Renewed hope in Pak-Afghan ties
ON Saturday, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi held one-on-one meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul, and both leaders agreed to join hands for peace and stability in the region. During the last four years, Pakistanís civil and military leaders visited Afghanistan, and Afghan President Dr. Ashraf Ghani had also visited Pakistan, and now relations seem to be on positive trajectory. After the election of President Ashraf Ghani, Pak-Afghan relations had improved, as Pakistanís civilian and military leaders had thrown all support behind his 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, he had sent a group of army cadets to an academy in Pakistan, but that bonhomie proved short-lived.
In early August, Pakistan and Afghanistan had held inaugural meetings of the five Working Groups (WGs) under the Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS) in Kabul. The Afghan delegation was led by Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Karzai and the Pakistani side by Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua. Both sides assessed prospects for the APAPPS forum that covered all areas of mutual interest, including counter-terrorism and security, peace and reconciliation, bilateral trade and transit, connectivity, Afghan refugeesí repatriation and promoting people to people contacts. Such efforts in the past had resulted in upward trajectory, which was short-lived. Indeed, Pakistan and Afghanistan are bound, culture, geography and faith, but these relations became strained because of the policies of the US and intrigues by India. Fact remains that Pakistan has rendered many sacrifices when it stood by the Afghans in Afghan Jihad against the former USSR, and hosted record number of over 3 million refugees.
It is not in good taste to remind favors or help to friends. But when CIA-RAW-NDS nexus continues to malign Pakistan, it becomes necessary to recount sacrifices by Pakistan. Since joining the war on terror, Pakistan has suffered in men and treasure more than any other country in the world. Despite economic constraints, Pakistan helped Afghanistan, and had given around 100 public transport buses and 200 trucks to the government of Afghanistan for the welfare of Afghan public. Pakistan funded different educational institutions inside Afghanistan such as Allama Iqbal Faculty of Arts-Kabul University, Sir Syed Post Graduate Faculty of Sciences-Nangarhar University, Liaquat Ali Khan Engineering University-Bulkh, Rahman Baba School-Kabul and Rahman Baba Hostel in Kabul. Pakistan helped Afghan government in developmental projects and roads infrastructure in Afghanistan. The construction of roads include 75 kilometers Torkham-Jalalabad road, additional carriage way on Torkham-Jalalabad road, three internal roads in Jalalabad, digital radio link between Kabul and Peshawar.
However, 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 had 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 without naming any country, but he implied Pakistan. Anyhow, President Ashraf Ghani in his address to the Parliament 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 conveniently forgetting the fact that thousands of TTP elements were ensconced in Kunar and Nooristan.
There is a perception that the US, India and northern 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. As regards leaders of former Northern Alliance, they have overwhelming majority in Afghan government and would not like to share power with the Taliban at any cost. Anyhow, the US and Afghan government 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 come to the negotiating table and accept Afghan governmentís terms and conditions. Since there is no command and control structure in the Taliban, thus commanders take the decisions independently. And Pakistan has absolutely no influence over them. In fact, they consider Pakistan as US-ally.
Pakistanís relations with Afghanistan have remained strained since the day one. At the time of independence, Afghanistan was the only country that had 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. Secondly, Afghanistan was in Soviet camp and Pakistan was intertwined with the US and the West in defence pacts. Anyhow, 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 a sour in rivaling eyes. However, Pakistan will neither accept Indiaís role in Afghanistan nor dominant role in South Asia.