Islamabad : Following the Afghan Taliban’s recent advances and rapid gains in the war-torn country amid uncertainty about the success of peace process, the stalemate in the intra- Afghan dialogue creates concerns for peace and stability in the region. Instead of waiting for events in Afghanistan to worsen, Pakistan should act proactively to mitigate the spillover effects of a civil war should it begin there on a large scale.
This was the crux of a discussion on ‘Developments in Afghanistan: Implications for Pakistan and the Region’ at the Institute of Policy Studies here.
Among the panellists were former ambassador and expert on Pak-Afghan affairs Ayaz Wazir, head of the Area Study Centre at the Quaid-i-Azam University Dr. Sadia Sulaiman Bukhari and regional chief correspondent at Anadolu Agency for Asia-Pacific Islamuddin Sajid.
Former ambassador and IPS vice-chairman Syed Abrar Hussain chaired and moderated the event, while IPS chairman Khalid Rahman delivered the closing remarks.
Syed Abrar Hussain opined that the Doha Accord which served as a foundation for the US withdrawal from Afghanistan entailed an intra-Afghan dialogue clause under which modalities of ceasefire and future political roadmap were to be decided.
He, however, said due to the Afghan government’s delay in implementing the Doha agreement in letter and spirit, negotiations have remained stalled, resulting in the loss of many innocent lives.
Ayaz Wazir argued that bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan is in the interest of regional countries including Pakistan, China and Iran, which were vying for regional connectivity and geo-economics, while the US-Indo nexus can play the role of spoilers to sabotage connectivity projects under the Belt and Road Initiative.
He also said the Afghan Taliban had developed direct and friendly relations with the neighbouring countries on the pretext of not allowing Afghanistan’s soil to be used against anyone.
On the implications of the changing Afghan situation for Pakistan, Dr Sadia maintained that Islamabad should have a cautious policy towards the recognition of the Taliban regime should they come in power, as the decision would impact its internal security.
She warned that if the civil war extended, the Afghan society would fragment and the people would flood Pakistan as refugees.
“Also, desertions in the Afghan Army will increase the proliferation of small weapons across Pakistan and thus, aggravating unrest in the country,” she said.
Explaining the military strategy of the Afghan Taliban to topple the Afghan government, Islamuddin Sajid believed that the militant group would not enter Afghanistan’s big cities before the US forces departed completely.
“The Taliban agree to talk to their opponents to end insurgency but India adds fuel to the conflict by sending weapons to government troops to intensify the civil war. Even the Baloch militants living in Nimroz and other areas in Afghanistan are being armed by India to fight against the Taliban,” he insisted.
Concluding the session, Khalid Rahman observed that despite the withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan, the US would continue pursuing its strategic objectives vis-à-vis Pakistan and China in the region with the help of allied international and regional forces.
He said better governance in Pakistan would help prevent the fallout of the crisis looming over the region.
“Our government should be on its toes in the wake of the US withdrawal. It should also prepare to address the humanitarian crisis that can emerge if Afghan refugees start pouring into Pakistan after the outbreak of a civil war,” he said.
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