Pakistan’s Changing Relations with Afghanistan

Posted on 10/27/13
By Dilawar Sherzai | Via Outlook Afghanistan
A Pakistani post near the border with Afghanistan. (Photo by by Talk Radio News Service, Creative Commons License)
A Pakistani post near the border with Afghanistan. (Photo by by Talk Radio News Service, Creative Commons License)

Recently, the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met US President Barack Obama and discussed certain issues related to both Pakistan and Afghanistan. One of the notable statements by the Pakistani Prime Minister about Afghanistan, said, “I have assured Afghan President Hamid Karzai that we wish neither to interfere in Afghanistan’s internal affairs, nor do we have any favorites.” He also mentioned, “As regards Afghanistan, let there be no doubt about our commitment for a peaceful and stable Afghanistan. This result remains unbending. As in the past, we will continue to engage the United States of America in building a united, peaceful and stable Afghanistan.” It is important to discuss these statements and consider the changing relations of Afghanistan and Pakistan in the light of the same.

Though there have been fluctuations in relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, recently Pakistan has shown some good gestures. After President Karzai’s visit to Pakistan, there have been certain steps that show that the relations between both the countries may further improve. Pakistan had then promised that it would play a positive role in the peace process in Afghanistan. As a part of the same gesture, Pakistan released some of the Taliban prisoners from their detentions so that they can take part in the peace process in Afghanistan. Among them Mullah Bradar was the most important one. Though there have been some ambiguities about the current role and positions of released Taliban prisoners especially that of Mullah Baradar and their willingness regarding the peace process, their release was much required. It is hoped that endeavors would be made to track the prisoners who were released and their role, if any, in the process.

It has been one of the most dominating facts that both Afghanistan and Pakistan have been suffering because of the evils of terrorism and religious extremism. They need to realize that they have a common enemy threatening their stability and security. Both know that they need to sit together to solve the gigantic task of making their countries terrorism free; therefore, it would be very unwise for both of them to keep their memories filled with what had happened in the past and they really need to restart a new phase of better relationships.

To start anew, there has to be a comprehensive trust building strategy. This is a golden time to do the same as there has been a change of government in Pakistan and the new government seems ready to bring about changes in the way Afghanistan and the region see the role of Pakistan in Afghanistan. For Afghanistan it is really an important phase of the history. The international troops are to withdraw in 2014 and there would be great challenges for Afghanistan, both in security and the establishment of strong political setup. It is believed that the regional countries can play a dominant role in the post withdrawal Afghanistan. Therefore, Pakistan’s cooperation would make the matters easier.

It is also important that the Pakistan must pursue a trust building strategy so as to make the regional countries believe that it is really very positive regarding its role in developing peace and tranquility in Afghanistan. Most of the analysts believe that Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan has largely relied on the role of India in Afghanistan and vice versa. The uneasy relations between the two countries have influenced their relations with Afghanistan. However, Nawaz Sharif mentioned after his meeting with Obama that Pakistan realizes the important role of the regional countries in supporting Afghanistan’s progress towards stability and prosperity and stressed that continued engagement by the international community in Afghanistan’s economic and social development and reconstruction would be essential in ensuring the long-term security and prosperity of the Afghan people. It is important to see how Pakistan can improve its relations with India regarding the improvement of peace process in Afghanistan.

On the other hand US also wants to see Afghanistan and Pakistan having healthy relations as it would support in peace building process, which is very much essential before US leaves Afghanistan as it would guarantee better possibilities of peace in the country. US President Obama after the talks with Nawaz Sharif said, “The Prime Minister and I both agreed that it is in America and Pakistan’s interests for Afghanistan to be stable and secure, its sovereignty respected.” Referring to a recent meeting between President Hamid Karzai and Sharif, Obama appreciated many gestures Sharif had made to Afghanistan. “And I’m confident that, working together, we can achieve a goal that is good for Afghanistan but also helps to protect Pakistan over the long term.” President Obama also promised Nawaz Sharif to fully brief him and his government as they make progress in not only Afghan elections, but also a long-term strategy for stability in the region.

There is another challenge for Afghanistan next year and that is the coming presidential elections. It is really important that Afghanistan must have free and fair elections so that the future political system must be based on the will of the people of Afghanistan. It is also essential that the neighboring countries must not interfere in the development of future state of affairs, though their support is highly essential. Nawaz Sharif also mentioned that for Pakistan there is no favorite, which itself points at the changes that are in the Pakistani diplomacy with the change of the government.

Though Obama and Nawaz Sharif affirmed their commitment to the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process as the surest way to end violence and bring lasting stability to Afghanistan and the region. Acknowledging Pakistan’s efforts to support an inclusive reconciliation process in which Afghans determine the future of their country, both leaders called on the Taliban to join the political process and enter dialogue with the Afghan government, the joint statement said, it is really important that the commitments mentioned above must be pursued with full determination and zeal as any deviation from them will once again make Afghan people suffer to a great extent.

This article has been reproduced under a special arrangement with Outlook Afghanistan, one of Afghanistan’s leading newspapers.

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