Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal
POLITICALLY stable, economically prosperous and militarily secure Afghanistan is in the interest of the entire region. The transnational terrorist organizations including Daesh have been exploiting the protracted anarchical situation of the country. The radicalized militant groups have established their sanctuaries in the ungovernable areas of the country, and from these safe hideouts, they are engineering terrorism within Afghanistan as well as in its neighboring states. Pakistan is one of the biggest sufferers of the chaotic situation in Afghanistan. Three back-to-back terrorist atrocities in Kulachi (Dera Ismail Khan), Mastung, and Peshawar killed more than 160 people, including three provincial assembly candidates in the 2018 general elections, and more than 250 were injured. The purpose of these attacks was simply to kill as many people as possible across the political divide to prove that the run-up to polls is a dangerous phase of politics in Pakistan. Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility of Kulachi and Peshawar attacks. Daesh perpetrated the suicidal attack in Mastung. It’s an open secret that both terrorist organizations have sanctuaries in Afghanistan.
Islamabad realizes that without abolishing the terrorist organisations’ safe hideouts durable peace in the neighbourhood of Afghanistan is a wishful thinking. Similarly, without improving the economic conditions of the country, the Afghan refugees’ issue cannot be resolved, amicably. And above all without political stability and internal security, neither Afghanistan nor its neighbouring countries benefit from the multinational regional economic projects such CASA-1000 and TAPI gas pipeline. Islamabad has been endeavouring to contribute constructively in improving the political, economic and security circumstances of Afghanistan. During the 2018 parliamentary general elections, all the political parties expressed their strong desire in their manifestos to improve relations with neighbouring states, including Afghanistan. Therefore, instead of waiting for the constitution of a new government in the aftermath July 25th polling, the foreign secretary of Pakistan visited Kabul to inaugurate the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS) on July 22, 2018.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Tehmina Janjua led high-level 28-member Pakistani delegation in the first session of APAPPS. It is a promising initiative. Perhaps, it will facilitate Kabul and Islamabad in resolving many critical puzzles. Its framework provides a comprehensive and structured mechanism to enhance engagement between counterpart institutions of Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is comprised of five Working Groups, i.e. Politico-diplomatic; Military; Intelligence; Economic and Trade; and Refugees issues. The Pakistani delegation includes representatives from different agencies including foreign ministry, commerce, railways, communications, interior ministry, military, and intelligence. Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai led the Afghan delegation. After the inaugural session of APAPPS, the members of the delegation held their respective group meetings at the level of relevant ministries and departments. The working groups deliberated on counterterrorism, security, trade, reconciliation, connectivity, Afghan refugees’ repatriation and people-to-people contact. They had also finalized the rules of the engagement or terms of reference for the future course of action. The next meeting of the working groups will be held in Islamabad.
Indeed, all the five areas are significant for Afghanistan and Pakistan’s national security and economic prosperity. However, currently, both states need to increase their intelligence and military cooperation to check the increasing influence of Daesh and TTP in Afghanistan. The foothold of Daesh in Afghanistan is alarming for all the neighboring countries. It has spread its tentacles to Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Iran, China, and Russia. It is imperative that both states engage the other stakeholders in combating Daesh. Combating a transnational terrorist organization is very cumbersome for one country. Therefore, multinational counterterrorism strategy is imperative for eliminating Daesh. In this context, the Russians acted rationally and have established contact with the Afghan Taliban, Iran, China, and Pakistan to check the influence of Daesh in its neighbourhood. Similarly, other neighbouring states of Afghanistan are also cooperating with each other to prevent themselves from the onslaught of Daesh.
The encouraging news is that recently intelligence chiefs of China, Russia, Iran, and Pakistan met in Islamabad to chalk out a comprehensive strategy to the finish terrorist sanctuaries in Afghanistan. Many analysts opined the without the engagement of Afghanistan intelligence agency, they cannot accomplish their objectives. Hence, the intelligence chief of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security ought to be invited in the next intelligence agencies chiefs meeting. To conclude, the APAPPS exhibited that Kabul and Islamabad agreed to cooperate with each other for restoring the peace in the region. Indeed, without mutual cooperation combating the menace of transnational terrorism is impossible. Therefore, the inauguration of APAPPS has germinated a hope for improving internal security of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
— The writer is Associate Professor, School of Politics and IR, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.