Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, July 9th, 2020

US-Pakistan Close Ties Will Catalyze Afghan Peace Process

Pakistan is a heavyweight stakeholder in Afghanistan’s peace process and it is able to push the process forward. Islamabad’s recent active engagement in supporting peace talks and its strengthening ties with Washington generates optimism for fruitful negotiations.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is paying a state visit to the US, which indicates that the strained relations between Islamabad and Washington are beginning to thaw.
Recently, the US declared a Baloch separatist group – the Baluchistan Liberation Army – a global terrorist outfit, which has been appreciated by Islamabad. Pakistan, in its part, also fulfilled a long-standing US demand by arresting Hafiz Saeed, Lashkar-e-Taiba Chief. The US blames him for masterminding the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, which also killed American citizens, and wants him prosecuted and punished.
Afghanistan’s peace process is most likely to be in the agenda of discussions between US and Pakistani officials in Khan’s trip. In a tripartite meeting consists of US, Russia, and China held in Beijing to expand regional support to an Afghan peace settlement, Pakistan was also invited.
“In the Washington talks, the US is likely to ask Pakistan to ‘do more’ to persuade the Taliban to negotiate with Kabul and accept a ceasefire. It may also go beyond Afghanistan to seek assurances regarding the Kashmir insurgency, nuclear and missile issues and relations with Iran,” said former Pakistan ambassador to the UN Munir Akram in his commentary. He added, “An Afghan political settlement will not be durable unless it is supported by regional powers and Afghanistan’s immediate neighbors Pakistan and Iran.” Iran, he said, that could disrupt Afghan peace process if tension between Tehran and Washington escalated.
Afghan officials have always reiterated the significant role of Islamabad in Afghan peace process and urged Pakistani officials to use their leverage to bring the Taliban to negotiating table with the Kabul government. Both the administration of former Afghan President Hamid Karzai and that of President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani sought the active and constructive role of Pakistan in the country’s peace process.
With Imran Khan’s administration, the Kabul government remained more optimistic as Pak-Afghan high-level officials exchanged several trips to strengthen mutual tie and promote mutual trust.
The Afghan government has urged regional stakeholders to play their constructive role in the country’s peace issue. Meanwhile, US Special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad had made several trips to regional countries before each round of talks with the Taliban to form a regional consensus and garner the support of the region.
Afghanistan does not deny that the intra-Afghan dialogue stressed by the Kabul government is possible only through regional support. If regional and neighboring countries do not pressure the Taliban to hold direct talks, the negotiations are unlikely to bear the desired result.
US officials have also come to the fact that neighboring countries could ruin the peace process easily or vice versa. Hence, Afghan peace process is one of the main reasons for Washington to repair its relations with Islamabad so that it could push the process forward.
On the other hand, Since the US held back a total of $800 million from Pakistan last year – as Trump tweeted that the US gave Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid over the last 15 years for its campaign against terrorism but received “lies & deceit” in return – Imran Khan will seek to convince Washington of Pakistan’s sincerity in the fight against global terror.
It should be noted that a peaceful and stable Afghanistan is also in the interest of Pakistan. If Pakistani officials fear the spillover of instability from Afghanistan to Pakistan, as they have claimed on several occasions, they have to support the Afghan peace process and put pressure on the Taliban to settle the issue through negotiations. It is evident that Pakistani nation also suffered from terrorism as terrorist groups carry out sporadic attacks in its soil.
Meanwhile, if the conflict is ended in Afghanistan, the two countries could have a strong commercial exchanges. A strong trade between Afghanistan and Pakistan will contribute much to the economy of the two countries. It is understandable that when the Afghan-Pak border is closed, both sides sustain great economic harm. Moreover, Afghanistan also shows tendency in joining the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to play a role in China-proposed Built and Road Initiative as well as enjoy the economic interests.
Since terrorism is a threat to the region and a common threat to Afghanistan and Pakistan, all countries have to play their role in fighting against terror and seek to end the conflict in Afghanistan to strengthen regional stability.