Dr Muhammad Khan
With a series of new terrorists’ attacks in major cities of Pakistan, the intelligence agencies have traced their origin in Afghanistan. The masterminds of these attacks, the training, equipment and harbouring of these attackers were all done from Afghan soil. The incumbent Army Chief, General Qama rJaved Bajwa has personally spoken to Afghan authorities including President Ashraf Ghani prior to these attacks for a cooperative mechanism between Pakistan and Afghanistan to develop a joint mechanism for tackling the menace of terrorism in both countries. Even after these attacks, Pak Army Chief has asked his subordinates in GHQ for implementation of a joint mechanism by Pakistan and Afghanistan in this war of terrorism which has targeted both these brotherly and neighbourly countries very severely.
Unfortunately, despite a realisation, at Kabul and Islamabad of their non-functional co-operative mechanism in controlling the terrorism, there remained a trust deficit among them. This distrust has rooted in their bilateral history; therefore, both countries are still far from being brotherly and neighbourly in practical sense. While recollecting the history, Pakistan and Afghanistan has a bitter past with hardly any worthwhile period of a pleasant and cooperative relationship. Even the Taliban era (1996-2001) has not been exemplary; despite they had Pakistani support behind them. On many occasions, they did not accept Pakistani proposals which could have given the regime a wider recognition both at home and abroad. Thus, those few years too were not very idyllic in the Pak-Afghan bilateral relationship.
While both super powers left the region with US as a victor and Soviet Union as a loser of this ideological war, those used in this power struggle of super powers were the real losers. Whereas, Afghanistan lost everything, the government as a central authority, the economy, the politics and the social structure, Pakistan too lost its cohesive social filament with a massive influx of weapon and drug culture from Afghanistan alongside over 4 million Afghan refugees. In the subsequent period, while securing their national interests in Kabul, both Pakistan and Iran lost their decades old exceptional bilateral relationship and mutual trust. This space was immediately filled by India, which quickly made an alliance with Iran and started supporting a faction of Afghans, thus there created an internal rift in the power politics of Afghanistan.
The subsequent history of Afghanistan is more painful, a power struggle between Taliban and Northern Alliance, both supported by their external regional supporters for the promotion of their own interests, rather the local’s. The 9/11 changed the entire dynamics of Afghan and regional politics, thus bringing a new strategic dimension and new scenarios in the regional geopolitics. In the new strategic alignment, the non-contiguous India got an entrance in Afghanistan in the garb of reconstruction, thus recommencing the old Kabul-New Delhi camaraderie.
Nevertheless, despite acting as frontline state in the so-called global war on terror, Pakistan was relegated by the new guards at Kabul and the US authorities. Northern Alliance got the lion’s share in the new setup at Kabul, thus its former supporters became the master of the Afghanistan’s future generation. This time, the Kabul-New Delhi nexus brought a new dimension to their bilateral relationship and most importantly altered the dynamics of Pak-Afghan social relationship. Previously, Afghan governments were at odd with Pakistan and Afghan masses were for a friendly relationship with Pakistan. In the changed environment, a deliberate effort was made to influence the Afghan masses, the Afghan youth.
The Indo-Afghan relationship were brought to the new heights with India entering into Afghan social setup (masses) through education, health, training of Afghan bureaucracy, Afghan security forces and more significantly the Afghan intelligence agency; National Directorate of Security (NDS). This massive and heightened Indian involvement in the affairs of Afghanistan both at government and social level with anti-Pakistan narrative has drastically changed the mind-set of Afghan masses, particularly the youth. The Indo-Afghan narrative aimed to convince the Afghan masses and world at large that, the current chaos in Afghanistan has been created by Pakistan and that, Pakistan supports all militancy in Afghanistan.
Through this anti-Pakistan narrative, the India has been able to convince the Kabul Administration for the usage of its soil against Pakistan through collaboration between Indian spying network (RAW) and NDS. The heavy presence of the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) in Afghanistan, who ran-away after a series of military operations by Pak Army in adjoining border areas, provided a sufficient work force to be used by RAW and NDS against Pakistan. The current series of terrorist attacks inside Pakistan are being done through these TTP militants, who are being trained, equipped, financed and harboured by RAW and NDS.
With these ground realities, should Pakistan and Afghanistan continue accusing each other and waging proxy wars against each other on behest of those powers, who desire to settle their own scores? Seven decades of this mutual distrust with three generations witnessing and passing through this agony of bloodshed, let us stop this business. With the new concept of Nation States, Pakistan and Afghanistan are two realities with their defined borders, sovereignty and national integrity, which none can alter as per UN charter. Therefore, there is no apparent reason of promoting antagonism among the people of two countries having a marvellous history of social harmony and economic amity.
The way forward is that, Pakistan and Afghanistan should stop getting dictation from others in their bilateral relationship. Besides, they should formulate a joint group of intellectuals from both countries, who could devise a workable strategy; a Joint Cooperative Mechanism which would govern their future relationship through a win-win situation.
— The writer is International Relations analyst based in Islamabad.