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National

October 19, 2013

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Dr Lodhi warns of another 1989 in Afghanistan as US pulls out

LONDON: Pakistan’s former envoy to the US and UK, Dr Maleeha Lodhi, has said that if the international community wanted Pakistan’s help for the 2014 transition in Afghanistan, it should give up its habit of vilifying the country and using it as an alibi for Western failure.
She was speaking at a seminar at the House of Commons, organized by the South Asia and Middle East forum, which was addressed by several MPs and Afghan speakers, including Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Britain.
The topic of the special session was “consequences of the drawdown of Nato forces in 2014”, and it was moderated by the forum’s head, Khalid Nadeem.Dr Lodhi told the packed room in Parliament that Pakistan’s Afghan policy has been much misunderstood and often deliberately miscast. All it sought was peace and stability in its western neighbour as that meant peace and stability in Pakistan.
She took issue with Conservative MP David Holloway, who cited a Pakistani official as saying that Islamabad would prefer chaos to Indian influence in Afghanistan. The former envoy said nothing could be more disingenuous than this depiction of a country that suffered so much from conflict and turmoil in Afghanistan. She said apart from the Afghan people Pakistan had borne the brunt of three decades of strife and war in Afghanistan. She said Pakistan had also provided a home to millions of Afghan refugees, which remained the largest refugee presence in the world. For this it deserved greater international appreciation.
Laying out three scenarios for the post-2014 period, Lodhi said the best-case scenario rested on finding political accommodation among Afghan groups and a solution that would serve as the foundation for future stability; the muddle through scenario meant more of the same, which would leave Afghanistan in turmoil and unable to establish even a modicum of stability; and the worst-case scenario would be one where Afghanistan descends into civil war, reminiscent of the

1990s.
Dr Lodhi made an emphatic plea for ensuring that 2014 doesn’t become another 1989, the year that the Russians withdrew from Afghanistan. She said the best way to avoid this is to ensure that in the months ahead serious efforts are mounted to install a peace process and talks with the Taliban to find a political settlement of the war.
She said that headway toward a political solution would enhance prospects for an effective political transition, help improve the security environment for the military transition and enable Afghanistan position itself economically and insure sustained international support and engagement. She concluded by saying that because the road to 2014 is marked by so much uncertainty Pakistan’s security anxieties are accentuating.
Other speakers also expressed concern about the period ahead with British MPs, generally saying that now it was up to Afghans themselves to “consolidate” what has been achieved so far.
Others questioned how long international funding would continue to the Afghan army. The Afghan Ambassador urged the international community not to disengage from his country after 2014 adding that expectations of a quick fix will not materialize.

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