Saturday February 24, 2024

Afghanistan: our case

August 02, 2016

Pakistan considers itself a victim of the Afghanistan problem instead of its cause. Soon after 9/11, Pakistan broke ties with the Taliban government and joined the war on terror.

Consequently, the Taliban and their supporters became our fierce enemies and started a spate of suicide bombings in public places in big cities. More than 50 thousand people, including security personnel, have lost their lives. And Pakistan has also sustained a monetary loss of about $107 billion. Pakistanis regret that their unparalleled sacrifices could not convince Afghans, who continue to question our sincerity and ask us to do more.

Soon after the overthrow of the Taliban regime, Islamabad extended unconditional support to the Karzai government and worked zealously for its stability and strength. For the first time in our history, we even moved the army into the tribal belt and tried to eliminate the Taliban.

However, Pakistan now feels betrayed and thinks that the US and Afghan governments have, in return, started sheltering Baloch insurgents, renewed the Pashtunistan and Durand Line issues and given a free hand to RAW to use Afghan soil to destabilise Pakistan.

Though President Ghani denies any evidence of RAW activities, Islamabad insists that evidence has been provided not only to Ghani but to former president Karzai as well, which they have ignored.

Pakistan also claims that, despite all the betrayal and conspiracies from across the border, no Pakistani leader or parliamentarian has ever branded Afghanistan as an enemy state. But in Afghanistan, portraying Pakistan as the enemy state has become a litmus test of patriotism. Anti-Pakistan propaganda is in full swing and hatred against Pakistan can be seen on the floor of parliament as well as on media.

In contrast, in Pakistan while there may be some anti-Kabul voices, those voices also criticise other countries with whom Pakistan has close ties – like the US and countries of the Arab world. There are quite a few analysts and politicians who even advocate Afghanistan’s case. But unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be anyone in Afghanistan who supports or appreciates Pakistan.

When a minister from Balochistan used derogatory words regarding Afghan refugees, he was immediately countered by politicians and the media and forced to take back his words. But important government officials in Afghanistan like Commander Raziq openly talk of fighting against Pakistan and even want our disintegration.

Afghanistan continuously protests that Pakistan is not taking action against the Taliban. As evidence, Pakistan has shown dozens of major military operations against the Taliban in which thousands of militants were killed and arrested. For the first time, Pakistan even conducted air raids on its own soil and made millions of its own people IDPs. In addition, to please Kabul and Washington, Pakistan even arrested and handed over Mullah Zaeef, the Taliban’s ambassador to Pakistan – an act that offended the Taliban and earned a bad name for Pakistan in the diplomatic circle worldwide.

Pakistan also arrested and gave to Kabul Ghairat Baheer, the son-in-law of Gulbaddin Hekmatyar. Today both Zaeef and Baheer are free and Kabul has even let Zaeef publish his book from India; the book lambasts Pakistan and openly propagates the Taliban’s cause.

In a recent interview with me, President Ghani tried to justify Afghan sincerity by taking credit for killing, arresting and handing over Taliban commanders like Umer Mansoor alias Umar Nareey and Latifullah Mehsud to Pakistan. But Pakistan doubts these claims and believes that the killing of some Taliban commanders was made possible by the unilateral action of the US without any role of the Afghan government.

Pakistan even has evidence that Latifullah Mehsud was arrested by the US army when he was coming back after meeting with and getting money from RAW and NDS in Kabul. In addition, Pakistani intelligence also claims that TTP head Mullah Fazlullah frequently visits Kabul and Hakeemullah Mehsud would use Kabul hospitals for treatment.

Pakistan considers Kabul’s Taliban policy as a hotchpotch of confusion and contradictions. On the one side, Kabul asks Islamabad to bring the Taliban to the negotiation table and on the other it demands firm action. Taking action against the Taliban, Pakistan arrested Mullah Baradar, but instead of appreciating that, the Karzai government lambasted Pakistan. Perplexed by these glaring contradictions, Islamabad has no clue what Afghanistan wants in reality.

President Ghani complains that, unlike the Taliban, the TTP leadership don’t travel with Afghan passports. But Islamabad argues that millions of Afghans live in Pakistan; even some of Afghanistan’s presidential candidates had Pakistani documents. Similarly, Pakistan is sheltering million of Afghan refugees with proper documentation.

It is hard for Pakistan to differentiate between Afghan refugees and the Taliban. That’s why Islamabad has requested the repatriation of refugees – which has been ignored by Kabul. In addition, the porous border also facilitates militant movement across the border.

Pakistan wants effective border management but Kabul keeps countering any steps taken towards it. Pakistan offered an agreement between the NDS and the ISI for effective coordination; Afghanistan rejected it.

Pakistan argues that if the killing of Mullah Akhtar Mansour on Pakistani soil is a sign that the Afghan Taliban are sponsored by Pakistan, then by that logic the killing of Umar Mansoor and Shahidullah Shahid etc in Afghanistan shows that Kabul backs the Taliban insurgency in Pakistan.

Afghanistan is also seen as a victim of the fallacy that Islamabad has full control over the Taliban. In fact, Pakistan had no effective influence even when the Taliban were in power. Even so Pakistan managed, after strenuous efforts, to bring some of the Taliban to negotiations that were held in Murree. But before any conclusions could be reached, says the Pakistani establishment, Kabul highjacked the process by deliberately leaking the news of Mullah Umar’s death.

Pakistan also complains that after every attack in Afghanistan, Kabul halts the reconciliation process and starts an anti-Pakistan propaganda. But Pakistan has not done that, not even after the brutal attacks carried out in Badaber and the Army Public School, which were planned in and controlled from Afghanistan.

In short, the deep-rooted trust deficit is deepening the gulf between the two neighbouring countries. For the sake of peace and stability, there is a dire need to bridge this gulf. Blame game is no solution. Both countries need to learn from past mistakes and start a new chapter based on mutual trust that aims for a win-win situation for both sides.

The writer works for Geo TV.