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Should Pakistan have any positive expectations from the Foreign Secretary meetings in Kabul?

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News Analysis |

Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua arrived in Kabul today for the first Pak-Afghan Joint working group meeting. Ms. Janjua led the delegation comprising of senior civilian and military leadership. The purpose of the meeting is to find common ground with Afghanistan and continue diplomatic engagement, despite the anti-Pakistan tirade recently from Afghan leaders. The meeting was planned sometime ago, before the latest spate of attacks in Afghanistan.

The Foreign Office (FO) spokesperson Dr. Muhammad Faisal had announced the meeting on Friday. According to him, Pakistan has proposed five joint working groups to Afghanistan which will focus on ensuring comprehensive engagement for countering terrorism, intelligence sharing, military, economy, trade and transit interaction, refugee repatriation and connectivity.

Amid such hostilities, visit of Pakistan’s delegation to Afghanistan is a positive direction from the Pakistani side, but given the posture taken by the Afghan side not much can be expected from it.

The FO spokesperson also said that there is no military solution for peace and stability in Afghanistan, the only path to peace is an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. He has lamented that the Afghan people have suffered from decades of terrorism and instability and that Afghan refugees are not able to return home because of the poor law and order situation in Afghanistan.

Yesterday, a National Security Committee (NSC) meeting was held in Islamabad. The top civilian and military leaders discussed the Pak-Afghan relationship after the recent spate of allegations by the Afghan government that the terrorist attack in Kabul on 27th January was planned by the Taliban, allegedly hiding inside Pakistan and a wing of the Islamic State who have claimed responsibility for the attack. The Afghan government claim to have also provided evidence of the attacks to Pakistan.

Read more: Afghanistan – A view from Pakistan

Pakistan time and again has asked for intelligence cooperation with the Afghan side to ensure that terrorists are not allowed to cross the border. But the 2015 potential MOU that was about to be signed on intelligence sharing between the two sides was torpedoed by NDS, it is believed under Indian persuasion.

There are indications that the Chinese are in talks with the Afghans to extend one of their economic corridors to the country, however, given Indian opposition, whether the Afghan’s will be able to avail the opportunity is another matter.

Pakistan needs a stable Afghanistan for its own survival and stability since it cannot fight two enemies, India and terrorists, at the same time. Pakistan needs to ensure that the Afghan border is safe from terrorist infiltration, so its forces can focus on the LOC violations being conducted on the Indian border. However, its relationship with Afghanistan has not been friendly for the past several years; Afghanistan has repeatedly blamed Pakistan for terrorism on its soil, claiming that the Afghan Taliban are being given sanctuary in Pakistan.

The scapegoating of Pakistan by the Afghans, is not unexpected. On Friday, during a live televised speech, Ashraf Ghani alleged the “centre of Taliban terrorism is in Pakistan” and that “The Afghan nation is waiting for clear action.” The Afghan government is under huge pressure from its populace to show that it controls the country and can stop the Taliban’s attacks. The Taliban are controlling large parts of the country, and every year for the last several years have conducted starting in late February/March onwards spring offensives against the government.

Read more: America’s Waterloo: ‘Scapegoating’ Pakistan for Failures in Afghanistan

There is a clear refusal by the Afghan and US governments to talk to the Taliban and start a reconciliation process in the country, to bring stability. In 2003-04, when the Taliban were at their weakest after the US Enduring Freedom operation, they were assessed to be too weak and not considered worthy to sit down and negotiate with. Now, when they control large parts of the country, the US and Afghans have refused to sit down and talk to the Taliban until they have been defeated, which seems to be becoming more difficult by the day.

Pakistan also has much to gain from strong ties with Afghanistan since it provides a direct route to landlocked Central Asian States which are rich in natural resources. If Pakistan can extend CPEC into Afghanistan and Central Asian States, it will help change the future of Pakistan and Afghanistan

On Friday, the meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) was held, presided over by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi attended by Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Zubair Mehmood Hayat, Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshall Sohail Aman, National Security Adviser Lt-Gen (retd) Nasser Khan Janjua and senior civil and military officials.

It was decided that Pakistan will continue talks with Afghanistan despite hostility from the Afghan side. The committee stated that the Pakistani people understand the pain and anguish of their Afghan brothers and it observed that the misconceptions against Pakistan were created by outside foreign powers. The committee expressed dissatisfaction over the border control with Afghanistan and decided to engage Afghanistan for support for the fencing of the Pak-Afghan border.

Read more: The US continues to scapegoat Pakistan for its failures in Afghanistan

The ministry’s statement pointed out that Pakistan had 975 security posts along the porous border with Afghanistan, while Kabul had set up only 218. It requested Afghanistan to do more on border security, saying that terrorists from Afghanistan have carried out 417 attacks in Pakistan in 2017.

Its relationship with Afghanistan has not been friendly for the past several years; Afghanistan has repeatedly blamed Pakistan for terrorism on its soil, claiming that the Afghan Taliban are being given sanctuary in Pakistan.

Peace in Afghanistan is a necessity for Pakistan considering its geostrategic location and as political analysts point out Pakistan cannot afford to have a very hostile and powerful neighbour, India on its Eastern side and an unstable Afghanistan on its Western side. According to a statement by the DG ISPR, whenever Pakistani forces move their focus to the Western border, the cross-border violations from the Eastern border increase.

Pakistan also has much to gain from strong ties with Afghanistan since it provides a direct route to landlocked Central Asian States which are rich in natural resources. If Pakistan can extend CPEC into Afghanistan and Central Asian States, it will help change the future of Pakistan and Afghanistan. There are indications that the Chinese are in talks with the Afghans to extend one of their economic corridors to the country, however, given Indian opposition, whether the Afghan’s will be able to avail the opportunity is another matter.

Amid such hostilities, visit of Pakistan’s delegation to Afghanistan is a positive direction from the Pakistani side, but given the posture taken by the Afghan side not much can be expected from it.


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