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Opinion

July 16, 2016

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Looking inward

The Afghan leadership has again blamed Pakistan for instability and chaos in Afghanistan, with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani accusing Pakistan of not cooperating in the Afghan peace process.

With each passing day the insecurity in Afghanistan is increasing. Kabul does not stop blaming Pakistan for supporting the Taliban and also does not do much to stabilise the state institutions.

An objective analysis of the situation in Afghanistan reveals that, more than anyone else, the Afghan leadership is responsible for the insurgency and chaos. In other words, neither Nato nor Pakistan, generally perceived to be the two most important foreign actors in Afghanistan, have been solely responsible for trouble in Afghanistan.

Interestingly, both the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban are part of the same nation and state and they have been engaged in a war for more than 15 years. Indubitably, the Taliban have also been fighting the US-led Nato troops stationed in Afghanistan since 2001. Despite the drawdown of the Nato forces, the Taliban insurgency has refused to die-down. Instead, the Taliban have been gaining more territory by pushing back the government forces.

Now blaming Pakistan for being the architect of the Afghan Taliban is senseless. Why would the Afghan Taliban, a purely Afghan entity, dance to Pakistan’s tune? Historically speaking, Pakistan has always been generally disliked by the Afghans because they perceive that Pakistan holds Afghan territories. Although the irredentist claims of Afghanistan on Pakistan have no legal and political grounds, the Afghans dislike Pakistan for this reason (territory).

The longstanding Afghan claim that Pakistan has been in possession of Afghan territory is an old one. There are other claims as well; for instance, there has been a deep-entrenched belief within Afghanistan that Afghanistan remained invincible throughout history. That is debateable as well.

The world and Afghanistan must understand these realities because without addressing the root causes of insecurity, instability and political chaos in Afghanistan there can be no way forward irrespective of how many foreign troops and funding are committed to the Afghan war theatre.

The root cause of the multidimensional issues in Afghanistan is easier to explain than it is understood. It has been the downright failure of successive Afghan rulers and regimes to consolidate the Afghan state and modernise Afghan society and state, through extensive institutionalisation and detribalisation, that has been responsible for the problems in Afghanistan.

Due to the failure of the successive Afghan rulers and regimes in consolidating the Afghan state and modernising society, Afghans could not adjust to the political, economic and social developments in the world. Afghan rulers and regimes have stoked biases and mistrust among the people, instead of making them understand the compulsion of the Afghan state to keep up with these changes. For their own vested interests, the Afghan regimes and rulers have over the centuries kept the governed illiterate and ignorant.

It is interesting to note that Afghan society has had an enmasse experience of foreign lands and people – with more than four million Afghans coming to Pakistan and a lower number to Iran as refugees in the wake of the Soviet occupation. In Pakistan, Afghans have had the chance to experience relatively modern state institutions and even pastimes. For instance, the Afghanistan cricket team, which today is competing on an international level, learnt how to play cricket in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Foreign players may not have had good intentions for Afghans or Afghanistan but the fragile nature of the Afghan state and non-modern complexion of the Afghan society provided them inviting conditions to exploit the situation to their advantage. In the world of realism every state tries to maximise its power and wealth even if they come at the altar of other states. This is a hard lesson we have learnt from history and Afghans must also understand this.

Keeping in view the above-mentioned hard realities, the Afghan leadership must try to put its own house in order instead of blaming foreigners. History provided an opportunity to Afghanistan in the form of the world turning its attention to the need for development and institutionalisation in Afghanistan after the US-Nato occupation of Afghanistan. However, the Afghan leadership seems to have lost this opportunity by failing to develop and modernise the institutions of the Afghan state.

On its part, Pakistan committed a historic mistake by getting involved in the Afghan quagmire in the aftermath of Soviet occupation and the ensuing Afghan civil war. The instability and chaos there have brought nothing more than death and destruction and loss of state writ in certain remote parts of the country. It is time Pakistan came out of the Afghan morass. Some sanity has prevailed within Pakistani strategists and efforts to manage the border with Afghanistan are the step in the right direction.

The writer is a social scientist and political analyst.

Email: [email protected]

 

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