Pakistan’s Afghan policy slammed as self-destructive
KABUL (Pajhwok): A senior analyst has panned Pakistan’s Afghan policy as a self-destructive, monotonous and tiresome. He faulted quadrilateral dialogue process as an exaggerated attempt to do things that look impossible or run counter to Pakistan’s perceived objectives of working for peace in Afghanistan.
Raoof Hasan, head of an Islamabad-based think-tank, Pakistan’s position as a key player in the four-nation effort is largely focused on its much-touted influence over the Taliban, interest in genuine peace in the neighbouring country and perceived readiness to take on the so-called ‘irreconcilable’ militants.
In an OPED piece published in The News on Friday, he wrote the assumptions, and the hope associated with them, have either been blown away or stretched thin, virtually to a breaking point, because Pakistan’s Afghan policy suffers from a host of paradoxes -- the principal one being its inability to treat both Pakistani Taliban and Afghan Taliban as enemies of peace.
“In its unique appraisal, although the former constitute a terrorist group that is engaged in fighting (against) the state of Pakistan and has to be eliminated by all means, it has a diametrically opposite appreciation for a similar band of militants dubbed as the Afghan Taliban, who are engaged in dismantling the government in Kabul in a bid to impose their draconian and regressive writ in the country,” he argued.
Hasan, who heads the Regional Peace Institute, alleged Pakistan had lived for an excruciatingly long period of time in denial of the presence of the Afghan Taliban on its soil. Only recently, Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz conceded the reality in his address to the Council on Foreign Relations in the US. “We have some influence on them because their leadership is in Pakistan, and they get some medical facilities, their families are here. So, we can use these levers to pressurise them to come to the negotiating table.”
He took issue with the advisor’s statement: “So that is the kind of leverage we have to bring them to the table. But to pressurise them and to negotiate will depend on the parties which are actually negotiating. We can advise the Afghan government, if they want our advice, on what might be acceptable and so on and so forth, but in this task, I think, and according to the road map, all three of us have to share that advice – US, Pakistan, and China – so that we collectively decide what is best.”
The analyst viewed Aziz’s stance as non-committal, refusing to accept outright responsibility for actually bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table -- on which the whole quadrilateral effort hinges. This ambivalent position literally pulls one pillar from under the very edifice of the quadrilateral process.
He wrote Pakistan’s interest in working for peace in Afghanistan was directly linked to assuaging its concerns regarding the possible steps that could be taken to contain India’s influence in that country. “Unfortunately, instead of building on the natural homogeneity that exists in abundance between the people of the two countries, Pakistan has opted to follow a top-down policy, of either influencing the Afghan leadership to do its bidding.
“This has not helped matters in the past and Pakistan’s relations with its western neighbour have been like a bad dream, which is only likely to get worse with the passage of time, particularly as the fighting rages on in Afghanistan, generating indescribable pain and angst,” the analyst commented.
Without coming to a sustainable middle ground, the writer noted, Pakistan was gradually eroding its own relevance to the peace process in Afghanistan. This approach would create space for other players to move in, India being one of them, he warned.
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