Dr Muhammad Khan
EACH time, once there are talks for the future of Afghanistan and reconciliation between Taliban and Afghan Government, the people of Afghanistan hope for return of peace, stability and economic prosperity. Afghan masses are now tired of from incessant waves of; civil wars, factional fighting and foreign interferences. They need mental and physical peace now, which guarantee their security and peaceful social life. Successive meetings (four) of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) on Afghanistan are a big hope for the reconciliations and peace.
During the Fourth round of QCG meeting, held in Kabul on February 23, 2016, two important developments took place. First; Pakistan offered to host bilateral talks between Taliban and Afghan Govt, a very welcoming step, indeed, a restart of July 2015 reconciliation process. The second development is that, in joint communiqué, the QCG has emphasised Afghan Govt to invite “all Taliban and other groups, to participate in talks through their authorised representatives.” Afghan FM, Salahuddin Rabbani has already appealed Taliban to join talks for direct negotiations with Afghan Govt. He said earlier, after third round of QCG meeting that, “We want this group to design details for talks between Afghan govt and groups of Taliban by end February.”
Recently, on Feb 22, 2016, COAS Gen Raheel Sharif also visited Qatar and met the key leadership of this Gulf state, which is hosting the Afghan Taliban, by establishing an office at Doha. In May 2015, there have been talks between Taliban, representatives of Afghan civil society and Afghan Government. Gen Raheel has indeed, had in-depth talks with Qatari leadership for persuading the Taliban to participate in talks with Afghan Government. As per ISPR, “Facilitation of the reconciliation process in Afghanistan through the Qatar office was discussed in detail.” Indeed, directly or indirectly, Pakistan is encouraging talks between Talban and Afghan Government.
As observed, over the past two years, Pakistan, in fact, Pak Army seems more proactive for talks between Taliban and Afghan Government for some sort of reconciliation, which ends the civil war from Afghanistan. The hectic military diplomacy for a better relationship with Afghanistan and bringing an end to the internal discord in that country seems a top priority. Gen Raheel personally visited Kabul at least thrice and met entire civil and military leadership there for a better bilateral relationship. Unfortunately, the element of optimism, seen in Pakistan is found wanting from Afghanistan. So much so at time, it appears as if this is the issue of Pakistan, rather Afghan Predicament. However, bring peace, stability and reconciliation among various Afghan groups and the Govt at Kabul seems to be the priority mission for Pakistan and Pakistan Army.
Whereas, Pakistan is doing all this, despite pessimism from Afghan side, there are reasons for that. Indeed, peace or instability in Afghanistan unswervingly affects peace in Pakistan. A stable and peaceful Afghanistan indeed, is a guarantor for the peace and stability of Pakistan. Then, the militants; the Taliban in Afghanistan cannot be friends of Pakistan, despite Pakistan recognised the Taliban Rule in that country from 1996 to 2001. Moreover, the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) shows their allegiance with Afghan Taliban, though they (Afghan Taliban) deny that. Nevertheless, Taliban are non-state actors, thus cannot be guaranteed legitimacy. If today, Afghan Taliban gets legitimacy for their foul play, tomorrow, TTP would claim the same, which would not be acceptable for Pakistan. Pakistan, indeed, has destroyed and dismantled the TPP bases and strong holds and now is heading for the final round of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, as COAS has issued the directive, during his visit of NWA, on February 24, 2015.
In the past, there have been misperceptions about Pakistan’s relationship with Afghan Taliban, perhaps, mainly because Pakistan recognised Taliban Government in 1996 and lot of Taliban took refuge in Pakistan, following the US invasion in Afghanistan in October 2001. Indeed, in the mid 1996, Taliban emerged as the strongest force in Afghanistan and Pakistan has no option, except to recognize their rule, as no other force could sustain their onslaught. Pakistan wanted peace and a strong Government in Afghanistan to avoid spill-over effects in Pakistan; therefore, it supported and recognized their Government as a compulsion. But, this is untrue that, Pakistan really enjoyed a very good relationship with Taliban.
This was evident from the Taliban’s refusal of accepting Pakistan’s request for handing over OBL to US, following the incident of 9/11, which allowed US invasion and current instability in that country. Today, Pakistan hardly has any influence over the Afghan Taliban. It is evident from the fact that, Pakistan has been constantly persuading Taliban for the reconciliation and negotiations with Afghan Government, but, they remained in a denial mood. Even today, they refuse to obey any advice from Pakistan. Many of Afghan Taliban, who even resides in Pakistan, has shown reluctance to talk to Afghan Government, once Pakistan wanted them to do that.
Bringing peace, stability and economic prosperity in Afghanistan is a dream for Pakistan. This is a historic opportunity for the Afghan Taliban and Afghan Government to benefit from the Pakistani persuasion of Taliban and international community, especially US and China. Earlier Pakistani facilitation of talks was sabotaged by NDS and Abdullah Abdullah, mainly on the advice of India. In fact, India never want success of any Pakistani led facilitation process for bringing peace in Afghanistan, rather would like the simmering clashes there, for continuation of its hold. Then, NDS has advisors from RAW and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah has his remote control somewhere at New Delhi.
The Taliban’s demands of removal of their organisation’s name from international terrorist groups and similarly names of their top leadership too should be removed from UN and US blacklists, should be accepted for a bigger cause. Since, there are news that, ISIS is rapidly making inroads into Afghanistan through some splinter groups of Taliban, therefore, the reconciliation has become all the more important. People of Afghanistan must recognise their friends and foes. How can they be friend of Afghanistan, those who oppose Pakistani efforts for bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan?
— The writer is International Relations analyst based in Islamabad.