And the Blame Game Resumes
The Saga of Perpetual Instability and Pakistan-Afghanistan relationships
Although Pakistan and Afghanistan have historical linkages, both countries, at the same time, also have a long history of levelling allegations of interfering in each other’s internal affairs. The recent border skirmishes and insurgent attacks across the border have once again started the blame game, full of doubts and conspiracies. Nevertheless, high-level engagements at the governmental level have always defused the tensions.
When the Taliban took the helm of affairs in Afghanistan, there was a widespread hope that now Pakistan and Afghanistan will forge a mutual consensus and an era of prosperity and mutual coordination will usher in. In the same hope, Pakistan tried to convince the international actors and global community for having a soft corner for Afghanistan and treating the country on a humanitarian basis. In this backdrop, Pakistan convened and held two very important sessions of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Islamabad, echoed the Afghan crisis on the floor of the United Nations, accelerated diplomatic activities for helping Afghans and strove to convince other nations for recognizing Taliban government so that the looming threats may be mitigated and Afghanistan may move forward toward economic, political and social stability. Pakistan’s high-level visits to Afghanistan for engaging the Afghan leadership and reminding them of their vows and promises, as well as paving the way for their recognition continued.
Another very important visit came in December when Pakistan’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Hina Rabbani Khar, visited Kabul to convey the message of his government and discuss bilateral issues. She was accompanied by Pakistan’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Amb. Sadiq Khan, and other high officials of her ministry. The delegation, which was received and welcomed by Afghan foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and his team, had candid discussions with the deputy prime minister and foreign minister of Afghanistan.
During the past few months, the issues between the two countries have taken a negative turn, leading to the resumption of the old blame game. Attacks on Pakistan’s diplomatic staff have been carried out and cross-border attacks from the Afghan side on Pakistan’s security forces have also become a routine matter now. Even Chaman border was closed due to this reason – it was reopened due to extreme public demand, though. Nonetheless, the same border was closed again when the Pakistani side was attacked and unintimated fire was opened by Afghan security forces.
Since long, the TTP militants have been operating from Afghan soil and the Afghan Taliban are well aware of this. They have been targeting Pakistani forces from across the border. On many occasions in recent months, the involvement of their militants in attacks inside Pakistan has been reported. In Swat and Dir districts, we have seen massive protests by the locals against the incursions from Afghanistan and the resumption of Taliban’s activities in the area. Although the TTP had signed a truce with Pakistan’s government, it called off the ceasefire and ordered its militants to stage attacks across the country just a day before Ms Khar’s visit to Kabul. The TTP and negotiated settlement with it has become a persistent headache for the state machinery of Pakistan and no proper solution is being anticipated in the near future. Pakistani officials have requested the Afghan Taliban, time and again, to deal with the TTP with an iron hand and ensure that no cross-border attacks take place, but the issue still persists. Reports suggest that the same issue was on the cards during Ms Khar’s Kabul sojourn. Afghan Taliban, being the spiritual fathers of TTP, can – and they must – persuade TTP for a negotiated settlement with Pakistan. They must also ensure the security of the border and stop incursions from their side.
Furthermore, Ms Khar discussed the projects of regional connectivity including CASA 1000, TAPI and transit trade to Central Asian states. Afghan Taliban shared the same vision of their active role in projects of regional connectivity with Chinese officials. However, there will be many game-spoilers of, and irritants to, these projects and these are the ones who are pushing Afghanistan towards another wave of instability and anarchy. The UN reports point out the presence of many international militant outfits on Afghan soil and some of them have been found in attacking foreign envoys and other places. The traces of attacks on Pakistan’s diplomatic staff and Hizb-e-Islami’s leader Engr. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar have link with Daesh Khurasan in Afghanistan which confirms UN reports about their presence in Afghanistan.
The regional states, especially China and Pakistan, are now the custodians of Afghan peace because the peace and prosperity in both these states are linked with the situation in Afghanistan.
Similarly, the Afghan Taliban have failed to fulfil their promises; they are running the country in their traditional way – another reason why they have not been accepted yet by the global community due to which their recognition and unfreezing of their assets still linger on. With fulfilling of their promises, the international community will be able to start their operations inside Afghanistan, thus improving the prospects of normalizing relations with the outer world. They will be able, then, to take action against foreign outfits and ensure full control over security apparatus throughout the country. Moreover, the Afghan leadership should enhance linkages with the regional countries and should not pay any heed to the blame game but rather focus on resolving the issues with Pakistan through practical steps and move forward for ensuring symbiotic relationships, beneficial for their respective states and citizens.
The author is a faculty member at the department of Political Science, University of Malakand, Chakdara Lower Dir. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.