The quest for peace
Courtesy: Malik Muhammad Ashraf
The visit of the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and COAS General Raheel Sharif to Afghanistan on Tuesday, has a great significance in regards to the consolidation of the gains of cooperative relations between the two countries since the installation of the unity government in Afghanistan, the fast changing geo-political realities in the region, elimination of terrorism as well as peace in Afghanistan through political reconciliation, supported and encouraged by both Pakistan and China.
The reiteration of the pledge by the two countries to fight the menace of terrorism jointly and the characterization of the new offensive of Afghan Taliban against the US forces and Afghan government as an act of terrorism by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, demonstrates the seriousness and commitment with which both the countries are now striving to tackle the scourge.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was right on money to say that Pakistan had the highest stake in peace and stability in Afghanistan.
The resolve of the two countries not to allow their territories to be used for terrorism and the expression that enemy of one country would be considered enemy of the other, sounded beyond the realm of clichés.
The COAS General Army Chief also met the Isaf Commander General John F Campbell and discussed security issues and matters pertaining to border control mechanism.
General Campbell had also visited Pakistan last week and met General Raheel Sharif.
These interactions between the two commanders also reflect the intensity of cooperation that has evolved among Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US in regards to resolving the security issue in Afghanistan and stopping cross-border terrorism.
Although one cannot be over-optimistic about peace returning to Afghanistan in the near future, yet some recent developments in the region and beyond do point towards that direction. Pakistan and Afghanistan have abandoned the blame game that marked relations between the two countries during Karzai regime and are now staunch allies in the fight against terrorism on both sides of the border; thanks to a visionary narrative evolved under the stewardship of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and supported by the military leadership in Pakistan for building cooperative relations with Afghanistan, as well as a matching response by the new Afghan leaders to make this happen. Both sides have taken concrete step in this regard, particularly after APS tragedy in Peshawar.
General Raheel Sharif visited Kabul twice since that dastardly attack including the one unannounced visit on February 17. The Afghan President and General Raheel agreed not to allow the use of their soil against each other and resolved to continue operation against terrorists on both sides of the border. Pursuant to these meetings Afghanistan conducted operations against the TTP militants and also arrested some terrorists responsible for the APS tragedy.
Foreign Secretary of Pakistan also visited Afghanistan in February to participate in the Pakistan-China-Afghanistan trilateral meeting which deliberated on cooperative efforts to tackle terrorism and issues related to economic relations, rebuilding Afghan economy and promotion of bilateral and regional trade.
China’s involvement in this effort is a source of great strength and encouragement for both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The most satisfying aspect of this trilateral initiative was that even the Western countries expressed their approval for it, notwithstanding their typical skepticism about the growing Chinese influence in the region and beyond.
China, like Pakistan, also supports an Afghan-led process of reconciliation in Afghanistan.
Pakistan is reported to have played a key role in facilitating dialogue between the Taliban and the Afghan government held in Qatar recently.
This is indeed a very significant breakthrough and the Afghan government, the regional players and the US now also recognize the importance and indispensability of the role that Pakistan can play in promoting process of reconciliation in Afghanistan.
The willingness of the Taliban to open negotiations with the Afghan government represents a big change in their stance on the issue.
So far they have been insisting that they would not talk either to US or the Afghan government before the complete withdrawal of foreign troops from the Afghan soil and they of late had also stepped up their operations against the Afghan and US-NATO forces as well as security installations.
Ever since the US announced winding up its combat mission in Afghanistan, the issue of reconciliation in Afghanistan has assumed greater importance.
Majority of the experts on conflicts like Afghanistan and the political and military experts have been voicing concern about Afghanistan returning to anarchy of the past.
They have been advocating reconciliation among Afghan stakeholders before the US-NATO forces left the country.
Pakistan has been in the forefront to bring it about.
These efforts now seem to have melted the ice.
It is indeed a defining moment for the Afghans.
If the leadership of Taliban and the government have the good of the people as their objective, which I am sure they do.
The Taliban can achieve the objective of removing all the foreign forces from the Afghan soil at the earliest possible by joining hands with the government.
The US and NATO forces would willingly oblige them if they are sure that their exit would not again push Afghanistan into a crucible of anarchy and disorder.
The US and its allies do not wish to see their efforts of rebuilding Afghanistan and bringing peace go waste.
The possibility of delaying the pull out of US forces from Afghanistan being broached at the moment is probably the result of the apprehensions that the US has about the post-withdrawal scenario in the absence of reconciliation in Afghanistan.
It is therefore imperative for the Afghan government and the Taliban to seize this historic opportunity to stabilize Afghanistan.
Peace in Afghanistan is a pivot of building regional linkages and unleashing the untapped potential for economic progress in the Central Asian States, waiting to be exploited for a shared regional prosperity.
The regional countries, and the world community at large, are ready to help in this regard.
The journey towards peace that has been set rolling by the foregoing developments must reach its logical conclusion.