Ghani’s obsession with the blame game and the Afghan Peace Process

By Sadia Kazmi

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has once again resorted to using allegations against Pakistan regarding its commitment and honesty to the Afghan Peace Process. While accusing Pakistan for the apparent stalemate in the talks, President Ghani stressed that it was largely because Pakistan has adopted a discriminatory approach and is keeping a distinction of good and bad Taliban and showing leniency towards them. According to him, such a policy by Pakistani leadership is reflective of its half hearted pledge to making the peace process successful. While President Ghani may have his reasons, right or wrong, to doubt Pakistan, one can’t help but wonder why Afghan leadership is so distrustful of Pakistan’s effort. What can be done about it and why is it that whatever efforts Pakistan has been making, are not being acknowledged by the Afghan counterpart?

It’s a fact that the Afghan Peace Process was set in motion and has recently gained momentum by the dedicated efforts of Pakistan. This has been duly appreciated by the US as well. There is no doubt that the peace in Afghanistan is closely linked to peace in Pakistan as whatever elements cause disruption to stability in Afghanistan have direct repercussions to the peace and stability in Pakistan. Doubting and distrusting Pakistan is not going to resolve the situation. No one can deny that Pakistan has its stakes in Afghanistan. The need to have a functional and progressing neighbor along its Western border is not only going to be of great benefit to Pakistan but will also add to the regional stability.

Despite all these factual arguments, Pakistan is directly blamed for any derelictions in the peace process. It is a general rule that in order for any negotiations or talks to evolve and culminate successfully, the beginning point is to have trust in the intentions of each other, to have faith that the stakeholders are truly committed to the objective. If this basic ingredient is missing, the succeeding efforts will not stand much chance. In the recent case scenario, the trust not only seems to be largely lacking but the situation has been made even worse by broadcasting the insecurities and suspicions at the international forum. Such political immaturity on part of Afghan leadership is not only alarming but also raises suspicions about the prospects of success for the future of peace process. There is no harm in voicing the grievances, but ideally they should be discussed and communicated bilaterally instead of trumpeting it out loud to the world. Here the intention of President Ghani clearly was to malign and tarnish Pakistan’s image and to disregard all the previous efforts it so far has made for the peace process. This also shows that Afghan leadership does not want to give peace a chance, instead is more interested in delaying the process.

The Afghan leadership needs to keep in mind that while there already are enough sabotaging factors on a look out for the chance to derail the progress, such allegations and blame game will only serve as a force multiplier for the anti-peace elements. Hence it needs to end its obsession with blaming and suspecting Pakistan every now and then for its efforts. It’s not just the RAW operating on the Afghan soil, working against the interest of both Pakistan and Afghanistan but there are several local Afghan’s who do not support any initiative taken by Pakistan. This is where Afghan government needs to first and foremost concentrate its efforts. Pakistan and its security forces cannot miraculously make the peace process successful or help Afghanistan unless the Afghan government itself tries to put its house in order first. Pakistan on its part has always been lauded by the US State Department for its support to the peace process. Pakistan continues to maintain its policy of “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned” peace process.

The need of the hour is to devise a trust building mechanism where such kind of statements should especially be avoided to be pronounced on the international platforms. Otherwise the recurring hurling of blames only emphasizes the fact that Afghanistan is itself more responsible for the hiccups in the peace process and for jeopardizing the future prospects of its success. Pakistani government should deal with such situations at two levels: First, it should come up with a good verbal response and emphatically refute these unfound allegations; Secondly, it should take prudent diplomatic measures and highlight its constructive role and dedication to the peace process at the local and international level through all the mediums available. Pakistan needs to be more proactive without being defensive and reactionary to Afghan insecurities. Failing to do so will not only have adverse effect on the Afghan peace process but will also allow the country like Afghanistan to take disrespect Pakistan, which no country especially not a nuclear state deserves to be treated as.

If the anti-dialogue factors in Afghanistan are not dealt with properly, the sustainability and progress on the peace process cannot be guaranteed. The future of the peace in Afghanistan will remain bleak with adverse effect for Pakistan too. A strong political will is required on both sides of the border, more on Afghan side to let the trust be cultivated. Otherwise all the stakeholders could be in for a long haul without much hope for the efforts to materialize successfully.

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Sadia Kazmi

Sadia Kazmi works as a Senior Research Associate at the Strategic Vision Institute in Islamabad. She is a PhD candidate at the National Defense University

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