Afghan-Pak Relations and the Dilemma of Terrorism

 

After winning the 2014 elections, the Afghan President Dr. Mohammad Ashraf Ghani considered the already established “Peace Process” and talks with the Taliban a priority in his agenda and expedited efforts to seriously address the dilemma of terrorism in the region. Like his predecessor Hamid Karzai, he acknowledged Pakistan’s role as instrumental in reaching a peaceful agreement with the Taliban and fighting terrorism. Hence, in his first visit to Pakistan, he assured his Pakistani counterparts of anti-terror cooperation and demanded it from Pakistan by joining hands with Afghanistan. However, Pakistan has been sticking to its old policy of using terrorism as a means to reach its strategic goals, which is why actions to fight terrorism are yet to be seen from Pakistan.   

After the massacre of 141 children and adults in a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, President Ghani in a meeting with Pakistan’s Army Chief once again called on Pakistan to join with Afghanistan in fighting Taliban and said "The time has come for Afghanistan and Pakistan to work together in sincerity and jointly take effective actions against terrorism and extremism." They both vowed to fight “terrorism and extremism” together. Nevertheless, what was seen later from Pakistan was the same old story and it again failed to live up to expectations. Pakistan was involved in recurring terrorist attacks in Afghanistan and support to Taliban under a distinction of “good Taliban” and “bad Taliban”. This has angered the people and government of Afghanistan and has made the “peace process” in Afghanistan a perpetually ineffective conversation.

Since the beginning of the US intervention in Afghanistan in 2001, Pakistan has been a key counterpart in fighting terrorism and was called upon by the international community to do its part as a strategically important neighbor to Afghanistan. However, Pakistan sought its interests in supporting the Taliban and terrorist groups in Afghanistan, and preferred an unstable unfriendly Afghanistan over a stable friendly Afghanistan. 

Given the economic, cultural and religious ties between the people of the two countries, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the two sides of the same coin. A dent on one side will cause a bump on the other. Any chaos and insurgency in Afghanistan will affect Pakistan in equal measure and vice versa. However, Pakistan’s double role shows that it has taken this issue for granted. Its failure to join hands with its Afghan counterpart and fight terrorism has distracted the Afghan people, and their government. Pakistan’s stubbornness in their lack of commitment to fighting terrorism and supporting the so-called “good Taliban” has also frustrated other countries that are genuinely committed to fighting terrorism. Frustrated and exhausted with Pakistan’s double-role, Afghans have been seeking peace by having bilateral talks with nations that are in favor of stability in the region. The Afghan Ambassador to the US in a talk at the Hudson Institute said Afghanistan would offer friendship to any country that supports peace in the region, and implicitly referred to Pakistan as a weak counterpart. This can be seen in Afghan efforts to establish an alliance with India, and Iran. Such alliances would result in increased stability in both Afghan economy, and politics.

Pakistan is turning a deaf ear to the international community and Afghanistan’s pleas for stability. The international community appears to have understood this and, along with Afghanistan, has voiced its complaints at a global level. This became evident when Afghan President Dr. Mohammad Ashraf Ghani in the NATO Summit Warsaw 2016 explicitly blamed Pakistan for the hampered and slowed fight against terrorism in particular Taliban. He said, "The conflict is multi-dimensional, ranging from Al-Qaeda and Daesh to terrorist groups with Central Asian, Chinese, and Russian origins, to Pakistani groups classified as terrorists by Pakistan and Afghan Taliban groups."

"Our regional initiatives with neighbors are beginning to yield significant cooperative dividends. The exception is with Pakistan – despite clear commitments to a quadrilateral peace process, their dangerous distinction between good and bad terrorists is being maintained in practice."

Pakistan’s loss of international community's trust and the persisting annoyance between its close neighbors needs to be addressed by heads in Islamabad. It has to rethink its foreign policy to make it compliant to the present day’s political needs.