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Kabul and Islamabad exhibit willingness to welcome renewed fervor in their commitments to maintain bilateral relations and eliminate the mistrust and apprehensions the two countries harbor against one and another.
Sources from the Foreign Ministry revealed that the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is all set to make a “crucial visit” to Pakistan.
President Ashraf Ghani will be making his first visit to Pakistan after over three years, reinstating Pakistan’s desire to renew ties between the two neighbors who have been engulfed in mistrust and tensions.
The US Ambassador for Afghan Peace Zalmay Khalilzad is leading the talks with the Afghan Taliban, however, the dialogue has made little progress
Reports reveal that Ashraf Ghani will arrive in Islamabad for his two-day visit on 27th June, in acceptance of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s invitation to renew ties.
This visit marks a crucial turning-point in Pak-Afghan relations, as the two countries have been trying to resolve their differences and concerns through diplomatic channels given Pakistan’s influence and support in the Afghan reconciliation process.
Pak-Afghan relations have been marred with deep-rooted mistrust and blame-games for the past three years, and this trust deficit has increased due to Afghanistan’s close cooperation with India, and the infiltration of terrorists and extremists from across the Afghan belt.
Kabul has repeatedly blamed Pakistan of stirring unrest and promoting dissent in Afghanistan, while Pakistan has issued its own apprehensions over Kabul, and the Afghan security agency NDS’s involvement in initiating cross-border attacks, and harboring anti-state militants.
Pak-Afghan Relations: A Fresh Start?
Tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan have disrupted all efforts to enhance bilateral engagement, which also undermines the effectiveness of diplomatic efforts to support a political solution in the 17 year-long war that continues to ravage Afghanistan.
Earlier in May, Prime Minister Imran Khan had a telephonic conversation with President Ashraf Ghani, extending an offer for renewed bilateral relations and enhanced cooperation.
Read more: The Talks Scenario – Afghanistan Peace Process
On 1st June, PM Khan formally invited the Afghan President to visit Pakistan on the sidelines of the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) convened by the Saudi King Salman in Riyadh.
Sources reveal that during Ashraf Ghani’s two-day visit, the two Prime Ministers and their delegations will examine the entire spectrum of Pak-Afghan relations, and seek to establish mutual cooperation and trust.
The sources added that Prime Minister Imran Khan will guarantee Islamabad’s sincere efforts and dedication towards seeking a political solution in the Afghan reconciliation process.
The US Ambassador for Afghan Peace Zalmay Khalilzad is leading the talks with the Afghan Taliban, however, the dialogue has made little progress as US demands peace and ceasefire while the Taliban are adamant on troop withdrawal.
President Ghani’s visit might be a step towards intensifying efforts for peace and bilateral talks between the two countries, but analysts maintain that it would not bring about any major changes to the political scenario.
Ghani: The Diminished President
Global Village Space reached out to Jan Achakzai, Geo-strategist, and Chairman of the Center for Geo-Politics and Balochistan, for insight into the future of Pak-Afghan bilateral relations.
Achakzai noted that even when Ghani-led Afghan government has “run its course and its mandate”, Pakistan still continues to treat Dr. Ashraf Ghani as the legitimate leader of the country.
He observed, “Though Ghani Government has run its course and its mandate, Pakistan still treats Ashraf Ghani as legitimate President and wants to continue state to state relations like it does with any normal state.”
Army Chief Gen Bajwa went all the way to address concerns of Dr. Ashraf Ghani but got more sanctuaries in Kandahar, Nuristan and Kabul to sustain proxy terrorism in Balochistan in particular
However, Jan Achakzai highlighted that Dr. Ashraf Ghani is now losing his significance in the political landscape of Afghanistan. He noted, “This visit comes at a time when Dr. Ashraf Ghani is a diminished figure; even the US has abandoned him besides other key Afghan politicians and players. His visit to Pakistan is more to bolster his domestic political position then to improvise state to state relations.”
Afghanistan: Friend or Foe?
Explaining the Ghani-led government’s inclination towards India and its vested interests against Pakistan’s stability, Jan Achakzai noted, “He (Ghani) was hostile to Pakistan for the last four years and served Indian interests in Afghanistan at the cost of Pakistan. This is why Afghanistan has remained hub and sanctuary for Indian sponsored groups from TTP to BLA to undermine Pakistan’s stability.”
Referring to the support issued by the Afghan President and other officials to the anti-state Pashtun-Tahaffuz Movement, Achakzai stated, “He backed PTM of late in terms of sanctuary, diplomatic support and money.”
Achakzai added, “He (Ghani) made chronic anti-Pakistan ex NDS Chief, i.e. Amrullah Saleh to offend Islamabad’s sensitivities. In a net shell, he leveraged India’s backing against Pakistan.”
He further explained that Afghani under President Ghani has never reciprocated Pakistan’s diplomatic and security cooperation. He noted, “All cooperation Pakistan extended regarding the issues raised under APPS mechanism have not been reciprocated by Ghani government, for instance, the issue of refugees, border fencing, and eliminating terror sanctuaries, etc.
Recalling Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s visit to Kabul, Achakzai noted, “Army Chief Gen Bajwa went all the way to address concerns of Dr. Ashraf Ghani but got more sanctuaries in Kandahar, Nuristan and Kabul to sustain proxy terrorism in Balochistan in particular.”
Read more: US cannot win the war in Afghanistan
Debunking Pakistan’s “ill-timed” efforts to engage with Pakistan, Jan Achakzai observed that given the Taliban’s newly cemented international legitimacy, Pakistan should not support the diminishing Afghan President, who cannot offer any substantial commitment and simply seeks to improve his domestic position.
Achakzai concluded, “From another standpoint, Pakistan should not have invited him since his move is ill-timed: when the Taliban are about to get international legitimacy, we are sending a wrong message to bolster his position and confer legitimacy — a lame-duck President is he himself — Ashraf Ghani cannot deliver on any commitment. But the move will likely be badly viewed by the Taliban.”