Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, January 15th, 2021

Reaction to Baradar’s Trip to Pakistan

With Mullah Baradar’s presence among a group of his supporters in Karachi, Pakistan – where according to him all decisions about the peace process were being finalized in consultation with the Taliban leadership and cleric council – Afghan officials showed reaction. On a video released on social media, Baradar said the Taliban leadership existed in Pakistan.
Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the presence of the Taliban leaders and their fighters in Pakistan was a “clear violation of Afghanistan’s national sovereignty.”
Afghanistan and Pakistan had high-level exchanges and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan traveled to Kabul last month vowing to put his weight behind the Afghan peace process. Moreover, when the Taliban delegation led by Baradar visited earlier, Khan made a phone call to President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and reiterated his support to the talks. On both occasions, Kabul appreciated the support of the Khan administration and the bonhomie between the two sides grew stronger.
Nonetheless, Baradar’s latest trip to Pakistan for meeting the Taliban leaders and fighters and confessing the existence of their councils there, Afghan officials doubted Pakistan’s goodwill. As a result, Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the presence of the Taliban leaders and rank and file in Pakistan would continue the ongoing crisis and instability in the region and would challenge the efforts to ensure sustainable peace in the country. It called on Islamabad to prevent insurgents from using its territory against Afghanistan adding that closing their safe havens was significant for a peaceful end to the crisis in the country.
Likewise, first vice president Amrullah Saleh said on a tweet, “Mullah Baradar did three things in Karachi. He visited the wounded Talib terrorists at a government hospital who are there without any visa, went to a training facility to inspire the terror cadets and thanked the government of Pakistan for generous support to the Talibs to this point.”
Afghan officials and global stakeholders have no doubt about Islamabad’s strong leverage on the Taliban leadership and, therefore, believe that Pakistan could play a critical role in the Afghan peace process. Kabul had constantly urged Pakistan to engage constructively in the process and pressure the Taliban leadership to declare ceasefire.
Revealing Taliban’s sanctuaries in Pakistan in the current critical time is likely to harm the emerging trust between Kabul and Islamabad. If Pakistan seek to support the intra-Afghan dialogue, as it has reiterated so, it has to push the Taliban leadership to reach a peace deal with the Ghani administration and decrease the level of their violence. Islamabad had better close Taliban’s council on its soil and do not harbor their fighters.
The existence of the Taliban leadership and councils in Pakistan, based on the released video and Baradar’s confession, will trigger public distrust in Pakistan. For instance, Afghan social media actors also showed reaction to the released video showing Baradar’s presence among his supporters and called Pakistan their “home”.
As a result of Afghan-Pak high-level exchanges and Islamabad’s reiteration of its support to the Afghan peace process, a sense of hope emerged among the public and Afghan officials. With this in mind, Pakistan should support the talks. In other words, if Taliban’s councils and leadership exist in Pakistan, they will be effective tools for pressuring the Taliban. Islamabad should use this leverage to nudge the Taliban to reduce violence and reach peace agreement with the Afghan republic negotiating team.
It is important to note that both peace process and the Afghan-Pak relations are fragile and at critical points. Pakistan is a heavyweight stakeholder in the Afghan peace process and has strong leverage on the Taliban. With this in mind, Islamabad has to use its leverage constructively so that it could prove its goodwill not only to Afghanistan but to the world.
Afghan officials seek not to reveal their reservations or have their say against Islamabad turning a blind eye to some facts so that the mutual relations do not be soured and Pakistan support the talks. On its part, Pakistan should play a constructive role and cement the mutual trust.
Considering the fragility of peace process, Pakistan in particular and regional and global stakeholders in general have to give their all-out support to the intra-Afghan dialogue so that sustainable peace and stability come to Afghanistan, which will be crucial to regional peace. On the contrary, a troubled political situation in Afghanistan is likely to threaten regional peace and stability.
Meanwhile, since the Taliban leadership is negotiating with the Ghani administration to reach a peaceful settlement, it must not capitalize on its sanctuaries outside the country. So it has to decrease the level of their violence against Afghan state and nation so that talks do not be derailed.