Pak-Afghan ties

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s recent visit to Afghanistan ended on a happy note with both sides vowing to strengthen cooperation in various areas. Relations between the two countries have had their ups and downs and continue to do so. Terrorism is the common enemy of both neighbouring nations but our security establishment’s warped policy of pursuing a strategic depth policy in Afghanistan has led to bitterness on the Afghan side. Despite this, Afghan President Karzai said that “we need to work together to end violence that continues to hurt both of us and we should help each other with full knowledge of the reality.” It is this recognition of a common enemy that was translated in the joint declaration issued at the end of Mr Gilani’s visit. It said, “Terrorism and violent extremism and their international support networks are a major threat undermining peace and stability in the region and beyond.” Mr Gilani’s visit and President Karzai’s renewed pledge to fight militancy together is a step in the right direction.

Pakistan has demanded that Baloch insurgents who have taken refuge in Afghanistan should be handed over and their networks on Afghan soil dismantled. The Afghans have asked Pakistan to end Taliban safe havens in FATA. There is a need to make a clear distinction here. Traditionally the Afghans have provided sanctuary to Baloch dissidents provided they do not operate from its soil. The Afghan Taliban, on the other hand, are not just living on Pakistani soil but are protected by our security establishment when they conduct operations in Afghanistan. We have to realise that our ‘assets’, i.e. the Afghan Taliban, are no one’s friends. We may think they are different from the local Taliban who are openly waging a war against Pakistan but the ground reality is that there is no such thing as the ‘good Taliban’. There is no guarantee that once the Taliban are back in power in Afghanistan, they would cooperate with us. After 9/11 we saw that the Taliban refused to hand over Osama bin Laden despite Pakistan’s insistence. Terrorists are no respecters of borders but due to our India-phobia, we continue to support them. We should be warned that non-state actors often turn out to be monsters instead of the allies we may have thought them to be. Until and unless we stop interfering in Afghanistan’s political and security policies, we cannot decrease India’s influence there. The disastrous policy of pursuing proxy wars through jihadist networks to gain strategic advantage has run its course. It now poses a real threat to the Pakistani state itself. We are inching closer to being a failed state and to roll back this process, we must extend a hand of friendship to our Afghan brethren.

Another positive thing to emerge out of this visit was the strengthening of economic ties between the two countries. Mr Gilani rightly said that “the time has now come to shape our own destiny by joining hands and marching together towards a prosperous future for our peoples”. By enhancing trade ties and signing a new transit trade agreement with Afghanistan, we would be creating a greater rapport with the Afghan people. This is the actual terrain where we should be competing with India. Pakistan should help in the reconstruction, rehabilitation and economic growth of Afghanistan. Befriending Afghanistan would not just bring us closer to them but would also help in bringing back peace and prosperity in the region. It is time to give the Afghans relief from four decades of unremitting warfare and the chance to live peacefully for a change.

(my editorial in Daily Times)


Nilendra said…
We too need people like you in this country as journalists, unfortunately we have those who acts as middlemen for corrupt candidates for ministries and they've earned big names with pseudo intellectualism and despite their yellow journalism.

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