Pak-Afghan relations ó hanging by a thread
Muhammad Jamil


Pakistanís relations with Afghanistan have remained strained since day one. At the time of independence, Afghanistan was the only country that voted against Pakistanís entry into the UN

After the election in which Ashraf Ghani became the president, Pak-Afghan relations seemed to be on a positive trajectory, as Pakistanís civilian and military leaders had thrown all support behind Ghaniís efforts to bring peace to his war-ravaged country. He had indeed reciprocated and taken steps to soothe Pakistani concerns about Indian influence in Afghanistan. Relegating India to the periphery of his foreign policy, at least for a while, Ghani had sent a group of Afghan army cadets to an academy in Pakistan. For his part, Nawaz Sharif during his visit to Kabul on 12th of May 2015 had vowed to help target militants hiding in Pakistanís border areas, and to work more closely to fight terrorists. Pakistan indeed tried to bring Taliban leadership to the negotiating table. While Islamabad may have some influence with the Afghan Taliban, it does not seem to have any influence over the commanders in the field. Hence, Afghan expectations that Pakistan held the key to ending the violence in Afghanistan were unrealistic. After a brief period of bonhomie, President Ashraf Ghani started blaming Pakistan for every terror act in Afghanistan. On 25th April 2016, President Ashraf Ghani addressed a joint session of the Afghan parliament and strongly condemned the attack in Kabul, which killed at least 64 Afghans and wounded 347 others. He accused the Haqqani militant group and some Taliban factions of working for the objectives of foreigners. But the Taliban also blame Afghan government for advancing interests of the US and India. Anyhow, President Ashraf Ghani in his address to the Parliament had also said: ďThere are no good and bad terrorists; all insurgents are terrorists. Pakistan must act like a responsible nation in the fight against terrorism.Ē By the same token, Afghan government should also act like a responsible nation and shun this distinction. Mullah Fazlullah of Tehreek-e-Pakistan Taliban (TTP) and his thugs are ensconced in Kunar and Nooristan, and Afghan government did not arrest them despite promises that they would be arrested and handed over to Pakistan. After Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed in a drone attack, the US tried to justify the attack that ďhe had refused to participate in peace talks and intensified fighting since he officially took control in July after Omarís death.Ē But it is a blatant lie, as it was Mullah Mansour who had sent his team to participate in the Murree Talks. In the meeting in Murree it was decided that substantive talks would take place in the next round. Whenever there is hope for progress in the peace process, something undesirable happens. But Pakistan could not have leaked the news of Mullah Omarís demise. Pakistan claimed that by leaking the news of Mullah Omarís demise, the peace process was sabotaged by National Directorate of Security (NDS), which has had many pro-Indian elements inducted during Hamid Karzaiís presidential tenure. Another objective was to stir or exacerbate conflict amidst Taliban factions during power struggle while choosing the new leader. Majority of the Taliban commanders were against peace talks; they were also angry for not having been told about Mullah Omerís death. Perhaps to appease those commanders, Mullah Mansour had to go slow in peace talks. But there are many questions to be asked. Why the US targeted Mullah Mansour in Pakistan instead of Iran or Afghanistan, Dubai or Bahrain? He was reported to have stayed in Iran for about two months. Maybe it was to prove USís point that Pakistan provided safe haven to Taliban leaders. There is a perception that the US, India and northern alliance elements do not wish to see peace in Afghanistan for different reasons. The US wants to maintain presence of its forces in Afghanistan to oversee Pakistan, Central Asia and China. Since Northern Alliance leaders have overwhelming majority in Afghan government, they would not like to share power with the Taliban at any cost and under any circumstances. Anyhow, the Afghan government and the US had pinned high hopes on Pakistan that it would bring the Taliban to the negotiating table. But Pakistan has been telling them that it does not have the leverage to force the Taliban to accept Afghan governmentís terms and conditions. Since there is no command and control structure in the Taliban, commanders take decisions independently, but they do seek permission from their leaders sitting abroad as to when and where to attack. As regarding Pakistanís relations with the Taliban, even before Pakistan announced its support for the US-led military operation in Afghanistan, Islamabadís relations with the Taliban government were strained because of its refusal to hand over several wanted members of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi to Pakistan. During Musharraf era, the then Pakistanís interior minister General (Retd) Moeen-ud-din Haider had gone to Kandahar and requested Mullah Omer to hand over Riaz Basra to Pakistan who was allegedly involved in killings of hundreds of Shias, including doctors, policemen, lawyers, Iranian diplomat Sadiq Ganji in 1990, and a deadly attack on a gathering at a Shia cemetery in 1998. He was arrested in 1992 and sentenced to death for killing Ganji, but escaped from prison in 1994, and crossed over to Afghanistan. He was killed in an encounter when he came back from Afghanistan after the US and its allies overthrew Taliban government. Pakistanís relations with Afghanistan have remained strained since day one. At the time of independence, Afghanistan was the only country that voted against Pakistanís entry into the UN. None of the Afghan governments in the past was willing to accept the Durand Line as a permanent border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and even Taliban government had stuck to the same position. Yet efforts are made to paint Pakistan, its military and agencies in ignoble shade. From articles and treatises by American and western authors and opinion makers, one can infer that the ultimate objective of the US is to completely neutralise Pakistanís nuclear and missile programme with a view to making Pakistan subservient to India. In these circumstances, Pakistan had no choice but to seek Chinaís cooperation, which is looked at with unease by rivals of Pakistan.