Complexity of Pak-Afghan relations

Courtesy:- Malik Muhammad Ashraf


In the backdrop of yet another hic-up in relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan following an attack on Afghan spy chief and Hamid Karazai pointing an accusing finger towards Pakistan, the trilateral summit between Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkey has proved to be a whiff of fresh air. Afghan President also acknowledged this fact by saying that the trilateral arrangement was proving fruitful in bettering their relations. The moderating influence of Turkey in lowering the heat between Afghanistan and Pakistan is a good augury for keeping the relations between the two countries on the right track and promoting the process of talks on the ways and means to end armed conflict in Afghanistan.

The trilateral summit reiterated its resolve to confront the regional challenges, especially security problem in Afghanistan and pursuing an Afghan-led and Afghan owned process of peace and reconciliation and enhancing cooperation in commerce and trade by signing an MOU for the establishment of Trilateral Trade Council charged with the responsibility to oversee and deal with matters relating to these areas among the three countries. The summit also decided to form a joint working group of relevant agencies of Pakistan and Afghanistan to resolve the mystery surrounding the attack on Afghan intelligence chief; the latest irritant in the relations between the two countries. The findings of working group will surely help in clearing the haze and contribute to confidence building between the leadership of the two countries.
President Zardari, addressing a joint press conference along with his counter parts said that Pakistan was determined and making sincere efforts to defeat extremist mindset that has hurt both Pakistan and Afghanistan. He said the latest attack on Afghan intelligence chief was part of the designs of the extremists to undermine their unity against terrorism. He further said that it was in the interest of Pakistan to support the peace process in Afghanistan. One can hardly contest his observations and the determination expressed by him to thwart the designs of the extremists. Pakistan and Afghanistan have been badly hit and hurt by the phenomenon of extremism and terrorism and have a common stake in seeing an end to it, in their own interest and in the interest of the regional peace.
Logically speaking, no country would be yearning for peace in Afghanistan more than Pakistan who is a victim of the turbulent circumstances in the neighbouring country and continues to bear the brunt of terrorism. It has paid the highest cost in men and material. With a loss of nearly US$80 billion and 40,000 lives due to war on terror, it would be last country to think about anything but peace. It has been making relentless and concerted efforts to improve relations with Afghan government and joining hands with it to orchestrate an Afghan-led solution to the conundrum. But unfortunately the ambience of mistrust rooted in the past events has been hindering these earnest efforts. Karzai has always found it convenient to vent his frustration on Pakistan in the wake of his efforts to make headway with Afghan Taliban hitting a snag. Another very strong factor in precipitating the mistrust is that whenever things start moving towards the right direction, the terrorists scuttle the process through an act of terrorism and for Karzai, Pakistan again becomes a convenient fall guy. The involvement of RAW in pushing the relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan into a nosedive also cannot be ruled out, which adds an element of complexity to the obtaining situation. Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that promises made for peace, stability, and economic development of the region will have to be materialized for real progress. But he has to understand that these objectives can only be attained if he discards his mistrust of Pakistan and tries to understand the desirability of working together with sincerity of purpose. Peace in Afghanistan can act as a catalyst for economic prosperity not only of the two countries but also the entire region. The economic potential of the region is waiting to be exploited to the benefit of the people living in the region through the completion of trans-regional projects like Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipe line and CASA-1000 that would ensure power transmission from Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to Afghanistan and Pakistan, for which Russia has already expressed support and committed to contribute US$ 500million.
Afghanistan has a population of nearly 29 million out of which 14 million are Pushtoons. The Pushtoon population on our side of the border is also in the vicinity of 14 million. This element combined with historic, religious and cultural affinities forms a strong bond between the two countries and due to this reason their destinies are inextricably linked. Therefore, it is essential that both the countries work together to bring peace to Afghanistan.
The mistrust must give way to confidence and faith in the sincerity of each other. Now that the American are poised to end war in Afghanistan and are supportive of the process of reconciliation and Afghan-led peace, it is imperative for both Afghanistan and Pakistan to cooperate with each other and employ all their means and seek help from friendly countries like Turkey and other stakeholders to ensure an end to the strife in Afghanistan.
The willingness of the US even to talk to the Haqqani group and reports about efforts aimed at bringing about reconciliation between Taliban and Northern Alliance are encouraging portents and must be vigorously pursued because Afghanistan cannot return to normalcy only by facilitating patch-up between Taliban and Karzai government. Reconciliation between Taliban and the Northern Alliance fighting with each other before the arrival of the NATO forces for ascendency and are still at daggers drawn, is also an indispensable requirement.
It is indeed a very complex situation and the knots can be untied with determination, perseverance and united strength of both Pakistan and Afghanistan and involvement of all the stakeholders in peace in Afghanistan, encouraged and facilitated by the friendly and brotherly countries within and beyond the region who can exercise some influence on the warring parties.

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