Reciprocity on Afghan issue


DURING his maiden visit to Kabul, Prime Minister Imran Khan had in-depth discussions with Afghan leadership on different aspects of bilateral relations but more so on prospects of peaceful settlement of the longstanding Afghan conflict as its continuation is not only keeping Afghanistan in turmoil but is also one of the major sources of instability in the region. The remarks made by the Prime Minister and assurances given to Afghan leaders clearly show sincerity of Pakistan to the cause of peace and stability in the war-torn country.
Official version and media accounts of talks held between the two countries on the occasion of the Prime Minister’s visit give a vivid impression that Pakistan went extra mile in addressing grievances of the Afghan side. Imran Khan reaffirmed Pakistan’s support to peaceful, stable, united, democratic, sovereign and prosperous Afghanistan. He also reiterated his long-standing view that there was no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan and that a negotiated {political} settlement was the only way forward for enduring peace, stability and prosperity in that country. These are now hollow words as Pakistan took a firm stand on the issue of ‘no military solution’ even risking friction with the United States that has been focusing more on use of force to impose a solution. Pakistan not just convinced Washington and Kabul that only a negotiated solution would bring durable peace to Afghanistan but also contributed its share in first bringing the United States and Afghan Taliban on negotiating table (which resulted into signing of historic Doha Accord) and then also used its leverages with Taliban to convince them for talks with Kabul Government despite their earlier opposition to the idea terming Afghan Government as mere puppet.
Pakistan’s sincerity and support has been acknowledged by the US Charge d’affaires to Pakistan Ms Angela Aggeler during her call on Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa when she appreciated Pakistan’s contribution to conflict prevention in the region and relentless support for Afghan peace process. The future of intra-Afghan dialogue is, however, threatened due to conspiracies being hatched by spoilers, who have their own axes to grind in Afghanistan. Pakistani leadership has been warning from day one that all sides will have to work together to foil designs of these spoilers that are believed to be behind most of the violence in Afghanistan. Their objective is to create misunderstanding between Afghan Government and Taliban and it seems the spoilers are succeeding in their designs. It is in this backdrop that the Prime Minister has urged on all sides for taking necessary measures for reduction in violence leading to a ceasefire to protect Afghan lives. At Pakistan’s initiative, the two countries have agreed to step up their joint efforts to reduce the recent spate of terrorist attacks in Afghanistan through close coordination and intelligence sharing. The re-thinking of the US on the issue of total withdrawal from Afghanistan as per commitments made at Doha could also pose serious obstacles to peace efforts as any change of mind could lead to widening of the trust deficit.
Outgoing President Donald Trump was in favour of complete withdrawal but now the Pentagon has announced it would reduce the number of US military personnel in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500 by mid-January.  It is also important to note that Pakistan has all along been accommodating demands of Afghanistan in relation to Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) at the cost of its own financial and economic interests. During the visit, the Prime Minister appreciated that the recent visit of Advisor on Commerce and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood to Kabul on 16-18 November led to important breakthrough for commencement of negotiations on Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA), progress in revision of APTTA, Customs Assistance Agreement and understanding to have MoU for cooperation between two Central Banks. However, one would like to know whether Pakistani side also raised the issue of use of Afghan soil by enemies of Pakistan for sponsoring acts of violence and terrorism in Pakistan and what was response of the Afghan side. Pakistan has been extending fullest possible cooperation on all issues of peace and security that matter much for Afghanistan but there is lack of reciprocity on the part of the Afghan Government to take action against those who conspire against Pakistan from Afghan soil. There are also reasons to believe that Indian Consulates in Afghanistan are carrying out anti-Pakistan activities with tacit approval of some sections of Afghan Government and this aspect also needs to be addressed to the satisfaction of Pakistan.