Way forward for Pakistan in Afghanistan

By Anam Tirmazi

“The function of Afghanistan is to show the super powers the limit of their power.”
                                                                                                             Burhan Uddin Rabbani

Pakistan-Afghanistan relations have been strained due to contradictory interests. The two seem to have good relations but Afghanistan is the one that never supported Pakistan, even in the past. Following the global trend of realism, Afghanistan always follows its own interests, and they are usually shaped by political  necessities or due to the fact that the country is a strategic proxy of US. That, in turn, helps US to secure its regional interests or play the role of an Indian puppet which creates many problems for its neighboring country like Pakistan.

Pakistan always wanted to have a friendly government in Afghanistan so that the western border could be secured since a stability in Afghanistan means a stability of Pakistan. Besides, the phenomena of Afghan Taliban always appears as a bone in Pakistan’s throat which cannot be easily swallowed, and puts Pakistan at such a position where its own character becomes doubtful in terms of combating terrorism. Pakistan is contributes its own efforts as far as Afghan Taliban peace process is concerned. Taliban refused to have peace talks with Afghan government until US has removed all of its forces from Afghanistan. This makes the situation again multifaceted and puzzling for Pakistan making it hard to bring peace, which ultimately helps Pakistan in its ongoing military operation ZarbEAzb. In this view, Pakistan’s leader recently visited Afghanistan at an invitation by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

There are apprehensions about the survival and security of the state of Afghanistan. The war-weary state could go into a deep chaos thanks to the resumption of civil war, if the things are not settled in a timely manner. The objective of the American invasion was to deny safe haven to al-Qaeda and so called terrorists. They ousted the Taliban government on the basis of their assistance to al-Qaeda and humanitarian grounds, considering their government as conservative.

If we take a look at the recent history, we will observe that Pakistan since the birth of Afghanistan supported it to get rid from its state level problems. For establishing a democratic government in Afghanistan, Pakistan took positive initiatives but in return got nothing. What Pakistan is facing today – especially in forms of terrorism – one cannot easily ignore the fact that sympathy for Afghanistan played a very crucial role in it. Pakistan which supports democracy in Afghanistan witnessed deterioration of bilateral relationship during the presidency of Hamid Karzai. Pakistan was not only cut off from the region’s mainstream politics but was also blamed for the chaos engulfing Afghanistan. After Karzai’s term ended, and at the time of recent elections in Afghanistan, Pakistan offered Kabul assistance in order to tighten security on its western boarder to avoid any unfortunate incident over there and promote democracy in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s Army has never attacked Afghanistan, but Afghan Askars attacked a post near chaman in 1954, Bajaur in 1960/61, dislodged by ops by Army/PAF. There should be proper solution for Afghanistan as this behavior cannot be ignored anymore. Few of our analysts and reporters have taken this as “Mian Sharif’s romance with Afghanistan.”

Pakistan is already passing thorough very crucial stage as it is already fighting terrorism in tribal areas. If our neighbors cannot control their borders at this time what good can we expect from them? The cry of the day was to free the world from the atrocities and to establish democracy, and help Afghanistan on its way to modernization. The curtains are falling. The end is near. Pakistan is working on its diplomatic front and working to bring all the stake-holders to the table in Afghanistan.

Pakistan is not an exception. Pakistan shares a border with Afghanistan and a portion of population. Pakistan has suffered at its hands in the previous war against USSR. Now the gambit is quite different but for Pakistan consequences are even more crucial. America vowes to keep its armed forces there for the next few years to train the ANSF and its presence will ensure the security of Afghanistan from the unprecedented and difficult circumstances. After a decade-long war, the Taliban are still enjoying freedom of action in Afghanistan.
The stability in Afghanistan will directly affect the stability in Pakistan. President Obama announced that “the war in Afghanistan is coming to a close”, but the war is not ending for Afghanistan, Pakistan or for the regional actors. Pakistan is one of the key regional actors, which is directly linked with the developments in Afghanistan. There is a lack of proper planning, shifting policies, inattentiveness to geopolitical realities and over-reliance on military power without the necessary attention to development and civilian assistance plans. Both states must find the ways for cooperation and reconciliation. Patient diplomacy must be a priority. Recent visit of COAS in Afghanistan and few military projects like central trade corridor will strengthen the peaceful relations between the two states.

Solutions do not come easily in the conflict-ridden world, especially in a country that has been living in conflict for the last 3 decades. It is the country that is strategically important to the region and to the whole world.  But most importantly, it is imperative for the people and regimes of the region to understand that unless they themselves move their nations toward solution, peace and harmony, the chaos that presently surrounds them will linger on. Pakistan should move forward with learning from past mistakes of fighting proxy wars and lagging behind in the development and progression. The acute and chronic problems this war has brought for Pakistan cannot be dealt in one day. It needs a long-term and visionary policy, which may include the prosperity of Pakistan and least stakes of its citizen’s life as well as economic deterioration.

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Anam Kauser

Anam Kauser is a student of international relations and an independent researcher.

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