KABUL -- Afghan and Pakistani youth ambassadors met in Kabul on December 20 to create a healthy atmosphere for dialogue and improve relations between the two countries.
Dozens of youth took part in the first ever conference of Young Ambassadors in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as part of an effort to achieve permanent peace in both countries. The event was hosted by Mediothek, an NGO working towards peace and democracy in Afghanistan.
"After a year of efforts and by bringing Afghan and Pakistani youth together, our institution managed to take practical steps for preparing the ground for peace and for strengthening amity between Kabul and Islamabad," Hamidullah Zazai, Mediothek managing director and the conference's organiser, told Salaam Times.
"Afghanistan and Pakistan share many cultural, social, and historical similarities. Afghan and Pakistani youth's representatives at the conference decided to eliminate the atmosphere of incompatibility and distrust through implementation of new approaches and to try building confidence among the two countries' nations," said Zazai.
"Fourteen individuals representing youth, students, and civil institutions from Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces of Pakistan, as well as dozens of young Afghans from seven provinces, participated in the conference with the objective of strengthening the good relations between the two countries," Zazai added.
More than 200 young Afghans, including some government authorities, civil society officials and youth rights activists, took part in the conference.
"Another objective of this conference was to create hatred for war in the peoples of the two countries and to find ways to achieve common interests," Zazai said.
Pakistan and Afghanistan face similar problems, Amir Khan, a young Pakistani who took part in the conference, told Salaam Times.
"In order to overcome such problems, youth of both nations should take responsibility for improving relations between the two countries," he said.
"Pakistanis and Afghans are Muslims and brothers and have many common cultural and social traits. Instead of conflict, they have to be in harmony and convergence," Khan said.
"Terrorism, extremism, unemployment and poverty are common challenges for both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and neither country can solve these challenges by itself," Jawed Ahmad, another Pakistani youth, told Salaam Times. "Convergence and solidarity of both countries are the only way to overcome this challenge."
"Thousands of Pakistanis and Afghans have been killed in conflicts. It is now high time for both countries to co-operate in fighting terrorism and extremism and also to establish peace and stability," Ahmad added.
"Upon returning home, we will tell Pakistani officials that war is detrimental to both countries and that only good political, economic, social and cultural relations can lead both countries to victory and stability," Ahmad said.
"One of the goals of the conference was to encourage young people to embrace peaceful co-existence, convergence and strengthening of political, social, economic and cultural ties between Afghanistan and Pakistan," Samira Khairkhah, a young Afghan woman participant, told Salaam Times.
"Moving forward, the youth of both countries will spare no effort in further encouraging both countries' politicians and leaders to engage in good relationships," she said.
"In a decade or so, youth may take over leadership positions in their countries. Hence, such summits can prepare them mentally for a good future, as well as for future strategic relationships," Samira said.
"In addition to sharing common language and culture, Afghans and Pakistanis suffer from the same pains as well. We should not allow circles seeking to sow discord and hostility among our nations to conduct their activities," Mohammad Ali, another young Afghan, told Salaam Times.
"Civil society organisations, educated youth and other democratic institutions exist in both countries. Like participants at today's summit, they are trying to bring nations and governments closer and to pursuit peaceful ways for fraternal friendship and co-existence," Ali said.
"Both countries are in urgent need of their youth's efforts and co-operation in order to escape their current ... situation," Sayed Aqa Hussain Fazel Sancharaki, deputy publications minister for the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture, told Salaam Times at the conference.
"Afghanistan and Pakistan's interests depend on amicable relations and solidarity between the two countries, and they both have to understand and respect each other's interests," he said.
Do you think President Ashraf Ghani's newly announced peace plan will bring the Taliban to the negotiating table?