By Ammar Younas
It seems that world is less likely to face a nuclear holocaust. Last month was full of hope. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad flaunted government advances in Syria’s seven-year war by filming himself driving to meet frontline soldiers near Damascus, making a video of the journey from the city center into areas recently recaptured. US president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are planning to ease nuclear tensions between the two countries. Saif-al Islam Gaddafi, the son of the late Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi is to run as a candidate in the country’s presidential elections this year. When situations are going towards normalization in Middle East, world will again focus on its old bone of contention “Afghanistan”. Afghan government is willing to recognize the Taliban as a legitimate political group if it accepted a ceasefire, entered peace talks and recognizes the government and rule of law.
An article “Beyond Pakistan, Afghanistan’s Most Serious Problem Is Governance” in “The Diplomat” poses a very important question that In addition to pressuring Pakistan, it is time for the United States and its international partners to turn attention to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s National Unity Government and do an assessment of its performance, with this question in mind: Has the National Unity Government (NUG) upheld its end of the bargain in return for the U.S.-led coalition’s 16 years of relentless sacrifice, in the form of both blood and treasure? How much Afghan government has been successful is delivering what was required for peace and security of the country? According to UN figures, a rise in the number of undiscriminating attacks last year resulted in more than 10,000 civilian casualties – 3,438 people killed and 7,015 injured.
The US has accused Pakistan of playing a ‘double game’ on fighting terrorism. The reality is that US is imperial overstretched which means that US has already extended itself beyond its ability to maintain or expand its military and economic commitments. Moreover, it has utilized all the available diplomatic tactics and instruments. Its military doctrines are well exposed and well understood by other rivalry states. The US and its NATO allies have been fighting the Taliban since 2001, but victory has eluded them. Donald Trump questioned American aims in Afghanistan during the 2016 election campaign and his commitment remains in doubt. After a tough internal debate, Gen John Nicholson, the US commander in Afghanistan, persuaded Trump to deploy an additional 3,000 troops, taking the total to about 14,000. Trump knows very well that it is impossible for US to simply run from Afghanistan that is why, he wants to put all the burden of US failure on Pakistan by painting a bad image of it.
For more than a decade, the CIA has accused Pakistan’s Inter Service Intelligence of playing a double game in which it pledges to destroy the Afghan Taliban, but protects its fighters, which it views as a useful proxy to destabilize the Kabul government. The issue has as much to do with geo-politics as counter terrorism. Pakistan military regard the country’s chief strategic threat as coming from an Indian-backed government in Kabul completing a hostile encirclement of Pakistan.
But instead of involving him in blame game, the new Army Chief of Pakistan, General Qamar Zaman Bajwa has decided to take some practical steps of pragmatic importance. Pakistan is building a fence along the whole Pak-Afghan border. Pakistan says that almost 92 per cent of its 2,611-kilometer largely porous border with Afghanistan will be fenced by end of 2018, hoping the massive unilateral undertaking will effectively address mutual complaints of militant incursions. Besides a fence, 11,136 border posts and 443 forts are being installed on the Pakistani side – seven times more than on the Afghan side. After the completion of fence, it will be impossible for militants to infiltrate the Pakistan. Pakistan is spending $550 million on a fence along its border with Afghanistan which demonstrates Pakistan’s seriousness with its internal security and it is more than $500 million investment of its rival India on Iranian Chabahar port.
It is the first time in Pakistan that democratic institutions are working so efficiently that former prime minister has been disqualified by supreme court on corruption charges. Pakistani people are getting a lot of political training vivid by their active political participation. The frustration related to security has significantly decreased, and terrorist attacks have almost ended. Army and Paramilitary forces have built peace, not only in Northern areas of Pakistan but in the most fragile city of Karachi.
Pakistan is treating refugees issue purely on humanitarian grounds, separating it from the security or political domain. The legal stay of around 1.4 million registered refugees in Pakistan has end on March 31 and Pakistan has given them an extension of more one month. Pakistan will not force some 2 million Afghan refugees in the country to leave but encourages voluntary repatriation. If Afghan government feels that they have been successful in building peace and country is going towards prosperity, then returning refugees shouldn’t be an issue for them.
Pakistan’s Army Chief Bajwa’s doctrine seems not that out loud because he has been very modest in propagating its achievements for maintaining peace and security. Once the fence will complete on Afghan border, the whole border will be under surveillance. Refugees will go back to Afghanistan then Pakistan will be in a better position to answer the US mantra of ‘do more’.
Afghanistan, India and US are busy in propaganda that Pakistan has been isolated but in reality, Pakistan has set its own priority that is to focus on its own internal security and domestic issues. It doesn’t mean that Pakistan is neglecting its external relations with other countries. Army Chief Bajwa is visiting Maldives these days to discuss military cooperation between two countries. Bajwa has recently visited Germany, Sri Lanka and Saudi Arabia. On Pakistan Day Parade, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena participated as guest of honour and along with the special contingent of Pakistan’s closest allies including UAE, Turkey and Jordan.
China Pakistan Economic Corridor has become functional which is a $62 billion project to rapidly modernize Pakistani infrastructure and strengthen its economy by the construction of modern transportation networks, numerous energy projects, and special economic zones.
Recently, Pakistan’s Army Chief General Bajwa said that peace in Afghanistan is more important for Pakistan than any other country and reiterated that Pakistan has done its best despite constraints and shall continue efforts for the sake of it’s future, in line with aspirations of Pakistani people. Once the Pak-Afghan border will no longer be used for terrorism in Pakistan by Afghan militants, Pakistan will become more active on other diplomatic fronts to secure a more respectful position among international community.