Why does Pakistan compromise its own peace for untrustworthy Afghans?

Drugs, smuggling and war make money and were combined in Afghanistan

The latest report of Bertelsmann Stiftung’s project ‘Shaping Change – Strategies of Development and Transformation’ for 2022 about Pakistan confirms that the state’s monopoly on the use of force is contested by terrorist organizations, sectarian groups, ethno-nationalist insurgencies, and criminal gangs involved in the smuggling of goods and narcotics. The report says that much of the violence committed by these non-state actors is concentrated in the province of Balochistan as well as the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) bordering Afghanistan.

It is important to mention that the project “Shaping Change – Strategies of Development and Transformation” collaborates with around 300 country and regional experts from leading universities, and think tanks worldwide while working under Bertelsmann Stiftung.

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If we examine the list of non-state actors (users) sharing the state’s right of the monopoly of violence, we will comprehend that all are those who were directly or indirectly by-products of the Afghan Jihad of 1979-88, of course, that Pakistan handled as the frontline runner of the USA. My discussions on this topic with retired diplomats and military generals could be summed up as that Afghanistan has always been a source of “bad news” for Pakistan and our perception of Afghanistan being our strategic depth backfired ruthlessly.

There is a long history of what we sacrificed for Afghans, but we should give room to the claims of Afghan writers and academicians as well. They are propagating that Pakistan always fought wars on Afghan soil for protecting its own (Pakistan’s) interests and those of foreign entities.

I believe that we had allowed the trade of sectarian terrorism, drugs, weapons, and radicalization with war dollars, which certain strata of our society had been enjoying. Powerful strata injected a sense in the society that connecting with Afghanistan was a must for our strategic survival. One of the reasons for selling lies to the public was deep-rooted strategic, private, and personal interests in Afghanistan, hence billions of dollars’ kept engulfing the reality. We know that war is one of the biggest businesses around the globe, as are drugs and smuggling; interestingly all three factors you can find in the Afghan war.

I can quote readily available three references. The Nexus–International Terrorism and Drug Trafficking from Afghanistan written by terrorism expert Frank Shanty. He explains the nature and the extent of involvement between international criminal drug traffickers, particularly of drugs originating from Afghanistan, and international terrorist networks with global reach.

We understand that an economic meltdown in Afghanistan would lead to a mass exodus of refugees and will promote extremism, terrorism, and instability. It will be a tangible threat to the peace and stability of neighboring countries. However, neighboring countries that are trying to help Afghanistan are immediate victims of terrorism harbored there.

The second book is Seeds of Terror–How Drugs, Thugs, and Crime Are Reshaping the Afghan War written by Gretchen Peters. This critical reading explains the history of the USA’s involvement with Afghanistan that explains the devastating consequences of the alliance between the US government and radical Islam. Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the roots of the current international crisis. The third one is Unholy Wars–Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism by John K. Cooley, and is also interesting reading to understand how drugs are linked with everybody who had stakes in the Afghan war irrespective of nationality and social status.

Now terrorism is again breeding in Pakistan after we initiated dialogue with TTP on the recommendations of the Afghan Taliban and we are facing the consequences of this “strategic move” in the shape of attacks on our soldiers almost every week.

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I always believe that having a cup of tea in Serena Kabul for a picture click will keep costing us internally and externally. Externally, it was a message that we were behind the failure of US-led forces, internally it was a message that all is under our control that was actually not. Many of our experts do not understand that trying to take credit for the Taliban’s triumph has expanded the trust deficit Pakistan had been facing with western countries for decades. Why should we have made a tendentious show which resulted derisively, in the perilous claim of herding untrustworthy Afghans creating an even bigger void? Over 40 years’ disasters continuously come from Afghan soil in the form of drugs, weaponization, radicalization, polio virus, heavy food smuggling, and three million refugees who are no more refugees now but over 20 to 30 million Afghan-Pakistanis. Do we need more?

The latest dreadful attack on the Pakistan Mission in Kabul was unprecedented. Fortunately, the Pakistani Ambassador was saved by his guard who was critically injured. Afghanistan has always been a mess for Pakistan and Taliban rule has become a nightmare for us as Afghan soil is used against Pakistan ruthlessly.

Recent events have testified that Afghan Taliban are harbouring terrorists and the killing of Ayman al-Zawahiri in August 2022 in the Afghan capital Kabul confirmed that Afghan Taliban are hosting terrorists as they had been in their first tenure. Moscow Format Consultations on Afghanistan held on November 2, expressed concerns that the Taliban are not working to eradicate terrorism and drug trafficking that is emanating from Afghan territory. The Taliban were advised to take more visible steps against all terrorist organizations, and to firmly fight, dismantle and eliminate them, so as to ensure that Afghanistan would never again serve as a breeding ground, safe haven or source of proliferation for terrorism. Participants reaffirmed their readiness to assist Afghanistan in this regard.

We understand that an economic meltdown in Afghanistan would lead to a mass exodus of refugees and will promote extremism, terrorism, and instability. It will be a tangible threat to the peace and stability of neighboring countries. However, neighboring countries that are trying to help Afghanistan are immediate victims of terrorism harbored there.

Shazia Anwer Cheema
Shazia Anwer Cheema
The writer Shazia Cheema is an analyst writing for national and international media outlets. She heads the DND Thought Center. She did her MA in Cognitive Semiotics from Aarhus University Denmark and is currently registered as a Ph.D. Scholar of Semiotics and Philosophy of Communication at Charles University Prague

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