FOREIGN pressure and reaction notwithstanding, it is, perhaps, for the first time in many years that the country’s policy on Afghanistan reflects aspirations of a majority of people of Pakistan and the credit for this goes to the civil and military leadership.
As the situation is still fluent, Prime Minister Imran Khan wisely decided to convene a meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC), which deliberated upon the different aspects of the ongoing situation in Afghanistan, exploring how best to respond to it.
While receiving a detailed briefing on the evolving regional security situation and the recent developments in the war-torn country and their possible impact on Pakistan, the Prime Minister emphasized the need for a ‘coordinated policy’ on Afghanistan and directed the establishment of a dedicated cell to synergize various streams of efforts on Afghanistan across the government, including international coordination for humanitarian assistance and effective border management to prevent any negative spillover into Pakistan.
This is, indeed, a complex and complicated situation and Pakistan will have to tread the path very carefully to ensure that its core interests are fully safeguarded.
This, of course, requires closer coordination among all relevant institutions of the country and hopefully the cell would be fully empowered and made functional on a priority basis in view of the emerging situation.
However, one may point out that the official version of the meeting just talked about internal coordination among relevant institutions of the country as well as coordination with the international community for constructive political and economic engagement with the interim government in Afghanistan.
This is, no doubt, significant but given the fact that Pakistan is being unduly pressurized by some foreign powers on the Afghan issue and situation, it is all the more important to forge national unity and national response, which requires that the opposition too should be taken on board.
There has been demand for convening of the joint session of Parliament to discuss the situation threadbare and evolve a policy with input from representatives of the people.
Such a parliamentary mandate would strengthen the hands of the policy/decision makers during their engagement with members of the international community.
There is no substitute to the collective wisdom and a consensus policy could help ward off foreign pressure and arms-twisting.
This assumes more relevance as the United States has publicly expressed its desire to have an ‘air corridor’ in Pakistan, which obviously would be used against the Taliban Government and possibly to gather information on regional countries with severe backlash for Pakistan.
The country is already frantically trying to deal with the consequences of its decision to offer unrestrained facilities and cooperation to foreign occupation forces in Afghanistan and it cannot afford to repeat the blunder.
In fact, some foreign powers have already started their post-withdrawal game in Afghanistan where frequency of terrorist attacks in different parts of the country is increasing, creating problems for the Taliban Government, which is trying to consolidate power and establish its writ across the country.
It is also a fact that barring Pakistan and China, other countries are not as eager as they should be to provide the much-needed humanitarian assistance. It is because of the worsening situation that the UN refugees’ chief has warned of a potential humanitarian catastrophe if financial pledges are not honoured swiftly.
Filippo Grandi also pointed out that the meltdown of services — the banking system, the economy — really risks generating a much bigger humanitarian crisis.
It is a matter of serious concern that some influential countries that bear the responsibility for the alarming situation in Afghanistan are more interested in pursuing their regional geo-strategic agenda than mitigating sufferings of the Afghan people, who need urgent help in different ways in the face of collapse of the routine governmental setup.
As against them, Pakistan has legitimately apprehensions that it would once again be left to bear the brunt of a fresh cycle of violence and chaos in the neighbouring country and is, therefore, urging the international community to give the Taliban a chance as a stable Government in Kabul could become a source of stability for the entire region.
The European Union is contemplating to take in a few thousand more refugees but this is no satisfactory answer to the emerging situation which calls for provision of financial and economic assistance to take care of the woes of those who prefer to remain in their homeland.