Herculean task ahead

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PRIME Minister Imran Khan has held out an assurance that his Government was working hard to ensure there is some sort of political settlement in Afghanistan before announced withdrawal of the US troops but ground realities indicate it would be a Herculean task and Pakistan will have to be fully prepared to deal with the emerging situation.

Good intentions expressed by the Prime Minister notwithstanding, efforts for peaceful solution of the conflict could not bear fruit for decades due to complicated nature of the issue and it is unlikely that the crisis would wind up amicably during the next few months.

There is no doubt that Pakistan changed its Afghan policy several years back opposing military solution and supporting intra-Afghan dialogue but there are several other players in Afghan game whose diverse agenda makes progress on peace talks difficult.

Rightly or wrongly there had been an impression that Pakistan was interfering in the internal affairs of Afghanistan as per its policy of strategic depth to ensure a friendly set up in the neighbouring country.

Pakistan was singled out unfairly in this regard as it is known to all that a number of outside forces were active in Afghanistan to influence the course of political events there to suit their own national interests.

This was being done even by those countries that were thousands of miles away from Afghanistan whereas Pakistan has legitimate interest in what is happening in Afghanistan for being the next door neighbour.

However, despite all, Prime Minister Imran Khan has publicly declared that the country has changed its strategic depth policy, adding Pakistan would deal with any government in Afghanistan that is chosen by its people.

This is not rhetoric or an attempt to play to the galleries as Pakistan has done its best in facilitating the peace process, delivering Taliban on the negotiating table repeatedly but tangible progress towards amicable solution of the crisis was prevented by non-cooperative attitude of other players especially President Ashraf Ghani.

Now, after the announcement of the active plans by the US and coalition forces for withdrawal of their troops within months, there are virtual battles in almost all parts of Afghanistan in an attempt to get hold of most parts of the country, may be for bargaining chips in talks.

As the atmosphere for dialogue stands vitiated, there is hardly any possibility of an agreement among Afghans about the future set up of the country, which is now the main concern of all stakeholders and the international community.

The situation is fast moving towards a deeper civil war and there are already reports of displacement and migration of the local population in many areas and in case of deepening of the crisis Pakistan and other neighbouring countries will have to bear the brunt of refugees once again.

Attempts are also being made by anti-Pakistan lobbies to create a wedge between Pakistan and Taliban by floating baseless reports about grant of bases to the US, a situation that could have implications for law and order in Pakistan.

Under these circumstances, all aspects of the situation should be thoroughly discussed by Parliament and a comprehensive strategy prepared with input from parliamentarians and representatives of other segments of the society.