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February 1, 2017
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Ghani and Pakistan

Opinion

February 1, 2017

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Part - II

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has a different personality and background and his approach towards Pakistan also varies from his predecessors. Unlike Hamid Karzai and Burhanuddin Rabbani, Ghani has never been to Pakistan as a refugee. Widely known as a ‘Western Afghan’, he is an uncorrupt, well-educated and progressive leader.

Unlike Karzai’s religious and tribal background, Ghani was raised in a highly secular environment. He proved his mettle as an administrator, organiser and manager while working in the World Bank, leading the finance ministry of Afghanistan and heading Kabul University.

However, as president, Ghani appears to be ineffective and has been unable to win on the political front. The failures of his government have even overshadowed Hamid Karzai’s shortcomings. Ghani runs the fragile coalition government along with Abdullah Abdullah in a highly bureaucratic style. Having no political party of his own, Ghani relies heavily on strong warlords and other coalition partners. Though he is a voracious reader and a good scholar, Ghani has a highly inflexible personality.

To blanket his weaknesses and pass the bucket, Ghani never loses a chance to blame Pakistan. Regrettably, the US also points fingers at Pakistan for its own blunders on the Afghan front. The joint blame game of the Afghan government and the West has raised suspicions about Pakistan in the eyes of the Afghans and the rest of the world. The Afghan president’s approach towards Pakistan is completely different from that of Hamid Karzai. Karzai had lived as a refugee in Pakistan and has emotional ties with the country. But Ghani has no such emotional attachment towards Pakistan.

Karzai had no ideological commitment to either the West or India. But Ghani is ideologically committed to the West and is a staunch Afghan patriot.       Although Karzai’s approach towards Pakistan swung between the two extremes of love and hate, Ghani appears to be steadfast in his anti-Pakistan persuasions.

Ghani decided to strengthen ties with Pakistan with a specific design and strategy. Since he firmly believed that Pakistan played a role in Taliban insurgency, he wanted to propitiate Pakistan and give it a chance to deliver on the issue of the Taliban. Though his outreach policy towards Pakistan incited internal opposition, Ghani managed to appease sceptics by assuring that Pakistan had promised to bring the Taliban to the negotiation table by mid-2015. The Afghan president asked people to wait and promised to expose Islamabad of playing a double game if Pakistan failed to deliver on its promises.

On the other hand, Pakistan has its own grievances and serious concerns about Afghanistan which Kabul has failed to address. RAW’s anti-Pakistan activities were a source of grave concern for Pakistan. Islamabad blames Kabul for letting RAW work with impunity against Pakistan’s stability and integration. Islamabad has also criticised Kabul for rejecting the NDS and ISI partnership. Similarly, Pakistan considers the presence of Mullah Fazlullah and the TTP on Afghan soil detrimental to its interests and asks Kabul to take concerted action in this regard. Instead of addressing these concerns, Ghani has presented a long list of his own grievances and complaints.

Dr Ashraf Ghani believes that he made a concession to Pakistan that no other Afghan leader could imagine making. He believes that he approached Pakistan, visited the GHQ in Rawalpindi, stopped anti-Pakistan propaganda and ignored border issues even at the cost of Afghanistan’s friendship with India. Ghani claims that for the sake of Islamabad, he dismissed Rahmatullah Nabil – the anti-Pakistan chief of the NDS – and even sought Islamabad’s advice in appointing of the new chief. The Afghan president also bore allegations of being a Pakistani agent.

Taking credit for the covert and overt US operations, Ghani claims Afghanistan has arrested and handed over Latifullah Mehsud and other perpetrators of the attack on the Army Public School to Pakistan. He has also taken credit for the effectiveness of the Nangarhar Operation against the Pakistan Taliban and the killing of Umar Mansoor (Umar Narray) and Fazal Saeed Haqqani in drone attacks. Ghani also claims that he provided full support in ensuring the release of Ali Haider Gilani and chalked out trade agreements as per Pakistan’s wishes.

Feeling betrayed, Ghani has blamed Pakistan for playing a double game. He believes that instead of bringing the Taliban to the negotiation table, Pakistan has enhanced support for the group and incited them in Kunduz. Ghani believes Pakistan wants to generate instability in Afghanistan and overthrow his administration.

Ghani is also highly suspicious of the operation in North Waziristan and believes that Pakistan gave a chance to the Haqqani Network to flee prior to the start of Operation Zarb-e-Azb. The Afghan president is of the view that all suicide attacks are planned on Pakistani soil. His team has complained that Pakistan kept Kabul in the dark for a year about the death of Mullah Umar.

The Afghan president has also blamed Pakistan for its role in making Mullah Mansour a Taliban leader and being involved in his violent activities. He has assumed that the Taliban are nothing without Pakistan’s support. Ghani believes that neither the US nor China are happy with Pakistan’s double game. The US showed its resentment by killing Mansour in a drone attack. But China has not shown its displeasure against Pakistan openly and has instead voiced its concerns during meetings with Afghan officials.

Despite his failure at home and the blame game against Pakistan, Ghani’s overconfidence has been enhanced due to many factors, such as the US and Nato’s 10-year commitment of military and financial support at Warsaw and the US’ assurance of tenure completion. In addition, the strategic cooperation with India and Iran, trade with the outside world through Chabahar, the death of Mullah Umar and Mullah Mansour, the internal division within the Taliban, the diminishing support for the Taliban and the new deal with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar have also played a crucial role in defining Ghani’s approach.

 

This article is Part-II of the writer’s ‘Afghanistan’ series.

To be continued

The writer works for Geo TV.

Email: [email protected]

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