Pakistan’s Stability Lies In Afghanistan

Peace and stability in Pakistan is not possible if there is no peace and stability in Afghanistan. Recent revelations and comments by the Pakistani elite establishment have highlighted the validity of the rumors that Pakistan was actively engaged in undermining the early Karzai government in Afghanistan and providing sanctuary to the Taliban.

Former army general and president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, and Pakistan’s new ambassador to the United States, Aizaz Chaudhry, have highlighted the validity of these rumors. Musharraf stated in an interview that:

“In President Karzai’s times, yes, indeed, he was damaging Pakistan and therefore we were working against his interest. Obviously we had to protect our own interest.”

He went on to explain his rationale by arguing that the support given to the Taliban was to counter the supposed influence that India possessed in Afghanistan and with Karzai. Musharraf specifically stated that

 “The RAW of India, the ISI of Pakistan have always been fighting against each other since our independence. That is how it continued, it continues now also...It must stop, but it can only stop when leaderships on both sides show the will to resolve disputes and stop confrontation in favour of compromise and accommodation.”

Musharraf’s comments were echoed by the new ambassador of Pakistan to the United States, Aizaz Chaudhry, who also stated that the Taliban had been allowed to enter into Pakistan as migrants seeking refuge on the condition that they “steer clear of militant activities if they wanted to stay in the country.”

These policy decisions by the Pakistani government and military establishment have been misguided as the intensity of terrorist attacks in Pakistan has increased dramatically. The attacks have exacerbated the fall in health of the Pakistani economy as markets and malls have gone empty and the Karachi Stock Exchange has experienced a flat lining as “investors decided to book profits following uncertainty over a host of factors.”

Afghanistan is Pakistan’s neighbor and in some sense a brother to the nation. Pakistan has always prided itself on being part of the larger brotherhood of Islamic nations and so it is striking and disheartening to see actions that go against the spirit of this brotherhood.

Past policies and inactions of the Pakistan establishment and military have come to haunt Pakistan and its innocent people. Pakistan’s stance towards Afghanistan has further eroded the trust between Kabul and Islamabad, pushing Kabul towards Delhi. Pakistan faces hostility from India on its eastern border and is now allocating resources to an increasingly hostile western border with Afghanistan. Military actions and strikes have been taken across the western border to counter terrorists based on Afghan soil that Pakistan blames for the recent set of attacks through out the country. Additionally, Pakistan is actively engaged in artillery shelling against targets in Afghanistan. The Afghan defense ministry has described the shelling as “an act of aggression.”

Regardless of the validity of Pakistani claims that Afghanistan is harboring militants, the Pakistani stance, can easily be countered by pointing out the hypocrisy of the claim. Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, responded to Pakistan’s demands of 76 terrorists that be handed over to Pakistani authorities with a list of 85 terrorists wanted by the Afghan government residing in Pakistan. Kabul feels a justified sense of betrayal against Pakistan.

Kabul’s sense of betrayal with Islamabad and Rawalpindi is justified as Ghani agreed to “put his government at stake by reposing full trust in Pakistan to not only deliver the Taliban to the negotiating table, but also to force them to stop insurgent attacks.” Pakistan was unable to deliver as the talks broke down with the revelation of Mullah Omar’s death. Furthermore, there had been reports of the now deceased Mullah Mansour actively engaging the support of militant groups in Balochistan’s capital, Quetta, furthering the sense of betrayal held by Kabul.

Pakistan’s policy of gaining the trust and controlling the Taliban, by allowing them to reside in border areas on the condition that they would refrain from further violence, has come to viciously haunt the country. These groups have now become entrenched in Pakistan and further metastasized through out the nation. Pakistani officials held a sense of recognition for the Taliban and believed that they could persuade the organization to come to some form of agreement. This has not been the case and this misguided policy has spurned further acts of terror and violence through out Pakistani cities.  

In response to the terrorist attacks carried out in Pakistan over the past few days, Islamabad has chosen to respond by authorizing the military to undertake counterterrorism actions across the border in Afghanistan. Furthermore, the Sharif administration has also intensified efforts to revive military courts that would swiftly deal with terrorists and result in their execution. Yet, this policy is unnecessary, as the government has already decided to act as judge, jury, and executioner. In response to the blast at the La Shahbaz Qalandar shrine, ISPR (Inter-Service Public Relations) stated that, “over 100 terrorists have been killed and sizeable apprehensions have been made.”

In response to these actions, Pakistani Senator and former Ambassador, Sherry Rehman questioned the military and police response on twitter stating:

“Who were the ‘100 terrorists’ killed? Under what law? And why were they only targeted after 4 days of terrorist attacks? Why not before?”

Her questions echo the questions posed by the families of the victims and the greater public who perceive the government as inept and reactionary rather preventative.

Pakistan must now realize that any form of cooperation with the Taliban is no longer feasible. Pakistan’s previous stances and efforts can be sympathized with, as Pakistan had no intention on joining the U.S. led “War on Terror”.  Under pressure from the former Bush administration, Musharraf was given a choice to either side with American interests or the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.  Pakistan reluctantly chose the American side and was forced into the heart of the conflict. Furthermore, Pakistani support for the “War on Terror” has slowly eroded as Pakistan has been subject to American drone strikes and operations that the Pakistani public views as an infringement on their sovereignty and find humiliating.

Furthermore, Pakistan sees the United States increased cooperation and amicability towards India as a betrayal for the price that Pakistan has paid in the war that they joined reluctantly.

Pakistan has been residing in between a rock and a hard place, attempting to balance historic interests and aims against India and the predicament that they found themselves in with Afghanistan. Pakistan’s approach to the Taliban can either be viewed maliciously or as a result of trying to balance difficult circumstances. Washington and Kabul perceive Pakistan’s actions as malicious and this stance can be justified. The same can be said for Pakistan finding a middle ground between dealing with a Taliban that they supported during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the might of the American military and their interests after the terrible events of 9/11.

Pakistan’s reluctance in dealing with the Taliban stems from the fear that targeting all militant and terrorist groups will amount to declaring war on the Taliban and risking the conflict spilling into Pakistan. However, this fear is no longer reasonable as the conflict has spread into virtually all of Pakistan’s provinces. Pakistan’s only option left is to drop all attempts at compromise and commit themselves to eliminating the Taliban not only in Pakistan but also in Afghanistan. The future of Pakistan lies in the stability of Afghanistan and Pakistan must do everything that it can for it has no other option left.

 

Source Image: US Army (Flickr)