COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, accompanied by the DG ISI, met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Afghan National Reconciliation Council Chairman Abdullah Abdullah. The two Pakistani officials reiterated that Pakistan would always support an ‘Afghan-led, Afghan-owned’ peace process based on mutual consensus. The stand implied that Pakistan would continue to help the Afghan government and the Taliban to hammer out an inclusive power-sharing agreement acceptable to Afghan stakeholders.
Pakistan is already trying to bring the Taliban back to negotiations with the Afghan government. It also wants the two sides to create conditions conducive for talks. The declaration by the Taliban of a three day ceasefire during the Eid is a welcome development
The visit came only days after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken sent a bleak message to various stakeholders in Afghan peace, including Pakistan. Mr Blinken maintained that the plan to withdraw all foreign troops by September 11 should be an eye-opener for all “free riders” in the neighbourhood. “They now have to decide, including Pakistan, where their interests lie, and, if they have influence, how to use it.” The Secretary argued that it was not in the interest of Pakistan to see Afghanistan winding up in a civil war, because that would produce a massive refugee flow with all its horrible consequences coming in its wake. Other countries too should be concerned about the export of extremism, drugs, and so on, he said.
In other words it is in the interest of Pakistan to do whatever it takes to bring the two combatants, that is, the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban, onboard. As far as the USA is concerned, its engagement will be limited to supporting Afghanistan economically , through development assistance, humanitarian aid and support for its security forces.
This gives Pakistan an opportunity to win over the hearts and minds of the Afghan people by playing the role of the harbinger of peace in the war-ravaged country. Once an inclusive administration is in place and the civil war ends through Pakistan’s diplomacy, it would be possible to increase connectivity in the region through CPEC. This would bring prosperity to the region besides enhancing Pakistan’s prestige. All depends on the negotiating skills of those conducting talks with the Afghan government and Taliban.