He said Pakistan desires friendly relations with Afghanistan based on the principles of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday said that he had placed the highest priority on constructive engagement with Afghanistan from the outset and Pakistan’s vision of a peaceful and prosperous neighbourhood can only be realized by having peace and stability there.

Speaking after his meeting with President Hamid Karzai in Kabul, Mr. Sharif put emphasis on forging cooperative ties between Afghanistan and Pakistan and said that there was consistent progress. President Karzai’s visit to Pakistan in August made a significant contribution to this process. He added that his visit to Afghanistan would help carry forward the positive momentum, according to an official statement.

He reiterated that Pakistan desires friendly relations with Afghanistan based on the principles of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity. Elections in 2014 would be accompanied by formidable challenges as well. Mr. Sharif said the key to sustainable peace in Afghanistan is inclusive political settlement. That is why Pakistan has steadfastly supported an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process.

He called on all the stakeholders to seize this moment and join hands to support peace efforts. It is imperative to reverse the destructive cycle of conflict and this was the time to take decisive steps for moving forward the dialogue process and bringing it to a successful conclusion, he pointed out. He assured Mr. Karzai that Pakistan would continue to extend all possible facilitation for the Afghan peace process. The international community must also stay engaged to help Afghanistan’s reconstruction and economic development, he added.

He said Parliamentary dialogue is deepening and people-to-people exchanges are expanding. This year, another batch of 600 Afghan students is joining thousands of other Afghan students to pursue higher studies in Pakistan.

Pakistan also increased assistance for reconstruction and socio-economic development from US $ 385 million to US $ 500 million. The additional amount of US $ 115 million would be used to complete ongoing projects and initiate new ones. It has also extended the stay of registered Afghan refugees upto December 2015. He said everyone, especially Pakistan, has a vital stake in Afghanistan’s success in its journey to peace and development and the country would stand by and support the Afghan people every step of this way.

News reports said that Mr. Sharif confirmed that Taliban leader Mullah Baradar was released by Pakistan and if anyone was sent by Mr. Karzai to meet Baradar, the government would ensure such a meeting took place.