Sunday December 05, 2021

Our Afghan imbroglio

February 19, 2018

The recent violence in Kabul and the US drone attacks on militant hideouts in the bordering areas speak volumes about the rising tensions on Pakistan’s western border.

The consecutive suicide attacks by the Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan’s capital city, which left over 140 people dead ahead of its spring offensive, have sent shockwave across the world. These attacks carried a clear message that the efforts made by the international community to end the decades-long war have borne no fruit. Militants are gaining more ground in the war-battered Afghanistan.

A study conducted by the BBC reveals that the Taliban are active in 70 percent of Afghanistan. The study suggests that the Taliban are either in control or are threatening to capture more territory than they occupied back in 2014 when the US-led Nato forces withdrew from the volatile region. This study reveals that the IS is far more active than it was before. According to the UN’s estimates, more than 8,500 civilians were killed or injured in the first three quarters of 2017.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s remarks on the sorry state of affairs of his country are self-explanatory. Acknowledging his country’s absolute dependence on Washington, Ghani told CBS said that his country would collapse within six months without American support. To its utter dismay, the US – which contributes around 90 percent of Afghanistan’s defence budget – is also frustrated with the results. This offers a good excuse to both the US and Afghan governments to blame Pakistan for its failures in the ongoing war on terror.

In his first tweet of 2018, US President Donald Trump accused Pakistan of lying and deceiving the US while receiving billions of dollars from the country over the last 15 years. In a matching response, Pakistan said that all the funding was accounted for and that Trump was displeased over America’s defeat in Afghanistan. Pakistan added that it had already done a great deal and it was now time for the world to do more.

Trump’s message sent a wrong message to Pakistanis who themselves are victims of terrorism. Pakistan has lost some 70,000 people in the war on terror. As against the $33 billion, Pakistan’s material damages have exceeded $120 billion. During this period, the country saw one of the largest mass displacements in its 70-year-long political history.

In an effort to flush out militants from the troubled tribal belt, Pakistan launched a military operation in North Waziristan in June 2014 that yielded good results. Realising that the military gains secured in the battlefronts couldn’t ensure durable peace if they weren’t supported by a well-defined socioeconomic, political and legal reforms agenda, the government launched fresh initiatives to reform the restive tribal areas.

To that end, the government formed a high-level committee to ascertain the wishes of the people and come up with recommendations on how to mainstream Fata. The approval of a bill on the extension of the superior judiciary to Fata is the first landmark achievement. The bill, when it becomes an act of parliament, will prove to be a suitable means to address the sense of frustration and deprivation that has beset the people of the neglected region over the years. On the economic front, a 10-year multibillion dollar socioeconomic development plan will help generate economic opportunities in the area and gainfully employ the people, especially the youth, and save them from being spoiled by the spoilers.

By securing more than 95 percent of the volatile tribal belt, Pakistan took concrete steps for border management. To stop the illegal movement of people, the country has, so far, completed fencing 160-kilometre of the 2,500-kilometre-long porous Pak-Afghan border in parts of South Waziristan, North Waziristan, Bajaur, Mohmand and Khyber agencies. Pakistan has established 1,126 check posts along the border as compared with the 145 posts established by Afghanistan.

Responding to its call, Pakistan handed over 27 people who allegedly belonged to the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network to Afghanistan in November 2017. Extremists and militants of any persuasion who seek to advance their security and foreign policy agenda are a threat to peace and security and must not be allowed a foothold anywhere.

Stability in Afghanistan is of considerable importance to Pakistan. With its ongoing multibillion dollars CPEC project, Pakistan cannot afford to see any disturbance on its soil. It is time for Afghanistan and the US, along with the regional political actors, to put an end to the blame game and collectively determine how to defeat the common problem of terrorism, which has engulfed the entire region.

The world has to realise that there is no military solution to the long-standing Afghan debacle. If Afghanistan is concerned about the Afghan Taliban on our soil, Pakistan also has its long list of complaints. In a recent suicide attack near a military camp in Swat Valley, three security personnel were killed and seven other were injured. The Afghanistan-based Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. We need to understand that terrorism is our common enemy. It can only be defeated through concerted and coordinated actions from both Pakistan and Afghanistan that are based on a credible and verifiable mechanism instead of blame games.

The writer is a freelance contributor.