Ahmad Wali Massoud, brother of Ahmad Shah Massoud, says he has secured assurance from Pakistani leaders about a change in Pakistan policies towards Afghanistan. Massoud, who wrapped up his three-day visit on Friday, met Prime Minister Imran Khan, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaisar and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and discussed Pakistan’s role in the peace process and bilateral relations. “We’ve seen changes in Pakistan’s policies and that is why we have come here. What we have heard here is that Pakistan has changed policies,” he told Daily Times in Islamabad on Friday. About the intra-Afghan negotiations, he said he is not optimistic about the process and there is a deadlock. He called for representation of all ethnic groups in the talks. “An agreement between two parties cannot bring peace to Afghanistan. This is not peace for Afghanistan but a comprehensive process should be initiated that must have representation of ethnicities,” he said. Masooud said there are hurdles in the way of peace as the Afghan issue has not only internal but external aspects and peace cannot be achieved without a wide-range of consensus. Earlier in his address at a Public Talk organized by the Centre for Afghanistan, Middle East and Africa (CAMEA) at the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad, the Afghan leader said he has come to Pakistan with a message of friendship and peace. Peace in Afghanistan means peace for Pakistan. Members of the diplomatic corps in Islamabad, academics, civil society, and former and current diplomats were also present. Ms Amina Khan, director of Centre for Afghanistan, Middle East & Africa (CAMEA), gave welcome remarks. Massoud emphasized the special bond that Pakistan and Afghanistan share in almost every dimension such as politics, economics, security, culture and religion. “This compels that dialogue between the two countries is very important because direct discourse will strengthen the prospects for peace.” He mentioned how with every relationship, there are conflicts of interests and stated that instead of wasting time on these, all competing claims on any side should be put on the table and resolved. At the end of the day, both Afghanistan and Pakistan are neighbouring Muslim countries. Both countries should define their security and economic relations, understand each others’ views, build trust and subsequently a shared vision. While talking about the peace process in Afghanistan, Mr Massoud said that a strong government in Kabul is the first pillar of peace in Afghanistan. This entails a formula based on a decentralised system rooted in the social fabric of Afghanistan because when people from different ethnicities are present within the fold of the system; sustainable consensus can be achieved and hence a strong institution can be built. He also exemplified his late brother, Ahmad Shah Massoud’s strong stance for his country and said that by taking a similar stance, peace can also be achieved. About the Afghan foreign policy, he said a very balanced approach was required so that Afghanistan was not perceived as a threat nor used as a strategic tool. He outlined how presently in Afghanistan every young person is claiming their rights in the peace process. He said that by achieving balance on the inside, a balance on the outside can also be achieved. The talk was followed by a question and answer session which was moderated by Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, director general of the ISSI. About the prospects of US troops leaving Afghanistan, Mr Massoud said Pakistan’s concern about a responsible US exit is well –placed as peace in Afghanistan means peace in Pakistan as well and countries cannot be allowed to use proxies for pursuing their interests. He went on to say that values adopted by different factions in Afghanistan vary in a distinct manner, however, it is important to take all of them into account if the peace process is to move forward in Afghanistan. He reassured that in Afghanistan, Pakistan has no enemies. Wali Massoud, who is head of Massoud Foundation, called on Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. As regards Afghan peace process, the foreign minister highlighted Pakistan’s facilitation of the US-Taliban Peace Agreement and the commencement of Intra-Afghan Negotiations. The minister stressed that this historic opportunity must be seized by the Afghan leaders to achieve an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement. He expressed serious concern at the current level of violence and underscored that all sides must take measures for reduction in violence leading to ceasefire. Qureshi also underlined the need for being vigilant about the role of “spoilers”. Highlighting that Pakistan had no favourites in Afghanistan, the Foreign Minister reiterated that Pakistan’s message to all sides was to work together constructively for a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan. He added that this would open new vistas for trade, economic cooperation and regional connectivity. Qureshi highlighted that Pakistan had taken a number of steps to further strengthen bilateral cooperation and people-to-people linkages including opening of border despite COVID-19, introduction of friendly visa regime, and scholarships for Afghan students. The Foreign Minister emphasized that all these measures were practical manifestations of Pakistan’s desire for closer ties with Afghanistan. The Foreign Minister also appreciated the role of Massoud Foundation in the social sectors and noted that it could play an important part in promoting civil society and people-to-people exchanges between the two countries.