Afghanistan on way to peace
Courtesy:- MALIK MUHAMMAD ASHRAF
The process must reach its logical conclusion
Although one cannot be over-optimistic about peace returning to Afghanistan in the near future, yet some recent developments in the region and beyond do point towards that direction. Pakistan and Afghanistan have abandoned the blame game that marked relations between the two countries during the Karzai regime and are now staunch allies in the fight against terrorism on both sides of the border, thanks to a visionary narrative evolved under the stewardship of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and supported by the military leadership in Pakistan for building cooperative relations with Afghanistan as well as a matching response by the new Afghan leaders to make this happen.
Both sides have taken concrete step in this regard, particularly after APS tragedy in Peshawar. General Raheel Sharif visited Kabul twice since that dastardly attack, including one unannounced visit on 17th February. General Raheel, while talking to Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, said, “Enemies of Afghanistan are enemies of Pakistan. We are there to stand by you and to fight this war to the end. This menace of terrorism which has hurt both of us needs to be tackled boldly.” Abdullah Abdullah said that concrete steps had been taken by both sides to normalise relationship. The Afghan President and General Raheel agreed not to allow the use of their soil against each other and resolved to continue operation against terrorists on both sides of the border. Afghanistan has already conducted some operations against the TTP militants and also arrested some terrorists responsible for the APS tragedy.
Recently, Pakistan’s foreign secretary also visited Afghanistan to participate in the Pakistan-China-Afghanistan trilateral meeting which deliberated on cooperative efforts to tackle terrorism and issues related to economic relations, rebuilding Afghan economy and promotion of bilateral and regional trade. China’s involvement in this effort is a source of great strength and encouragement for both Pakistan and Afghanistan. The most satisfying aspect of this trilateral initiative is that even the Western countries have expressed their approval, notwithstanding their typical skepticism about the growing Chinese influence in the region and beyond.
China, like Pakistan, also supports an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process of reconciliation in Afghanistan which is an utmost imperative for peace in that war-torn country. Amidst reports of likely talks between the Afghan government and Pakistan military also backing the process, the spokesperson of the ministry of foreign affairs during a media briefing on last Friday, expressed Pakistan’s willingness for mediation between the Afghan government and Afghan Taliban. She said, “We are ready to facilitate the reconciliation process to the possible extent. However, the mechanisms available would not be revealed through media.”
According to a BBC report, the top leadership of the Taliban has agreed to hold talks with the Afghan government. This is indeed a very significant breakthrough which surely has come as a result of the persistent efforts of the Pakistan government and the security establishment who are intensely aware of the fact that peace in Pakistan and the elimination of terrorism from the region undeniably depended on peace in Afghanistan and are therefore determined in making earnest efforts to make this happen. The Afghan government, the regional players and the US now recognise the importance and indispensability of the role that Pakistan can play in promoting process of reconciliation in Afghanistan.
The willingness of the Taliban to open negotiations with the Afghan government represents a big change in their stance on the issue. So far they have been insisting that they would not talk either to US or the Afghan government before the complete withdrawal of foreign troops from the Afghan soil and of late they had also stepped up their operations against the Afghan and US-NATO forces as well as security installations. Ever since the US announced winding up its combat mission in Afghanistan, the issue of reconciliation in Afghanistan has assumed greater importance.
Majority of the experts on conflicts and the political and military experts have been voicing concern about Afghanistan returning to anarchy of the yesteryears. They have been advocating reconciliation among Afghan stakeholders before the US-NATO forces left the country. Pakistan has been in the forefront to bring it about. These efforts now seem to have melted the ice. One can only hope that the ensuing talks between the Taliban and Afghan government would lead to some positive outcome. Afghanistan has suffered a lot during the last three decades of unrest and war and its hapless people deserve peace and so do the people of the region. It is indeed a defining moment for the Afghans.
If the leadership of Taliban and the government have the good of the people as their objective, which I am sure they do, then it should not be difficult for them to remove all the obstacles in the way of reconciliation and making a new beginning to foster an era of peace and prosperity in Afghanistan. I think the Taliban can achieve the objective of removing all the foreign forces from the Afghan soil at the earliest possible by joining hands with the government. The US and NATO forces would willingly oblige them if they are sure that their exit would not again push Afghanistan into a crucible of anarchy and disorder.
The US and its allies do not wish to see their efforts of rebuilding Afghanistan and bringing peace go waste. The possibility of delaying the pull out of US forces from Afghanistan being broached at the moment is probably the result of the apprehensions that the US has about the post-withdrawal scenario in the absence of reconciliation in Afghanistan.
It is therefore imperative for the Afghan government and the Taliban to seize this historic opportunity to stabilise Afghanistan. Peace in Afghanistan is a pivot to building regional linkages and unleashing the untapped potential for economic progress in the Central Asian states, waiting to be exploited for a shared regional prosperity. The regional countries and the world community at large are ready to help in this regard. The journey towards peace that has been set rolling by the foregoing developments must reach its logical conclusion. The ball is now in the court of the Afghans themselves.