Senate of Pakistan

Minutes of the Meeting ( Policy Seminar )

November 5, 2012

Policy Seminar:
Towards 2014: Challenges of the NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan.


1. The Senate Committee on Defence and Defence Production in association with Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung organized a seminar “Towards 2014: Challenges of NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan” on November 5th, 2012. The seminar took place at the Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services. Senator Nayyer Hussain Bukhari, Chairman Senate of Pakistan was the Chief Guest for the seminar. The event was presided over by the Chairman of the Defence Committee Senator Mushahid Hussain and the guest of honor was Mr. Roderich Kiesewetter, who is a German Member of Parliament and the rapporteur for the transitional process in Afghanistan of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). The guest speakers included Dr. Maliha Lodhi, Ex-High Commissioner to UK and Mr. Riaz H. Khokhar, Ex-Foreign Secretary.  Members of the Senate Committee on Defence were also present.

2. The event started with the recitation from the Holy Quran.

3. Secretary Defence Amjad Parvez welcomed the distinguished guests and explained the event’s schedule to the audience. The event comprised of two sessions. First was the inaugural session which included introductory remarks by Dr. Babak Khalatbari, Resident Representative, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, welcome address by Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed and keynote addresses by MP Roderich Kieswetter and Chairman Senate Syed Nayyer Hussain Bokhari. Second session which was the working session consisted of addresses by Mr. Roderich Kiesewetter on the German Perspective with regard to the challenges of the NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan, Ambassador ® Dr. Maleeha Lodhi on the regional and global perspective and Mr. Riaz Khokar on the Pakistani perspective.  This was to be followed by brief remarks of the parliamentarians and in the end Chiarman Mushahid Hussain Sayed was to give his concluding speech.

4. Dr Babak Khalatbari said it was an honor for his organization to cooperate with the Senate Committee on Defence. He commended the efforts made by Senator Mushahid Hussain and Senator Nayyer Bukhari to promote people to people contact between Pakistan and Germany. He said it is extremely important to build trust and confidence and our partnership is an indicator of strong bilateral relations between the two countries.

5. Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed welcomed the guests and participants. He said the seminar’s focus is on something which affects Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States, particularly it is of utmost significance to Pakistan.  He said that keeping up with the tradition Defence Committee will launch its first Defence Update of the series, in this Seminar. He told the audience that the Defence Committee has already published two reports and is the only Committee with its own website, facebook and twitter account. The Committee is also holding Public Hearings and Policy Seminars. He said he and his Committee members feel there is a dire need to have public opinion while devising policies.  His Committee was working above party lines and they also intend to publish a Defence Policy Strategy Document in the first quarter of 2013. He said his committee will continue to work towards the establishment of a progressive, pluralist and tolerant Pakistan. He made clear that US and NATO depend on Pakistan for a successful withdrawal and it was heartening to see that the Pressure on Pakistan to “do more” did not exist anymore and a trilateral commission had been formed including Pakistan, United states and Afghanistan to initiate dialogue with the Taliban. He stressed this is the period where the people, armed forces and most importantly the Parliament has to play a role. Parliament’s supremacy cannot be established by mere words but it has to take charge in issues and ideas. He thanked Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung, PIPS, PILDAT and SDPD (UNDP) for their continued support and assistance. He said for the first time after the war on terror, some civilian representatives have been invited to Waziristan and he, along with his committee members, will definitely go there. He said his committee is determined to act as a bridge between khaki and mufti.

6. Mr. Kiesewetter said that this was the fourth time he came to Pakistan as the member of the Parliament and he is really impressed with the rich culture and hospitality of Pakistani people.  He said it was an overwhelming moment for him to share his views on this challenging topic. Talking about the current European situation he said there are four major challenges facing Europe today which include Economic stability, Energy Security, Demographic Change and the question of credible European Defence Policy. He said that vast majority of German Population is against German’s engagement in Afghanistan. Mr. Kiesewetter told the seminar that Germany’s civilian engagement will continue in Afghanistan after 2014 and he will focus on this significant facet of the issue, during his address.

