News Analysis |
Pakistan’s Western neighbor, Afghanistan has been in constant, never-ending war from as early as the 1980s to this day with sporadic patches of peace. The fragile security situation in the country has not only terminated the growth of its own citizens but has also hampered the development of Pakistan, which shares 2430 Km border with it.
Although Pakistan helped the Afghan regime in the 1990s against the Soviet Union, earning the confidence and trust of Tribal elders, the Global War on Terror (GWOT) turned the tables against Pakistan as the country faced multiple accusations regarding terrorism – despite being a front line state in this conflict.
Both the countries share the same religion and culture – in specific belts – but the issue of law and order has tensed the situation in recent past. Historically, Afghanistan has visibly been displaying hatred against Pakistan, a harbinger of which was not recognizing the country in the United Nations; however, the people of both countries have been crossing borders for trade and other motives for decades.
The civil-military bigwigs in Pakistan seem to be on the same page as Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi along with Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa flew off to North Waziristan agency and ordered the formal resumption of trade activities.
Pakistan and Afghanistan, both accuse each other of cross-border terrorism, however, Pakistan’s contentions sound more truthful considering the presence of multiple militant groups in Afghanistan. The Torkham border crossing has seen closure and reopening multiple times in recent years.
In 2017, the blast at Shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan, Sindh, Pakistan led to the closure of the border, however, it opened again. The crossing was closed and reopened for multiple times last year, however, with the dawn of 2018, both the countries are showing signs of détente.
The fresh negotiations between both the Muslim states stem out from the Afghan Peace offer extended by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who asked Taliban to join the political process and open office in the capital city, Kabul.
Besides the United States, which is now a major stakeholder in South Asia, Pakistan also welcomed the offer and urged the militant group to give up arms.
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the former Prime Minister of Afghanistan, who is also dubbed ‘butcher of Kabul’ had also asked Taliban to join the political process, however, the launch of spring offensive confirmed that Taliban were still not ready to join the mainstream politics.
Afghanistan has visibly been displaying hatred against Pakistan, a harbinger of which was not recognizing the country in the United Nations; however, the people of both countries have been crossing borders for trade and other motives for decades.
Having the Taliban refusal in mind, the prospects of enhanced Pakistan-Afghanistan cooperation for peace are high; however, there are few obstacles to the execution of the dream. The cross-border terrorism is the biggest threat to peace. Pakistan has started fencing its side of the border and according to Director General of
Inter-Services Public Relations, Major General Asif Ghafoor, Pakistan will be completing the task by the end of 2018. On the other side of the divide, there has been no such effort from Kabul to secure the borders.
After the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine blast, Pakistan had handed over a list comprising names of 76 terrorists to Afghanistan, bolstering its claims that cross-border terrorism was posing a threat to its existence.
In the following months, a list with 75 names was given to Pakistan, not by Afghanistan, but by the United States – implying that trust deficit was at the core of problems faced by Kabul and Islamabad. In January 2018, Pakistan complied with the request and handed over 27 suspects associated with the Taliban to Afghanistan.
Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, also toured Kabul in April and called upon Taliban to accept the peace offer of Ashraf Ghani. He also invited Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah to visit Pakistan at earliest.
However, just 10 days after the visit, a fresh contention arose when two Pakistani soldiers were killed in cross-border fire from Afghanistan- they were working on the fence. Pakistan lodged a strong protest with Kabul for the firing incident and the media wing of Pakistan’s military expressed that the soldiers were exercising restraint.
The former Prime Minister of Afghanistan, who is also dubbed ‘butcher of Kabul’ had also asked Taliban to join the political process, however, the launch of spring offensive confirmed that Taliban were still not ready to join the mainstream politics.
With so many complex issues in the backdrop, the chances of thawing of ties seems impossible; however, a ray of hope in the scenario is the confirmation of Afghan President and Chief Executive’s visit to Pakistan by Afghan consul general Professor Mohammad Moeen Marastial. Even before the visit, Pakistan has reopened the Ghulam Khan pass, its third major trade route with Afghanistan, after a span of four years.
The border route was closed in 2014 after the launch of Zarb-e-Azb operation against the terrorists and it was decided in Abbasi’s recent Kabul tour that it will be reopened. The civil-military bigwigs in Pakistan seem to be on the same page as Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi along with Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa flew off to North Waziristan agency and ordered the formal resumption of trade activities.
Trade between both the countries fell from $2.7 billion to $1.4 billion over the last two years and the reopening of border route can prove to be effective for securing peace in the region.
After having hurled scathing allegations against each other, the fresh negotiations between two countries endorse that Peace was the only viable solution for the region, but the road leading towards it might be bumpy.