Kabul seeks Pak help | By Malik M Ashraf


Kabul seeks Pak help

AMIDST the withdrawal of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan — which as stated by President Biden would be completed by 31 August — and capture of more territories by the Taliban, the Afghan government wants Pakistan to persuade the Taliban to return to talks again.

This desire was expressed by Foreign Minister of Afghanistan Hanif Atmar in an exclusive interview with Geo News. He said” Afghanistan has great expectations from Pakistan. We are hopeful Pakistan will help Afghanistan disrupt the Taliban’s supply and brutal campaign.”

Accusing Taliban of not honouring the peace deal he observed that they were making a huge mistake as all of us had extended a hand of friendship towards them.

The situation in Afghanistan is indeed worrying not only for the Afghan people but all the countries of the region, including Pakistan which has been adversely affected by the spill-over effect of the conflict and have made relentless efforts for promoting Afghan-led and Afghan-owned settlement in that country.

Pakistan admittedly has played a pivotal role in facilitating interaction between the Taliban and the US which culminated in the signing of the peace deal between them.

It also was instrumental to the interface between the Taliban and the Afghan government designed to hammer out the political future for Afghanistan that enjoyed consensus of all the stakeholders.

But regrettably, the Afghan government has looked askance at those efforts. That ambience of mistrust remained intact in spite of repeated assurances by the civilian and military leadership of Pakistan in their interaction with their counterparts in the Afghan government in regards to policy towards Afghanistan. They have always suspected Pakistan of backing the Afghan Taliban.

Our COAS visited Afghanistan in the recent past and met with Afghan President assuring him that Pakistan had no favourites in Afghanistan and the strategic depth approach was a bygone thing.

Pakistan wanted the Afghans to settle the issue between them and it would continue to play whatever role was possible to facilitate that process of reconciliation.

Afghan President appreciated Pakistan’s stance but the very next day in an interview with a German magazine ‘Der Spiegel’ he was again harping on the same tune about Pakistan’s role.

The Afghan Security Advisor also made unsavoury remarks about Pakistan at a public rally.

Pakistan justifiably felt incensed by the indiscretion of the Afghan Security Advisor and refused to have any further contact with him.

The reality is that Pakistan’s facilitating role has been globally acknowledged and appreciated.

Pakistan has suffered the most due to the conflict in Afghanistan. It has been hosting 2.8 million Afghan refugees and bearing the brunt of terrorism emanating from Afghan soil.

Peace in Afghanistan is also imperative for regional security and shared economic prosperity laid bare by CPEC, which promises regional connectivity making Pakistan the hub of economic activity. The realization of that is only possible with peace prevailing in Afghanistan.

Therefore, Pakistan has the highest stake in peace in that country. Logically speaking there was no justification for the Afghan government to raise an accusing finger towards Pakistan.

Pakistan has been relevant in regards to peace in Afghanistan in the past and will remain so in the post-withdrawal period of US and NATO forces.

hat is why Pakistan continues to make efforts for reconciliation in Afghanistan and is playing a pro-active role in mustering the support of regional countries to facilitate political settlement in Afghanistan before it is too late.

Prime Minister Imran Khan spoke to Iranian President on this and the Central Asian countries are also being contacted to enlist their support for a regional initiative.

The statement of the Afghan Foreign Minister suggests the realization by the Afghan leaders about Pakistan’s sincerity in finding a political settlement in Afghanistan, which is a very positive development.

But as observed by DG ISPR in a press conference on 10th July, Pakistan is only a facilitator and not guarantor of peace in Afghanistan. The settlement ultimately has to be done by the Afghan government and the Taliban.

That is exactly what the US President told Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his governing partner Abdullah Abdullah when they visited Washington recently.

The Taliban and the Afghan government owe it to the people of Afghanistan to settle issues between them and bring normalcy in that war-ravaged country.

It is the people of Afghanistan who have been suffering for the last four decades due to the continuing conflict.

History will never forgive them if they fail to capitalize on the opportunity that has come their way as a result of peace deal between US and Taliban and the pull out of the US and NATO forces from Afghanistan.

However, it would have been better if the US had not shown haste in pulling out before a political settlement in Afghanistan. DG ISPR was right on money to say that US should have executed a responsible pull-out.

Nevertheless the onus now rests with the warring parties in Afghanistan to arrive at a consensus about political future of Afghanistan, with the support of the regional countries.

But the dilemma is that while some countries are making sincere efforts in this regard, there are also forces in the region which are trying to sabotage peace prospects with the sole objective of harming economic and strategic interest of Pakistan.

The Afghan government has to realise that whoever is trying to sabotage peace was not a friend of that country.

Besides thwarting attempts by the forces inimical to peace in Afghanistan the Afghan leaders will also have to put aside their narrow political agendas for the larger interest of the country. The Taliban will also have to show flexibility.

— The writer is former Director General Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, based in Islamabad.

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