7. Chairman Senate Nayyer Hussain Bukhari said, the topic “Towards 2014: Challenges of NATO Withdrawal from Afghanistan” is very pertinent and relevant vis-a-vis the current geo-political, strategic and security scenario unfolding in the region whereby Afghanistan issue has taken centre stage demanding an urgent resolution. He lauded the efforts of Senate Standing Committee on Defence and Defence Production which he said is ascending along a path-breaking trajectory, taking novel initiatives as per its mandate and vision of the seasoned Parliamentarians who make up its members, especially its Chairman Mushahid Hussain Sayed.  He said such initiatives are augmenting Parliament-People connectivity by bringing committee proceedings from behind closed doors out into the public domain. He said Afghanistan issue continues to be a perplexing conundrum for the world community.  Chairman senate held that Pakistan wants to see a united, independent and sovereign Afghan state, and strongly desires de-escalation and cessation of violence.  He asserted that while talking about withdrawal, NATO must take into account the fact that consolidation of democratic governance, reconciliation and promotion of sustainable economic development   in Afghanistan are some of the challenges to, as well as pre-requisites for, complete and successful transition, ahead of 2014. He concluded his speech on a note of optimism saying he believed the deliberations during this seminar would result in key recommendations and solutions to help Afghan people cope successfully with the seemingly daunting challenges that lie ahead on the road to transition.

8. The working session began with the speech of Mr. Roderich Kiesewetter to give the German perspective on “Challenges of the NATO Withdrawal from Afghanistan”.   He said Pakistan and Germany share common interests. Both the countries desire a peaceful solution to the Afghanistan problem. He said that the withdrawal must not lead to a situation that Pakistan saw in 1990’s.  While talking of public opinion he told, it took years for the German population to acknowledge that their country was in a state of war in Afghanistan. But in 2009, the support increased as it was evident enough by that time that Germany was at war in Northern Afghanistan.  He encouraged the Pakistani government to cooperate with Germany and other 48 NATO members in the withdrawal process. He said Pakistan has the most important role to play in this process as reconciliation can only be fostered by people who know the hearts and minds of the natives. MP stated the NATO military will leave Afghanistan in 2014 but civilian presence will persist.  Germany will assist in Afghanistan with developmental aid to promote Market economy and Transit trade. He said at the end of 2014, Germany will start assistance and monitoring force with civilian footprint to provide support in education, infrastructure and health sectors in Afghanistan. He laid emphasis on the fact that the overall withdrawal and reconciliation should be Afghan led. Mr. Kiesewetter said that after 2014 Germany’s interest will be to provide civilian assistance to create a stable self sustaining economy in Afghanistan.

9. Dr. Maleeha Lodhi while talking about a regional and global perspective on the issue said the pre requisites for a peaceful withdrawal of NATO forces and a political end to the Afghan problem are not yet in place and this heightened the risk of Afghanistan descending into turmoil after 2014 creating security vacuum. She told the audience that it is necessary for the next President of US to clarify American Policy and work towards negotiated peace in Afghanistan.  She said Pakistan seeks not a pushtun solution but an Afghan solution to Afghanistan, recognizing that enduring peace can only come from the country’s ethnic groups accommodating each other, and not seeking to dominate the other.  Dr. Lodhi asserted that Iran and major powers like Russia and China’s role must not be ignored when it comes to the regional aspect of prospective peacemaking efforts. She said the NATO forces can either abandon the region in 2014 as US did in the nineties resulting in disastrous consequences or they can make sincere efforts to bolster peace and stability in Afghanistan. She advised the Pakistani Parliament to cooperate with the International Community to work for the best case scenario but she warned that at the same time preparations must be made to get ready for the worst case state of affairs as well. Dr Lodhi also made clear at the seminar that Pakistan warned US not to wage a war in Afghanistan post 9/11.

10. Mr. Riaz Khokar presented the Pakistani perspective on the topic. He reiterated the fact that the time from now till 2014 is of great significance. He said the West needs to understand the dynamics of the region and the responsibility lies with the Parliamentarians to devise effective policies.  He said that while talking about regional solution to the problem, Iran must not be forgotten as it is an important stakeholder perhaps more significant than India when it comes to Afghanistan issue. He also said that Afghanistan should be allowed to decide its own future, Pakistan or any other country must not dictate or impose their policies on Afghanistan. He said the Pakistan Foreign Office wanted clear 'red lines' in US ties, not carte blanche.  He also asserted that there is no need for NATO to stay in Afghanistan post 9/11 and Afghanis must be allowed to decide their own future. While referring to Mullah Umar’s most recent statement, Mr. Riaz Khokar said that Mullah Umar is giving an opening to Afghani people and this chance of reconciliation must be availed.  Mr. Khokar said there is a lot of mistrust between the stakeholders, and unless joint effort is made to sort these issues out, a smooth withdrawal seems impossible.

