Pak-Afghan agree on JRP ahead of planned US troops reduction

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Rezaul H Laskar

Islamabad, Jan 27 (PTI) Pakistan and Afghanistan todayagreed to form a Joint Reconciliation Commission comprisingthe Foreign Ministers and military and intelligence officialsas part of enhanced bilateral consultations in the run-up tothe reduction US troops in the war-torn country.

The decision to form the joint commission wasannounced at a news conference by Foreign Minister ShahMahmood Qureshi and his visiting Afghan counterpart ZalmayRassoul here.

The commission will have two tiers, one comprisingthe Foreign Ministers and another consisting ofrepresentatives of the foreign ministries, military andintelligence services, Qureshi said.

Kabul and Islamabad have stepped up consultations,especially on Afghanistan�s reconciliation process with theTaliban, ahead of American plans to scale down its militarypresence in Afghanistan from July this year.

The US plans to completely withdraw its troops by2014.

The reintegration and reconciliation efforts inAfghanistan are part of an Afghan-led process and Pakistanwill facilitate and assist these moves, Qureshi said.

The two sides decided to form the joint commission asthere was a need for a formal mechanism for consultations bythe "political, military and intelligence components", hesaid.

Rassoul said the Afghan peace process comprised twoparts � reintegration and reconciliation.

The Afghan government is now involved in reintegrationby "bringing on board foot soldiers which are notideologically linked to al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups",he said.

Reconciliation is only possible with those elementswho accept the Afghan constitution and women�s rights and donot oppose education, he said.

Qureshi said today�s meeting with his Afghancounterpart also focussed on consultations for a trilateralmeeting with the US to be held in Washington next month.

"It was a useful interaction in building trust andconfidence and we agreed to jointly write a new chapter inbilateral relations," he said.

Both sides reiterated their commitment to eliminateterrorism, he said.

Pakistan and Afghanistan have a better understandingof the culture, terrain, area and people in themilitancy-affected areas of the two countries and solutionssuggested by them could be "more result-oriented, Qureshicontended.

The two Foreign Ministers decided to set up a jointworking group comprising trade officials to oversee theimplementation of the new Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit TradeAgreement.

They also agreed to establish a process ofconsultations to take steps to enhance connectivity, upgraderail and road links and improve communication facilities. PTIRHL

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