09152019Headline:

Afghan sense of insecurity by Abdul Q Kundi

Former Afghan Intelligence Chief Amrullah Saleh wrote an opinion piece for Aljazeera in which he placed all blame for Afghan misery on Pakistan. He seems to be devoid of Afghan history and tradition. He forgot that Afghan’s don’t get tired telling the world that it is a graveyard of Empires. Was it Pakistan that was helping them get rid of Empires or whether it was their own sense of independence, dignity and pride? From his article it seems that Mulllah Omar and his supporters are not Afghans and he is advising the government to disown them. If they are Afghans whose responsibility is it to talk to them so that there could be peace in their country and our region. And if they are terrorist then why Afghan government did not tell Americans not to approach them for negotiations that allowed them to open an embassy in Qatar and initiate exchange of prisoners as precondition for talks. Is it also Pakistan’s responsibility that corruption of historic proportions are uncovered by international donor agencies in Afghan reconstruction contracts? Isn’t it the failure of people in power like him that under their watch officials deprived poor afghan’s of basic necessities and his intelligence department did not uncover any of these corrupt officials. It was this failure to deliver which provided recruitment tools for anti-government forces to gain their sympathy.

Is it also Pakistan’s responsibility that Afghan’s that are excellent fighters are not willing to serve in the Afghan National Army (ANA)? There must be corruption, bad leadership and other administrative issues that compel these soldiers not to protect their country and abandon their national army. I would also like to ask Mr. Amrullah when he will give call to his over three million Afghan brethren living in Pakistan to return to their country and rebuild it. This will relieve Pakistan of spending billions to provide social services to them. We would rahter prefer to spend this money on our citizens.

Mr. Amrullah also seems to be deprived of the basic common sense of foreign policy. All neighbors around a country have a strategic interest in it. Pakistan has strategic interest in Afghanistan so does Afghans in Pakistan. A good relation can only result from mutual respect for each other’s strategic interest. Afghans have to realize that another important aspect of good relations is that both countries have to respect strategic interest of each other. Same is true for others in the region including Iran, Uzbekistan, China and Tajikistan who share borders with them. Afghans always look towards Pakistan whenever they are in crisis and there are many cultural, historic and geopolitical reasons for it. When it comes to international policy they have allowed other powers to use their territory for a great game. In multinational forums Afghan governments have sided with India ignoring the policy position of her neighbors. It was Afghan’s themselves who invited Russian’s to enter their territory and make it a center stage of Cold War between US and USSR. Pakistan was brought into the conflict when largest numbers of refugees sought help. We are proud to help our neighbors in distress and will do it again if needed on humanitarian grounds.

In his article Mr. Amrullah has laid blame of recent terrorist attacks squarely on Pakistan without providing any proof. For any crime there has to be a motive. Newly elected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has opened a new diplomatic chapter in the bilateral relations during his recent visit. This diplomatic thaw is detrimental to the aggressive government of India led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Why can’t Afghan’s investigate and find out if there is hand of Indian RAW in these attacks which has substantial presence in their territory. Even Indian thank tanks have advised Indian policy makers that ignoring Pakistan’s strategic interest in Afghanistan will destabilize the region and their government should devise a regional policy recognizing this realty.

Pakistani media, military establishment and political parties including my own PTI have a consensus that peaceful, stable, united and prosperous Afghanistan is in the interest of Pakistan. Operation Zarbe Azab is continuing to destroy all terrorist sanctuaries at the cost of precious lives of our soldiers. All powers including US, China, Russia and EU have appreciated and recognized these efforts. Pakistani civilian government has taken a foreign policy posture that we will not allow our lands to be used by foreign militants to intervene in our neighbors. Pakistan has also made it categorically clear that political solution to Afghan crisis should be Afghan lead and Afghan owned. Although I disagree with this approach because this is a regional issue and all neighbors are stakeholders in it especially with respect to achieving a sustainable balance of power.

A better approach will be that an extensive diplomatic agenda should be prepared. This should include international recognition of Durand line as a recognized border between the two countries; economic cooperation, trade improvement; and finally intelligence and security cooperation. Pakistan has on numerous occasions offered training of Afghan Army and its officers. President Ghani has expressed interest in this which will improve collaboration between the two forces. Afghan transit trade not only helps two countries but can be extended to include Central Asia and onward to Europe. Energy export from Central Asia via Afghanistan to Pakistan, China and India is another area that has tremendous potential. Pakistan provides basic commodities to her Western neighbor including cement, sugar, flour and other staples. Afghanistan can benefit from Pakistani civil services training institutes to build capacity of its bureaucrats. NADRA can help Afghans digitize their citizen information which will be an important step to contain terrorism and contain infiltration of foreign militants.

First step to deepen our relationship will be that Afghans should stop using Pakistan as an escape goat for their own failures. A better approach will be to work together as friends and allies to introduce much needed stability to this region.

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