Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, November 23rd, 2019

Supporting Intra-Afghan Dialogue a “Shared Responsibility”

With President Muhammad Ashraf Ghani’s state visit to Pakistan, the trust deficit between Afghanistan and Pakistan is likely to diminish. The Afghan-Pak officials have reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening friendly relations and crafting “a forward-looking vision of Pakistan-Afghanistan relations”.
The two sides “agreed to open a new chapter of friendship and cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan, based on mutual trust and harmony for the benefit of the two peoples and countries and for advancing the cause of peace, stability and prosperity in the region,” said a statement released by the Pakistani Prime Minister Office.
The two leaders also talked about Pakistan’s role in peace process and Prime Minister Imran Khan believed that “Afghan-led” and “Afghan-owned” peace talks were the only viable option to end the conflict saying that Pakistan would support a result-oriented intra-Afghan dialogue.
President Ghani also met the heads of Pakistan’s leading political parties, which include Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz president Shahbaz Sharif, Pakistan’s Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Jamaat-i-Islami chief Sirajul Haq.
Prior to Ghani’s visit, an Afghan political delegation, including leader of Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, has been hosted by Pakistan to discuss the peace process. Hekmatyar called Pakistan’s role very important in peace issue.
Generally speaking, Afghan officials believe that Pakistan is among the countries which can play the most essential role in Afghanistan’s peace process. It has strong leverage on the Taliban and could nudge them to hold direct talks with the Ghani administration. With this in mind, building trust between the two countries is highly significant and would contribute much to the peace talks.
It is self-evident that a peaceful Afghanistan and Pakistan would contribute to regional peace and stability. If the two countries join forces to combat terrorism and put pressure on the Taliban group to resolve its tension through dialogue, the security situation will improve in the region.
It should be noted that the bilateral relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have been fluctuating. The Afghan-Pak high-level officials exchanged trips frequently, which have been stepped up with Imran Khan administration, and the relations between the two sides were hoped to improve, but it went no more beyond words.
It will be very helpful if the two countries work on achieving a productive bilateral relations and a peaceful future for the region, especially as the talks between the Taliban and US have reached a critical stage. That is, the ongoing negotiation is likely to be more fruitful if Pakistan puts her weight behind it.
Although Pakistan released the Taliban’s co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar from prison, demanded by the US, to catalyze the peace talks between the Taliban group and its US interlocutors, she has not put pressure on the group to hold talks with Ghani administration. Hence, the Kabul government expects Islamabad to pressure the Taliban to come to the table with the government’s representatives.
Since the trust deficit and blame game were proved counterproductive, Kabul and Islamabad have to repair and improve their bilateral relationships based on mutual trust and mutual respect. If Pakistani officials believe that a peaceful Afghanistan will be in the interest of Pakistan – it certainly is – she has to play more active role in brokering intra-Afghan dialogue.
Since Khan called for a “qualitative transformation” in relations and Ghani reaffirmed the need for “political alignment” between the two countries, it is hoped the two sides will take more practical steps.
Although Khan and Ghani also discussed about trade and economic issues, security and peace talks should be prioritized by the two sides. That is, if the conflict is ended in the ongoing peace talks, the trade will be also improved between the two countries.
It is clear that both Afghan and Pakistani nations were the main victims of terrorist attacks within the past years, Kabul and Islamabad have to step up their struggles to dismantle terrorist networks and push moderate groups to peace table. Afghanistan has intensified its offensive attacks against the Taliban to put military pressure on them to surrender to direct talks with the Kabul government. Pakistan also needs to pressure the Taliban to end the conflict.
Overall, a strong friendly relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan will contribute to regional security. Thus, combating terrorism and supporting peace talks are a “shared responsibility” and both sides need to play their role in an active and constructive way.