ISLAMABAD: Speakers at an event called for civilian control over the Afghanistan policy, and asked Pakistan to alter its mindset and engage with Afghanistan instead of trying to control it.
They were speaking at the launch of a report on ‘Pak-Afghan Relations Under Evolving Regional Scenario’, published by the Pakistan Institute of Policy Studies, on Wednesday.
Pakistan Peoples Party Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the dichotomy in the state’s policy towards militants has brought Afghanistan and Pakistan close to a dangerous collision.
“Pakistan refuses to acknowledge that the Taliban ideology on both sides of the Durand Line is to destroy modern state structures,” he said. “We also pretend that while the Afghan Taliban is motivated to drive out foreign forces, the Pakistani Taliban is seeking to destroy the state itself. It is this dichotomy in state policy that had led the two close neighbours on the path of a dangerous collision.”
He said Mansour’s possession of Pakistani identity documents raised serious questions about who has provided sanctuary and protection to the Afghan Taliban in Pakistan, and dealt a blow to the narrative of sovereignty.
“Where is sovereignty when the likes of Mansour are freely using our land to launch attacks in Afghanistan?”
He said Mansour’s successors are less likely to be found in refugee camps and more likely to be found in well-protected luxury compounds in Quetta – and elsewhere – holding Pakistani identity and travel documents.
“In utter frustration and in a kneejerk reaction we have resorted to unilateral border controls and are demanding repatriation of Afghan refugees. It is neither feasible nor advisable to throw out the refugees overnight. We have not been able to register all the refugees as yet – a task that must have been completed long ago,” he argued.
He said border management is a long term process requiring a long term and patient resolution with mutual consultation. It should not be seen as punishing Afghanistan for refusing to be subservient.
Meanwhile, analyst Rauf Hassan suggested that there is no Afghanistan policy, and policymakers are guided by the perceived threat from India. He said the exaggerated Indian threat had determined relations with Afghanistan.
Former foreign minister Inamul Haq said that if India wishes to have good relations with Afghanistan, it should not offend anyone. “Our aim should be to ensure that India does not use the soil of Afghanistan to destabilise Pakistan or work in other ways against our national interests,” he said.
According to the report, Afghanistan sees progress in its relations with Pakistan in the context of progress on the Taliban. The Afghan government expected Pakistan to either act against the irreconcilable Taliban or bring the reconcilable ones to the table.
It states that publicly, there is nothing the two countries talk about other than the status of the Taliban, and a multilayered engagement is clearly missing.
It argues that the Afghan Taliban currently appear uninterested, even cautious, in joining the peace talks – largely because of a lack of an internal agreement. It says that while Pakistan admitted to having influence over the Taliban, it cautioned that this doesn’t necessarily equate to control over the group. The influence, in turn, comes from the presence of the Afghan Taliban in Pakistan.
Published in Dawn, June 23rd, 2016