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On the invitation of Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani arrived in Pakistan on 27th June for a two-day visit aimed at strengthening ties between the two countries. The premier of Pakistan and President Ghani held a one-on-one meeting, in which an overall regional situation and matters pertaining to bilateral cooperation in various sectors, were discussed. The meeting clearly helped in confidence building between the two neighbours.

The Prime Minister of Pakistan underlined that an “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process was the only viable option to end decades-long conflict in Afghanistan.” Hence, Pakistan showed intention to support a result-oriented intra-Afghan dialogue. Not only in the political sphere, but Pakistan also wishes to assist Afghanistan in reconstruction phase. President Alvi in a delegation-level meeting with his Afghan counterpart expressed Pakistan’s resolve to assist Afghanistan during its post-war reconstruction phase.As a clear demonstration of Pakistan’s intent, in April 2019, Pakistan handed over a 200 bed hospital to Afghanistan.Muhammad Ali Jinnah Hospital in Kabul is built under the financial assistance programme of Pakistan amounting to 1 billion dollars.

Peace in Afghanistan is of paramount importance for Pakistan. Pakistan wishes to have a secure border and a friendly neighbour on the western side. On the eastern side it has India. India and Pakistan have a long history of conflicts. These nations are capable of entering a war like situation even on a mere misunderstanding.Therefore, Pakistan is rigorously pushing the Afghan Peace process.

In the backdrop of President Ashraf Ghani’s visit, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Political Affairs NaeemulHaque on 3rd July said that PM Imran Khan would soon meet the Taliban leadership for a peaceful resolution to the Afghan crisis. Prime Minister Imran Khan will be the first head of the state to meet Taliban. PM Imran is also scheduled to visit the US on 22nd July, 2019 on an official working visit, which means that invitation for the visit is extended by the President of United States. In this visit Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan and the likely demands of the US in ‘arranging peace’ in the region might be discussed.

This time, Afghanistan’s government also seem to endorse Pakistan’s commitment to peace. President Ashraf Ghani’s visit to Pakistan and Lahore Process conference in which GulbadinHekmatyar and various Afghan government officials took part, were all signs of Afghanistan’s back on Pakistan’s bearing in the peace process.

Earlier, President Ghani expressed suspicion on Pakistan being involved in supporting the militants and launching attacks on military forces and civilians in Afghanistan.Pakistan on the other hand moved forward in ending misconceptions on the Afghanistan side. In January, 2019 Prime Minister Imran Khan issued a directive to open Torkhum border around the clock to boost bilateral trade.In February 2019,National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri met Afghan Consul General WaheedullahMomand and asked him to convince his government to start a dialogue for long-term peace with Pakistan.  Other than boosting people to people contact, Pakistan also ‘struggled’ to get engaged with Afghan governmental officials. The Lahore Process was also a part of such efforts. Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi aptly said on the inaugural session of Lahore Process that “Pakistan supports an Afghanistan that is at peace with itself”.  As a foreign Minister, his first visit was also to Afghanistan.

Pakistan is a victim of clandestine operations of India. The fault lines prevalent in Baluchistan are cunningly exploited by India. Aslam Baloch, the leader of Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA) was allegedly supported by India. He was treated for his injuries in New Delhi in November 2018. Later in December 2018, he was killed in a suicide attack in Afghanistan.

Interestingly, during a cricket world cup match of Afghanistan and Pakistan on June 29, 2019 a flyer unfurled with a text, ‘Justice for Baluchistan’ over the cricket stadium. Pakistan foreign office strongly condemned the incident. Pakistan is considered as a serious peace broker in Afghanistan peace process. It seems that on Pakistan’s insistence,on 2nd July, 2019, the US designatedBLAas a terrorist group.

BLA claims to fight for rights of Baloch in Pakistan. If so, then why it is viciously against Chinese investment and development projects in Baluchistan? BLA had targeted Chinese nationals several times. In November, 2018, they attacked Chinese consulate in day light and killed four people.  In May, 2019 BLA attacked the only five-star hotel in Gawadar, to create an impression that Gawadar is not safe for investment. Jihand Baloch, a BLA spokesperson said after the attack that ‘our fighters have carried out this attack on Chinese and other foreign investors who were staying in PC hotel’.

After the incident, Karachi Police Chief Dr. Amir Ahmed Shaikh briefed the media and said that ‘the attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi was planned in Afghanistan and carried out with the assistance of Indian intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW)’. Afghanistan has often been used by India to create chaos in Pakistan.

The relations of Afghanistan and Pakistan have direct link to the security of Pakistan. It is paramount for Pakistan’s security that Pakistan establishes smooth relations with Afghanistan. India has said to have four consulates in Afghanistan. It is the largest donor to Afghanistan (exceeding 3 billion dollars) in the region. India is trying to make Afghanistan its strategic asset against Pakistan.

The US can also not afford to antagonize Pakistan in this serious juncture of time when a peace deal is being negotiated with the Taliban. Therefore, the US has banned BLA, which creates mayhem in Pakistan on the behest of India.

It’s a positive development that Afghanistan government has shown trust in Pakistan’s efforts and the US is also endorsing Pakistan’s efforts in the Peace Process. Pakistan and Afghanistan can together fight the menace of terrorism, only if they develop trust in each other.

Maryam Mastoor is working as a research analyst at Institute of Regional Studies, Islamabad.


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