The spoilers of Afghan peace


Dr Muhammad Khan

AMID growing militancy and uncertainty in Afghanistan, the US envoy for Afghan Peace and Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad had a crucial meeting with Army Chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa at General Headquarters Rawalpindi on 2 November 2020. As per Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) “Regional security situation, Afghan peace process with particular reference to border management and way forward for lasting peace in Afghanistan were discussed during the meeting.” Indeed, peace in Afghanistan is crucial for regional peace in South and Central Asia. Pakistan will be one of the beneficiaries of this peace on its western border. Pakistan has been a major contributor in the current phase of the peace process in Afghanistan. Pakistan made ‘untiring efforts’ to facilitate this peace process, immediately after US drawdown and especially after a letter from President Trump to Prime Minister Imran Khan in 2018.
Whereas, Pakistan has played a very constructive role towards peace in Afghanistan, there are anti-peace forces operating in that country which work as spoilers. These forces are operating at three levels: (i) at the state level, (ii) through spying networks and (iii) at individual level through media and quasi-intellectualism. At individual level, the former Pakistani Ambassador to US, Hussain Haqqani is playing a very negative role in creating a distorted picture of Pakistan. In a recent article published in ‘The Hill’ Hussain Haqqani attempted to malign Pakistan. The article entitled, ‘Pull the Plug on Taliban Talks’ published on 2 October 2020, Mr Hussain emphasized US Administration to pressurize Pakistan for peace in Afghanistan whereas, he himself is following the narrative against Pakistan in this war-torn country.
There is self-contradiction in the abovementioned article of Mr Hussain. On one hand he is urging White House to refrain from making a hasty withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan and on the other asking US to pressurize Pakistan for compelling Taliban to accept the terms of Afghan Government. Mr Hussain is forgetting that withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan is a settled clause as per Taliban-US Peace Deal of February 2020. US agreed to pull out its military from Afghanistan in phases through an agreed time table. The sole cause Taliban has been campaigning against Afghan Administration was the presence of foreign troops from that country.
Indeed, peace in Afghanistan neither suits India nor it suits Pentagon. Peace in Afghanistan goes against the narrative of India and US establishment (Deep State). It was the need of President Trump for his election victory for the second time. Otherwise, US has its strategic objectives linked with its presence on Afghan soil. Hussain Haqqani has his intimate affiliations with US, its establishment and India. In the past too, he has been the most vocal mouthpiece for hostile intelligence agencies and his narrative has been anti-Pakistan. There is no link between Taliban and Al-Qaeda whereas, Haqqani is of the opinion that there is a stalemate in the peace talks and Taliban have failed to de-link themselves from Al-Qaeda. Today, Taliban claim on more than 70% of Afghanistan, they need not have any linkage with Al-Qaeda or any other organization.
He accuses Pakistan of having control over the Taliban for peace or otherwise. Indeed, Mr Hussain Haqqani pursuing the Indian narrative and attempted to influence US Administration for using it against China. The reality is that there is no contact between Taliban and Al-Qaeda. US forces claimed demise of Al-Qaeda much before its drawdown in 2015. Mr Husain’s narrative is primarily aims that Pakistan should be put under pressure to get separated from the ongoing peace talks over Afghanistan. While pursuing the Indian and Pentagon narratives, Mr Husain is also trying to regain his losing reputation in the US. He is trying to misinform the US and world about the role of Pakistan since the US and international media and even President Trump greatly appreciated the role of Pakistan towards peace in Afghanistan. Surely, the US Administration will not pay any attention to such diverging concepts which are against the strategic direction being pursued by President Trump.
Indeed, Pakistan has played a tremendous role towards peace in Afghanistan. Pakistan has never favoured a hasty US pullout from Afghanistan. Rather, it asked for a gradual and phased withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan to avoid any mishap in the current security status of Afghanistan. While talks between Taliban and Afghan Government are undergoing in phases at Doha, Qatar, let’s be optimistic for a positive way forward. India is not comfortable with the idea of US withdrawal and restoration of peace in Afghanistan. Hussain Haqqani is indeed pursuing Indian narrative. US must understand that Indian objectives are quite different from what US is pursuing while being in that country. India is using Afghan soil against Pakistan for promoting terrorism which even goes against the global narrative (war against terrorism). Pakistan has repeatedly warned international community and US against the role of these peace spoilers. Time has come that for the larger cause of peace in Afghanistan there should be rejection of such spoilers of peace. Indeed, they should be disciplined for promoting anti-peace narratives at international level.
— The writer is Professor of Politics and IR at International Islamic University, Islamabad.

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