ISLAMABAD - Lawmakers of Pakistan and Afghanistan on Wednesday urged their respective governments to enter into a comprehensive strategic partnership agreement in order to counter the menace of terrorism effectively that has bedevilled the two neighbouring countries.

The understanding was reached in a two-day Pakistan-Afghanistan Parliamentarians Security Dialogue that concluded on Tuesday on the eve of historic drawdown of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan by ending its 13 years long combat mission.

In a joint statement issued here, the parliamentarians of the two countries believed that the two governments should enter into a comprehensive Strategic Partnership Agreement based on the need for comprehensive and effective laws on combating terrorism, including cyber terrorism.

The participants of the dialogue underscored the need for bilateral cooperation, particularly cooperation among the state and security agencies in two countries, in fight against terrorism and extremism, besides achieving and maintaining peace and stability in the region.

Parliamentarians believed that the prospects of stability in the region can only materialise if the two neighbours improve bilateral relations. “Both countries must grasp this new opportunity of peace and good relations offered by the newly-elected governments on both sides,” the statement added.

They stressed that trade and commerce between the two countries must be prioritised and formalised. Both sides also supported removal of bottlenecks and trade barriers and emphasized that facilities for transit trade between the two neighbouring countries must be improved.

The parliamentarians of the two countries also backed the initiatives to enhance connectivity between Pakistan and Afghanistan, including construction of a motorway between Peshawar and Kabul, rail and road links between Parachinar and Kabul, Peshawar and Jalalabad and Chaman and Spinbolduk as well as building a trade central strategic corridor between the two countries.

They also believed that mechanisms and opportunities for public private partnerships must also be enhanced. During the talks, the parliamentarians of the two countries acknowledged and appreciated the positive momentum in bilateral relations generated by the visit of newly-elected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to Pakistan from November 14-16 this year. They also appreciated the vision of building a “peaceful neighbourhood” of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as a fundamental element which is the vision of a strong, comprehensive and enduring partnership between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“A strong and viable bilateral relationship between the two countries is the only guarantee of the security and prosperity of the two countries as well as of peace and development in the region,” stated the joint statement.

The parliamentarians unequivocally condemned the heinous and inhuman terrorist attack of December 16 in Peshawar. Similar dastardly terrorist attacks in Kabul and Paktika province were also deplored.

They believed that Islamabad and Kabul should take joint and steady steps for preventing such terrorist attacks and reiterated their resolve against all kinds of terrorism and extremism affecting the two countries

As representatives of the people of the two neighbourly countries, MPs appreciated that the two countries are now ready to, independently and along with each other, take concrete and effective steps to counter terrorism and extremism aimed at ensuring peace and stability in the two countries and in the region

The MPs shared a common vision where Pakistan and Afghanistan will serve as the heart of Asia to ensure that economic integration in Asia becomes a reality and not just remain a dream. Parliamentarians reiterated the desire to see South Asia connected with Central Asia under a model of regional economic integration.

The lawmakers favoured de-weaponisation and improved drug management across the border. They also stressed on putting in place a relaxed visa regime that allows multiple entry visas of citizens of each country. “Speedy visas should be issued for citizens travelling for health-related reasons,” the statement added.

Affirming their commitment to build an environment of peace through dialogue, the two sides reiterated their resolve to continue the dialogue process, involving all shades of opinion, to stabilise relations between the two countries. They also resolved to find constructive, meaningful and lasting solutions to improve and strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries.  The MPs reiterated the need for both states to put in place comprehensive and effective measures for border management, strengthening also the tribes on the two sides to effectively monitor the border/Durand line. They also stressed that the soil of the two countries must not be allowed to be used against each other and concerns from both sides should be seriously and honestly addressed on priority basis.

On the refugees’ issue, the MPs of the two countries urged the two governments to prepare a comprehensive roadmap for the honourable repatriation of Afghan refugees from Pakistan to Afghanistan at the earliest in keeping with the trilateral agreement.

In addition to the need for enhancing educational scholarships for students of Afghanistan, the two countries would greatly benefit by cooperation in education. The scope for such cooperation might include; exchange of students and teachers at the level of universities and specialized institutions, such as for medicine and technology, exchange of youth delegations, facilitate study in each others universities by students, faculty and researchers through appropriate provisions in the visa regime A desire was expressed by the MPs of the two countries to institutionalize a regular dialogue between the two Parliaments. The MPs from both sides recognized and appreciated the initiative of PILDAT to foster these dialogues and urged that this initiative be continued and reinforced.

The Afghan side was led by Senator Baz Mohammad Zormati, Member International Affairs Commission, Meshrano Jirga and Abdul Qader Zazai, Chairman International Affairs Commission, Wolesi Jirga, with members of the delegation including Senator Lutfullah Baba, Senator Fowzea Saadat Zamkanai, Senator Mohammad Hassan Hotak, Senator Ghulam Mohaiudin Monsef, Senator Rana Tareen, Senator Mir Bahador Wasifi, from the Meshrano Jirga and Mohammad Nazir Ahmadzai, Sayed Nader Shah Bahr, Qudrat Ullah Saied Jan, Baz Mohammad Jawzjani, Gul Badshah Majidi, Ali Akbar Qasemi, Sherwali Wardak, Zakaria Zakaria, and Qudratullah Zaki, from the Wolesi Jirga.

Lawmakers from Pakistan included Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Chairman Defence Committee, and Senator Afrasiab Khattak, Haji Adeel, Abbas Khan Afridi, Surriya Amiruddin, Dr Jehangir Badar, Abdul Nabi Bangash, Mir Hasil Bizenjo, Najma Hameed, Senator M Hamza, Amar Jeet, Senator Saeeda Iqbal, Senator Nasreen Jalil, Karim Ahmed Khawaja, Rubina Khalid, Zahid Khan, Nawabzada Saifullah Magsi, Abdul Rauf, Senator Mohammad Saleh Shah from the Senate.