ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan have been facing new challenges over the last one year since Taliban took over Kabul and Islamabad needs to adopt a regional approach while framing any policy towards the landlocked country.

This was the view of experts at a consultation on ‘Afghan peace and reconciliation: Pakistan’s interests and policy options’ organised by Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS).

The experts stressed that Pakistan should revisit its policy towards Afghanistan and treat the country as a sovereign state.

Lawmakers, academicians, former diplomats, retired army officers, journalists and experts on security and Afghan affairs participated in the discussion. The main themes of the consultation, which was fifth in a series of discussions organised by PIPS on Afghan peace process, include ‘One year of Taliban rule: Emerging Afghan situation and its interface with the countries near and beyond’ and ‘A review of emerging Pak-Afghan relations’.

Say Pakistan should treat neighbouring country as a sovereign state

Seasoned politician and Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Defence Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed in his keynote address said Pakistan needed to adopt a regional approach to frame any policy towards Afghanistan and treat the neighbouring country as a sovereign state.

“Our biggest fallacy on Afghan policy is that we have been playing favorites,” he said.

Senator Sayed deplored that even after over 40 years, the Afghan story was not over and there were new challenges. In the context of Pakistan, he said the focus should be “who makes the policy and what policy should be made.” He supported the suggestion that a working group should be formed on the Afghan issue.

Former national security adviser retired Lt Gen Nasser Khan Janjua endorsed the view of other experts that policy review was required for Afghanistan. He stressed that the Afghan issue was still unsettled in the larger context and Pakistan should treat the Afghan people with honour and respect.

He said they should keep in mind that the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was a defeated phenomenon. “We want closure of war,” he said, adding Pakistan should see Afghanistan in the larger context that both have a common future.

Political analyst and expert on Afghan affairs former senator Afrasiab Khattak said Pakistan needed to revisit and rectify its policy towards Afghanistan.

“Afghanistan is facing the threat of disintegration and Pakistan will have to face the consequences of this worst-case scenario,” he said and added that “we should see our Afghan policy critically.”

Senator Anwaarul Haq Kakar shed light on the issue of Afghan refugees living in Pakistan for decades and said there was a need to rationalise this matter. He proposed that they should be given permanent resident cards of Pakistan to connect them with the formal economy and tax net.

Defence and strategic affairs analyst retired Maj Gen Inamul Haque disagreed with another participant that there was strong anti-Pakistan sentiment among Taliban ranks and added that such a sentiment was only limited to few people.

He said Pakistan enjoyed respect among the rank and file of Taliban and common citizens of the neighbouring country. He also rejected the notion that Pakistan’s policy for Afghanistan was flawed and added that there was a problem in its implementation.

Former senator Farhatullah Babar said the interim government of Taliban was reluctant to take action against the banned TTP.

“This is the reality of the last one year that Tehreek-i-Taliban Afghanistan has become a supporter of TTP,” he said, adding that the recent killing of Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a drone strike in Afghanistan showed that militant groups were still growing there.

Former ambassador Mohammad Ayaz Wazir also endorsed the view that Pakistan should revisit its policy towards Afghanistan and address reservations of the Afghan people. He said that Pakistan should avoid interfering into the internal affairs of Afghanistan.

Jamaat-i-Islami Balochistan chief Maulana Abdul Haq Hashmi said it was unfortunate that there was no discussion in Pakistan at the academic and political level on the ideology of Taliban, which was contrary to what they had accepted during negotiations with the US.

Professor Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal of the Quaid-i-Azam University talked about Pakistan’s border issues with Afghanistan and proposed that they should get rid of the illegal border economy to bring stability on the borders.

PIPS Director Mohammad Amir Rana in his introductory remarks said the primary purpose of the consultation was to take a review of the Afghan situation after one year rule of Taliban, and of the emerging Pak-Afghan relations.

Published in Dawn, September 5th, 2022

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