives. Ms Haideri said Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is like her second home where people are very loving and caring.
Earlier, the Awami National Party (ANP) central general secretary Mian Iftikhar Hussain said while addressing the conference that the region’s development and prosperity was not possible without friendly relations between the neighbouring countries. He said both the counties should frame policies for furthering their national interests. He said Afghanistan is the biggest market for Pakistan and the government should strengthen trade relations with its neighbours.
Dr Sarfaraz Khan, former head of the Area Study Centre of the UoP, said there are certain projects which are in the interest of both the countries. He said completion of these projects will benefit the people on both sides.
Bacha Khan Trust Education Foundation head Dr Khadim Hussain said in his concluding remarks that people from both sides of the border are tied in inseparable relations. The said mission of his Trust is to promote the philosophy of peace. He said Pakhtuns will have to increase political acumen and work for their rights within the legal ambit.