Time to Live

As neighbours, Pakistan and Afghanistan have more to gain from peace than from war.

By Amjad Ali | June 2022

Pakistan has witnessed a sharp spike in cross-border violence from Afghanistan. Scores of Pakistani soldiers have lost their lives. It has almost become a regular phenomenon. Patience has limits and Pakistan was allegedly forced to carry out airstrikes inside Afghanistan’s Khost and Kunar provinces. However, Pakistan denies such airstrikes. These new developments have raised concerns that it may lead to strained relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and further polarisation in the region.

Pakistan and Afghanistan relations have a long history of mistrust. Some of the problems were inherited from the British imperialism and have not been resolved even after seven decades. Amongst them, the unresolved Durand Line issue has always been a bone of contention between the two neighbours as Afghanistan claims the Pakistani side of the tribal region while Pakistan has been campaigning that both sides should recognise the Durant Line as an international border.

Moreover, after 9/11, the bilateral relations between the two countries witnessed a new low. The Karzai regime and the US-led western forces overlooked the anti-Pakistan activities that were harboured in those days. Pakistan repeatedly urged the Afghan government and the US-led NATO forces to stop TTP and other foreign sponsored activities against Pakistan and bring to justice to the culprits involved in heinous crimes such as the Army Public School (APS) incident and handlers behind the killing of security forces and civilians. Unfortunately, no punitive action was taken against the rogue elements and this contributed to the mutual mistrust.

The Afghan regime, in return, alleged that Pakistan should stop providing safe havens to the Afghan Taliban that are operating from Pakistani soil. Hence, each state’s blame game on the other led to a vicious circle of violence with no end.

Afterwards, when the Taliban took over in August 2021, Dr Ashraf Ghani’s government was overthrown. There was a strong backlash against the Taliban regime from the international community. No state recognised the Taliban government owing to its rigid stance towards human rights and constitutionalism. Furthermore, they were also not flexible in their approach during the negotiations and neither were they accommodative.

Nevertheless, after they assumed power, there was a severe shortage of food and other necessities. Pakistan took the initiative to convince the international community that if they did not engage the Taliban regime, there was a danger of another civil war and if it broke out, it would blow out of proportion and would not only destabilise the entire region but also would become a nursery for terror outfits endangering global peace. In this pursuit, Pakistan organised the OIC ministerial conference to seek global support and humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan. A number of states also committed to support the Afghan people.

Pakistan has an interest in a stable, peaceful and progressive Afghanistan, as peace in Afghanistan will have a ripple effect on Pakistan and other neighbouring states.

Pakistan had also expected that the new regime would ensure that no anti-Pakistan activity was permitted from Afghan land, including from the TTP and its allied terror outfits. Nonetheless, the Taliban regime set free jailed TTP terrorists who were imprisoned by the Ashraf Ghani government. Pakistan expressed its concerns but the Taliban ignored these protests.

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