Why do Afghans deem Pakistan’s carrots as sticks?

The days have been passed long ago, when Pakistan used to assist Mujahidin. At that time, Afghans as well as Americans were applauding and supporting Pakistan’s role, which was aimed only for preserving peace, sovereignty and prosperity of the region at large. Though, regional and global powers won their strategic objectives by shattering USSR into pieces and compelling it to retreat, but all this occurred at the cost of pushing Afghanistan into ever-lasting chaos besides shattering the social fabric of Pakistan and entangling it in unending militancy, extremism and Kalashnikov and narcotics culture. The protagonist, the USA, went back leaving both countries in lurch. Now the time has changed, Pakistan not only wants to purge its own land of militancy but also wants regional peace and prosperity. For this purpose, Pakistan not only launched many successful military operations against militants residing in border region but also fenced its border with Afghanistan to curb infiltration of militants on either side of the border. However, Afghanistan’s support remains negligible in eradicating the fleeing militants to its soil as well as in fencing the border.

Right from the beginning, Pakistan’s stance is clear to support, assist and back every Afghan-led, -owned and -backed initiative and has left no stone unturned to prove its position in every initiative for peace. On other hand, Afghan rulers and elite like ‘a bad workman quarrelling with his tools’ always put the burden of their incompetency, lack of unity and disharmony on Pakistan. President Ghani warned Pakistan in recent speech to choosing either to be with us or against us and has been busy in blame game instead of devising any effective policy to compel Taliban to sit on table with them. Actually, Afghan government and their supporters want Taliban to bow to their dictations and let them to rule. However, Taliban having substantial local political support for years never want to compromise on their own status for ruling elites and want their due share in governance structure. Therefore, Afghan government always pressurizes Pakistan to compel Taliban to make compromise with them. They misperceive that rather Taliban obey every dictation what Pakistan asks them. Nonetheless, Taliban being independent political entity have their own decision-making structure and their leadership have stated many times that they are not supposed to take dictations from any one and only make consultations with their friendly states but are completely independent in making decision-making. However, Pakistan has been advising, requesting and motivating Taliban one way or other way to adopt the path of negotiation right from the start. In today’s scenario, it is the US to grant Taliban once again the status of separate stakeholder in Afghanistan starting negotiation in Qatar and relieving many embargos on their leaders without taking Kabul in confidence first.

Former consular to Pakistan, Zardasht Shams claims in his writing in this newspaper published on April 20 that no tangible or institutional action taken to dismantle Taliban support networks within its border by Pakistan despite repeated claims of endeavors for a peaceful Afghanistan. Independent local and international think-tanks and analysts are highlighting grey areas after the US withdrawal like fear of civil war, less capability of Afghan forces to cope with if such mishap occurs, while people of stature like the mentioned consular are busy in useless blame game instead of paving path for peace and bridging the gaps due to lack of unity among Afghan elites. Ignore socio-economic implications for a while, what else a country can act more tangibly than scarifying its thousands of cops and civilians together to eradicate militancy? Though global powers including the US after fighting war on terror for two decades across the globe has concluded that force is not the only viable and effective antidote to the anathema of terrorism, rather creating such conducive environment by promoting socio-economic development, education and technical training and employment, can help in discouraging those perpetrate terrorist activities. Pakistan left no stone unturned to adopt this most effective path of social development by building state-of-art communication and educational infrastructure and introducing comprehensive political, economic and social reforms in areas which were once hot bed of militancy especially the erstwhile FATA. It has also been helping Afghanistan to build infrastructure in their land. 200-bed Jinnah Hospital Kabul, 80-bed Nishtar Kidney Center in Jalalabad and 100-bed Naib Aminullah Khan Logar Hospital are few of the healthcare facilities set up by Pakistan, while Torkham-Jalalabad Road, bridges, donation of road construction machinery are few endeavors undertaken by Pakistan for infrastructure development there. Many healthcare facilities, infrastructure and energy projects are in the pipeline. Moreover, many education facilities are set up by Pakistan in various institutes of Afghanistan. Three thousand students are offered Allama Iqbal scholarship on merit in various fields beside other reserved seats for Afghans in every department of each colleges and university across the country. For trade boasting, Pakistan has set up many facilitating bodies such as Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Cooperation Authority (APTTCA), Pak-Afghan Joint Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Business Council and Joint Economic Commission (JEC). Even Afghanistan can trade with India by using Pakistan’s roads, ports, railway line after signing Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) in 2010.

On other hand Afghanistan despite repeated requests by Pakistan government has not only been failed to cooperate curbing the flow of fleeing militants by effective mutual border management but it has also shown discouraging response to Pakistan’s urge to deport the residing Baluch dissidents. Rather Afghanistan has not only providing safe heavens to those within its border but it has also extended both tangible and intangible support to those inside Pakistan having separatist tendencies. However, blame is always and still reserved for Pakistan.

Talibans neither carry Pakistan’s identity card nor do they deem Pakistan as boss to bow and obey him. Rather, they are Afghans having own ideology and history of struggle carrying their own agenda. However, Pakistan has been trying his best to play its positive role more than it can to ensure successful intra-Afghan dialogue and safe US withdrawal. Afghan leaders misconceive that Pakistan uses Taliban as leverage against growing Indian influence in Afghanistan, but reality is that Pakistan has neither intention nor desire or any compulsion to break Indo-Afghan relations. How a country can intend so who provide trade route to Afghanistan for trading under the umbrella of APTTA? Pakistan has clear stance that Afghanistan being sovereign country can establish relation with any country for pursuing its national interest, but it should not allow India to use Afghan soil for her nefarious activities against Pakistan, which unfortunately, Afghanistan always do. Stable and peaceful Afghanistan is in the best interest of Pakistan as well as the region whereas instable Afghanistan is in the best interest of India only.

In a nutshell, blame game is not going to resolve the growing tensions in long or short term. The mutual benefits lie within reciprocal relationship based on pragmatic steps for ending the decades’ long war. The US is going to leave soon claiming to achieve her objectives without any admission of defeat or declaration of victory and now responsibilities merely falling on Afghans. Analysts are predicting civil war like that 90s, if effective steps were not taken to bridge the existing fault-lines. Neither India nor the USA has to feel the brunt but Afghanistan has to confront the entire oncoming situation while Pakistan has to share the repercussions being an immediate neighbor. Therefore, now it is time to build environment conducive for regional development and prosperity and stop beating the dead horse. Persons of stature like Zardasht Shams being former diplomat need to play the positive role by wiping out the doubts and misperceptions making the historical bilateral relationship more enduring instead of spreading venom of hatred via both electronic and social media.


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