11. Senator Farhatullah Babar giving his remarks said first of all we need to be sure whether the withdrawal will even take place? He referred to President Obama’s statement “Our mission will change from combat to support” that it is not vivid what the support mission will entail and how long will it last.  He said that he hoped the support mission was not just euphemism for combat mission. Senator Babar said NATO plan must include the dismantling of both physical weapons of the war as well as Narcotics-trade.  

12. Senator Sehar Kamran said that the topic of the seminar is a multi dimensional subject related to US ambitions in the region. It’s not an 11 years old war but 33 years old war with shifting US policies. She said there is no simple formula for the NATO to leave Afghanistan.  United States and the NATO have to take into account the regional geo-strategic realities. The exit strategy without empowering Afghan forces would be detrimental and Pakistan’s legitimate interest must be kept in view while devising the plan for withdrawal.

13. Senator Ishaq Dar said the post cold war history of refugees must not be forgotten when the region was completely abandoned by the US and Pakistan had to pay and is still paying the largest price in terms of Kalashnikov culture and drug mafia. Pakistan has landed into serious economic crisis. We have had five consecutive years of double digit inflation. He said timely preparations must be made to get involved and negotiate, and Pakistan must keep its national interest above everything else. On the issue of disarmament, Senator Ishaq said all countries must disarm if need be, but he reiterated that Pakistan at this moment, cannot afford disarmament.

14. Mr. Khurram Dastgir said the biggest concern of the Pakistani people is to end this insurgency within their own homeland.  He said the NATO withdrawal must have at least some contribution in making Pakistan safe and secure.

15. Senator Mashhadi said Talibanization in Pakistan is on the rise and we have to get rid of it. This country is for everyone and we need to live with the concept our four fathers, especially our founder Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah gave, which is of a liberal, modern, democratic and tolerant Pakistan. He also said that US and NATO have failed to pull off their objectives in Afghanistan.

16. Mr. Nadeem Afzal Chan, Chairman PAC said Pakistan needs to shed away hypocrisy on these issues. He asserted that today religion is being used in Pakistan for selling and buying. The so called war on terror has polarized the entire Pakistani society. United States’ policies only assist 5% of the population which are either the elite or NGO’s.  He said Pakistan must get its own act in order, we should not allow external forces to define our national interest.

17. Chinese Professor Mr. Zhou Rong said that the solution to the Afghan problem must take into account Pakistan’s national interest, sovereignty and dignity. Maj General Asad Durrani in his remarks said it is heartening to know that Parliamentarians will take over the responsibility to devise policies. He said when we ask Taliban to come to the negotiating table, we must persuade the US to so the same. He said the nature of this war is such that a contradiction will always exist in the society as is evident from the situation in Afghanistan where US themselves paid 140 million US$ to the Taliban to provide security to their convoys last year.

18. Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed in his concluding remarks said that it was a stimulating seminar and he would like to thank all the participants. He said there is a lot of confusion in the US foreign policy. Hawkish elements in the Pentagon and CIA have been driving American policies towards Afghanistan and Pakistan. Sometimes, Pakistan is asked to help the US to talk to the Taliban, and then, at other times, Pakistanis are asked to take on the Taliban. However, Senator Mushahid Hussain said that recently there was a refreshing change in US policy with backtracking on pressure on Pakistan regarding any operation in Waziristan. He said, Defence Committee is promoting a new culture of debate on defence and security by providing leadership in ideas, issues & initiatives, and will continue its efforts to act as a bridge between khaki and mufti.  He praised Germany’s continued role and assistance, asserting that he hoped Germany will play a defining role in resolving all major issues facing the region today.

19. Senate Defence Committee issued the Defence Update at the Seminar with articles by experts on NATO and Afghanistan. The seminar ended with the presentation of mementos to the honorable speakers and distribution of certificates to the Defence Correspondents Association. This was followed by a lunch at Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services (PIPS).

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