- The inevitability of negotiations
Reportedly, in the backdrop of the horrendous tragedies that unfolded in Peshawar, Bannu and Mastung, the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani called the care taker Prime Minister Nsirul Mulk and expressed his condolences on the loss of innocent lives. Both leaders agreed to work together to defeat the common enemies for peace and security in the region. In his telephonic conversation with the COAS, according to ISPR, the Afghan president extended the assurance for enhanced border security measures on Afghanistan side as assistance to Pakistan’s security forces during the election campaign.
There are reports that the suicide bomber who struck at Mastung had come from Afghanistan and the local authorities have taken into custody two of his local facilitators. It is painful to point out that the TTP operatives and other terrorist outfits based on the Afghan soil have been carrying out acts of terrorism in Pakistan, more so in the backdrop of military action in North Waziristan. It is pertinent to point out that the Pakistan government and military authorities before commencing the action had requested the Afghan government and commander of the US-NATO forces in Afghanistan to take appropriate measures on their side of the border to ensure that the terrorists could not escape to Afghanistan but regrettably no tangible action came forth with the result that most of the TTP operatives and leadership went to Afghanistan from where they have been planning and executing acts of terrorism in Pakistan.
Pakistan also has been emphasising the need for fencing the Pak-Afghan border and repatriation of Afghan refugees but no tangible action was taken. However Pakistan took a unilateral decision to fence the entire border between the two countries which is in progress and nearly 433 forts and watch-post are also planned to be built. Not only the terrorist acts were carried out within Pakistan but the terrorists have also been conducting attacks on the military personnel of Pakistan engaged in the fencing of the border. During the month of June two such incidents took place.
Indian RAW and Afghan NDS have also been collaborating in sponsoring terrorist attacks in Pakistan and have maintained a liaison with TTP leadership as revealed and confessed by deputy leader of TTP who was caught by the NATO forces in Afghanistan while he was returning after a meeting with Afghan authorities. The ambience of non-cooperation and mistrust has harmed both the countries. Terrorism is undoubtedly a common enemy of Afghanistan and Pakistan and it requires unflinching sincerity of purpose and determination by both the countries to subdue the phenomenon.
Pakistan’s credentials as a faithful and sincere partner in taking the war on terror to its logical end and promotion of Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation are beyond reproach
It was however encouraging that the two countries realised the inevitability of cooperation between them and the former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbassi visited Afghanistan in April this year at the invitation of the Afghan president. It helped in diluting the ambience of mistrust that marked the relations between the two countries in the past. Both the leaders discussed the whole range of bilateral relations including peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan, counter-terrorism, return of Afghan refugees, regional connectivity and bilateral trade. It was agreed between the two sides that peace, prosperity and stability of the two countries were interlinked and they also reaffirmed their commitment to regional connectivity as they had done in Herat on 23rd February 2018 while jointly inaugurating the entry of TAPI Gas Pipeline from Turkmenistan into Afghanistan.
The two countries also concluded Afghanistan Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS) on 14 May in the fourth meeting held at the ministry of foreign affairs, envisaging formation of six working groups. It was a welcome development because dialogue and continued engagement are the essential ingredients in regards to resolving conflicts and removing kinks in relations between the states.
This was followed by a visit to Pakistan by a multi-agency Afghan delegation led by National Security Advisor of Afghanistan Mohammad Hanif Atmar in the last week of May. They held talks with the COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa. The talks focused on implementation of APAPPS. The Afghan side was appreciative of Pakistan’s initiative to prepare the framework document for improving cooperation and coordination between the two countries on a host of confidence building and substantive measures. The two sides agreed to fast track the formulation of working groups, especially on bilateral security cooperation and to undertake measures that would assist both sides in tackling of violence by the terrorist entities.
At the invitation of the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani the COAS General Bajwa also visited Afghanistan just before Eid where he held one-on-one meeting with the Afghan president and parleys with Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and the commander Resolute Support Mission General John Nicholson. The talks focused on the process of reconciliation in Afghanistan, measures needed to check rise of Daesh and protecting the borders between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The redeeming factor of the visit was that the US General acknowledged the fact that Pakistan desired success of US-NATO forces and peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Under the new understanding and the process initiated to mend fences between the two countries it is incumbent upon Afghanistan to make sure that its territory is not used by the terrorist for attacks against Pakistan and its forces deployed along the border and those engaged in fencing the border which is mutually beneficial to the two countries. Afghanistan needs to adopt fool-proof measures on permanent basis to thwart the attempts by terrorists to execute attacks within Pakistan and along the border instead of only assisting the Pakistan forces only during the elections.
Pakistan’s credentials as a faithful and sincere partner in taking the war on terror to its logical end and promotion of Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation are beyond reproach. It has made relentless efforts at the bilateral and multilateral forums in that regard. It is regrettable to note that the US in spite of acknowledging the sacrifices made by Pakistan is not convinced of the indiscriminate action taken by her against all the terrorist entities and continues to blame her for allowing terrorist sanctuaries on its soil. That attitude is not going to help in the resolution of the conflict. The USA and Afghanistan need to encourage and support the efforts by Pakistan to fight terrorism and restoration of peace in the region.
The killing of Fazlullah on Afghan soil in a drone attack not only confirmed Pakistani claims about the presence of TTP operatives on the Afghan soil but also marked the beginning of a new phase of cooperation between Afghanistan, Pakistan and USA. The cooperation developed in pursuance to the new initiatives needs to be carried forward with unruffled commitment. Pakistan is admittedly indispensable in regards to fighting terrorism and bringing reconciliation in Afghanistan.