Situation in Afghanistan and its impact on Pakistan
PEACE in Afghanistan is much important for the entire region, particularly for Pakistan, as the stability in Afghanistan will reduce violence on Pak-Afghan border vis-a-vis terrorist activities in Pakistan.
After the incident of 9/11, the US started the war on terror to eliminate Al-Qaeda led by Osama bin Laden and to end terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan.
The US President George W. Bush invited all countries to join the US to win the war against the terror. Pakistan supported the US/NATO forces in war on terror. But, the war had cost Pakistan almost U$126 billion and life of 83,000 people.
On 11 May 2011 after the assassination of Bin Laden, the US and NATO forces still remained deployed in Afghanistan, till August 2021 because it is opined that they also wanted to halt China and Russia from influencing in Afghanistan and the region besides eliminating Bin Ladin and terrorist outfits.
It is, therefore, considered that US succeeded to some extent as they have reduced the influence of China and Russia in the region for the least 15 to 20 years.
People generally say that the Taliban had no support from local people. But it is opined that revolution of this magnitude cannot be achieved without the support of locals. It is considered that citizens were supporting Taliban because they were fed up of the foreign intervention and poor governance of the Afghan government.
Recently, the US has freezed nearly $9.5 billion assets belonging to the Central Bank of Afghanistan. Further, the US has clearly told that these assets will not be available to Taliban.
Therefore, it is considered that now Taliban will need investment for stability in terms of economic growth in Afghanistan and for which they will welcome foreign investment in the country.
Pakistan should remain firm with the stance of not letting Afghan territory to be used against her and any other country and human rights, especially of women should be protected.
In the recent past, no terrorist activity has been observed outside Afghan territory having links with Afghanistan.
Moreover, Taliban have gradually started giving liberty to women. Further, Pakistan also emphasized on forming an inclusive government in Afghanistan.
Now from Afghanistan point of view, they have formed inclusive government by including members from the various ethnic/political groups in the cabinet. But this has not been completely accepted by the world at large.
Talking about the problems Pakistan was likely to face after the withdrawal of US/NATO forces from Afghanistan; firstly, the economic crisis in Afghanistan, if not averted, would result in a large influx of refugees towards Pakistan but that has not happened yet.
Secondly, if Taliban start delivering in the fields of justice, social security, job opportunities, economic growth, narcotics control, normal street crimes elimination, then there would be a big challenge to Pakistan because people may also start asking similar system of governance.
The stability and peace in this region is also important for Afghanistan as they want to have access to the Indian Ocean and eventually become a part of CPEC. In addition, stability in Afghanistan could result in transit trade between Pakistan and CAR states via Gwadar Port.
Moreover, the stability in Afghanistan will open the gates for Pakistan to trade its commodities to CAR States. However, if the situation in Afghanistan gets unstable, then there will be a possibility of terrorism at sea, and drug & human trafficking.
After withdrawing from Afghanistan, the US will now try to strengthen its power in the North Arabian Sea in order to ensure that its permanent influence remains in Afghanistan. America and its allies are not likely to leave this zone vacant for China and Russia. The US may resort to air strikes in Afghanistan.
In this scenario, the prime objective of Pakistan should be to provide a secure environment at sea where Pakistan can exploit the sea resources and also address the dependence on the sea trade.
Also, Pakistan should make efforts to function Gwadar Port because currently the port is not operating at its optimum capacity.
In this difficult time where the US and its allies have stopped their aid Afghanistan, Pakistan should provide medicines, food and other humanitarian help in order to build good and long-term relations with Afghanistan.
At the same time, it should be ensured that Pakistan also maintains balanced relations with the US as well as China & Russia. Furthermore, Pakistan needs to negotiate with the TTP very carefully and wisely keeping massacre of APS Peshawar attack and other terrorist activities in Pakistan in mind.
—The author is associated with the National Institute of Maritime Affairs, Islamabad.