THE new policy announced by President Trump regarding Afghanistan and South Asia in which he opted for a military solution to resolve the Afghan conundrum and accused Pakistan of providing safe havens to the terrorists and adopted a threatening posture towards her has rightly been rejected by the civilian and military leadership by terming it as an attempt to scapegoat Pakistan for US failures in Afghanistan and being counter-productive. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbassi in his UN address pleaded Pakistan’s case in a candid and firm manner and made no bones about telling the US that its new policy would prove to be a failure. While reiterating Pakistan’s commitment to facilitating the return of peace to Afghanistan and remaining engaged with the US in this regard, he also strongly refuted the notion of existence of safe havens for the terrorists on the Pakistan soil. He told the world audience that they actually were on the Afghan territory controlled by the Taliban from where terrorist attacks were being carried out in Pakistan contrary to the propaganda by the US and the Afghan government.
Foreign minister Khawaj Asif later speaking at the Asia Society forum showed mirror to the US by telling her that it had used Pakistan for its strategic objectives and then discarded it. He reminded the US that it equally shared the responsibility for the rise of Jihadi culture in South Asia and Pakistan’s joining of the American proxy war against former Soviet Union in Afghanistan which led to the current turmoil, was a big mistake. Referring to militant outfits and Haqqani network he told the US that they were her darlings during the Afghan war against the Soviets saying “ Scape-goating Pakistan for all the Afghan ills is neither fair nor accurate. This will only help the forces which we are trying to fight collectively.” He was realistic in accepting that Haqqanis , Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Lshkare-Taiba were liabilities but Pakistan did not have the assets to match these liabilities at the moment and needed time to get rid of them completely. The US by putting unrealistic pressure on Pakistan was actually increasing the liabilities.
Pakistan has already done enough against the terrorist outfits through operation Zarb-e-Azaz, Operation Khyber IV, Operation Raddul Fasad and National Action Plan, though the job was not yet finished. Probably the Foreign minister was referring to that when he said we need to do more in this regard. Actually it is also the responsibility of the US and Afghan government to show sincerity in resolving the conflict by cooperating with Pakistan in managing the borders and eliminating the safe havens of the terrorists on the Afghan territory. Pakistan was absolutely right in claiming that no sanctuaries for the terrorist outfits existed on its territory as the entire infrastructure of these organizations in North Waziristan had been dismantled and most of them had escaped to Afghanistan.
It is pertinent to point out that before the initiation of the operation Zarb-e-Azb the Afghan government and the US—NATO commanders were taken into confidence and requested to make sure that the terrorists did not cross over to Afghanistan but unfortunately that cooperation never materialized. Pakistan on its own has taken some measures to manage the border to prevent cross-border movement of the terrorists. But the fact remains that Pakistan alone can not do it alone. It has done all it could to facilitate a political settlement in Afghanistan and making sure that its territory was not used against any country.
Pakistan has a larger stake in peace and stability in Afghanistan than any other country as it had suffered the most from the conflict and the permeating instability in the region. Ending war in Afghanistan was its top priority and objective. It was ready to work with US and the regional countries in promoting the peace process through bilateral and multilateral forums as it has done in the past. Pakistan was also mindful of US desire for peace in Afghanistan and saw it as its obligation to contribute towards the achievement of that objective. But it had to be done in a realistic manner by discarding the blame-game and re-evaluating the ground realities. Trying to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table through the use of military means, a strategy which has failed during the last sixteen years, is an act of insanity. This would bring more instability and destruction in Afghanistan with all it negative fall-out on the neighbouring countries.
The foreign minister was also right on money to emphasize the need for normalization of relations with India when he said “Peace in the neighbourhood is impossible to achieve unless relations with India improve” That is an ultimate reality. Peace and progress in the South Asian region is inextricably linked to stability in the region. Peaceful Afghanistan and resolution of disputes between India and Pakistan including the core issue of Kashmir are absolutely imperative in regards to changing the socio-economic profile of the people of the region and ushering in an era of shared economic prosperity. Pakistan rightly made overtures towards India but unfortunately the response has not been very encouraging. India needs to realize that the resolution of disputes between the two countries was in her interest as well. It must recognize the inescapable reality and revisit its policy of unprovoked violations of the LOC, escalating political rhetoric, excessive use of force against civilians in occupied Kashmir and adopt the right course of resolving issues through peaceful negotiations. The international community and UN must also help both the countries in normalizing their relations.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.