Afghanistan’s Pakistan Challenge

Afghanistan anticipates maintaining sincere support from Pakistan.

afghanistan-pakistanAfghanistan is preparing for the withdrawal of the US-led coalition forces in or before 2014. In addition, the country is preparing to hold presidential elections in April 2014. If the election process is perceived to be transparent and accepted by all parties involved, Afghan President Hamid Karzai would have made unprecedented history by having political power transferred democratically and peacefully to the next presidential hopeful.

Afghans’ hopes for a peaceful transition are high; they are also determined to continue building on their country’s unprecedented achievements, namely political freedom, access to education, and private sector development. However, Afghans and their government still need to do more both unilaterally and in collaboration with the international community to keep the momentum going.

One major concern Afghans anticipate is maintaining sincere support from Pakistan. Afghans see this as a challenge considering the history of Af-Pak relations, and the two distinct “Pakistan’s” Afghans have experienced so far.

The Pakistan Afghanistan Knows

One is a Pakistan that is kind and cooperative. Millions of Afghans sought refuge in Pakistan after the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union in the 1980s. These Afghans in Pakistan received good education, even had their own schools and universities, developed successful businesses, and had an equal access to health and recreation facilities there. Many have also learned the popular cricket game there.

Some of these Afghans form the intellectual cadre in present Afghanistan. They are well-educated; positive thinkers, and driven to make a positive difference in Afghan society. Afghans appreciate the sincere cooperation of Pakistan for these favors in those difficult days. Karzai usually refers to this Pakistan as a “brother.” Many Afghans would want to build on those good memories and positive contributions to Afghan’s development; they would also to strengthen their deep-rooted cultural and religious ties with its Muslim neighbor.

However, Afghans also know another Pakistan that they find difficult to work with on mutual cooperation policy. Kabul would blame this Pakistan for some of the issues it faces today. Pakistan would reject those accusations and may blame Afghanistan for their contemporary problems. This “mistrust” persists.

The bilateral or multilateral efforts to build trust usually fail. This is evident from analyzing the unhopeful results of the various confidence building processes, such as the Istanbul Process mediated by Turkey, the efforts of the Afghan Peace Council on seeking Pakistani cooperation in supporting the peace process in Afghanistan, and other many efforts held through the mediation of the US, the UK, and other power brokers. Karzai usually appears frustrated after such negotiations end.

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So what?

If there isn’t a turn over and honest effort on both sides towards creating trust and agreement in building real confidence, the Af-Pak relations may strain benefiting neither Afghans nor the Pakistani people. In turn, security, peace and stability would remain an elusive concept in the region.

Communication with fellow Afghans and Pakistani friends reveal that none want such a disheartening situation.

Instead of the two Pakistans Afghans have experienced so far, the Afghan people seek a “one” cooperative neighbor that understands and supports the Afghans’ desire and strides towards peace, stability and prosperity after decades of difficulties in Afghanistan.  Afghans should also realize the desire for peace and concerns of the Pakistani people on the other side of the Durand line. Both neighbors should work towards a relation that roots out classic development threats, such as poverty and unemployment, which are the principle causes of violence and suffering in the region.

As the date of the parliamentary election in Pakistan is scheduled for May 11, 2013, Afghans hope fellow Pakistanis will seek a government that recognizes the need for having lasting peace and stability on both sides of the Durand Line. In addition, the new government is hoped to lead reconciliation efforts, plays a crucial and sincere part in ending the insecurity in the region and supports Afghan’s strides towards stability and self-reliance post 2014.

Establishing lasting peace and stability that enables prosperity in the Af-Pak region should be business of the people and their policy makers living in the Islamic republic of Afghanistan and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. It should not require the need for military presence of others living hundreds of miles away.

Moheb Arsalan J. is an Afghan analyst and commentator on political, conflict, and socio-economic affairs in the Af-Pak region. He can be reached at arsalan.moheb@gmail.com. Read other articles by Moheb.

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  • Sofee

    Couldnt agree more, and inshallah the next coming government that we will elect…will make the afghan-pak relations better…i guarantee it….our current government of pak…should not be trusted….we pakistanies dont trust it…and dont expect our neighbors to either….I see a bright future after this elections…

  • M,AKRAM

    Union of Afgahnistan and Pakistan

    By M. Akram Khan, Balida Town, Karachi, Pakistan, 19 October 2009

    The only solution to the present problem of instability in Afghanistan and Pakistan is in the Union of these two countries based on principles of Democracy and Federalism.

    In history, Durani Empire was composed of all the areas in which today’s Pakistan and Afghanistan are located, and during the Mughal Empire together they were a single country. In the initial period of the British Empire, they were also the same country.

    Later, some forces that had vested interests kept a distance between these lands. Consequently, border areas between these two countries became hiding places for criminals of both countries, thieves of automobiles and other stolen goods. They are stored in this region. This large uncontrollable area is a base for many evils.

    Here narcotics are grown; addiction is destroying the youth and humanity. Because the region is not developed and poverty is rampant, people are attracted to extremism and militancy.

    Union of both countries will make the single government more responsible in stabilizing this region and in satisfying the nationalistic pride of its inhabitants. People will be able to serve humanity as other large nations of the world do. Otherwise, this region will always remain a nuisance for the world. It destroyed Soviet Union. It may also take down the western world, which will be a great blow to the development of Science and Technology, especially Medical science.
    Advantages to the world:
    Control of terrorism:
    Instability in this region is causing great damage to humanity. Soldiers of many countries are sacrificing their lives just to eliminate terrorists from these countries. In the presence of a unified government, it will be easier to control terrorists.
    Control of extremism:
    As a unified nation composed of multiethnic groups such as the Punjabis, Sindhis, Baluchis, Pashtuns, Urdu speakers, Tajiks, Persians and Hazaras, and as a multisectarian society such as Sunni and Shiites, it will become impossible for any ethnic group or religious sect to find any future in extremism.
    Stabilization of the region:
    Although it is now that the problems of this region have gained attention, it has suffered from instability for a long time. People here are finding no hope, no future for themselves, partly because of interference from foreign countries, such as the British Empire, Soviet Union, USA, China and India. When they were unified under the Durani Empire, the region was stable. The same was the case during the Mughal Empire.
    There are three main groups in Asia, i.e. the Chinese, Hindus and Muslims. Chinese and Hindus are satisfied with their states of China and India. The Muslim population in Asia is greater than the Chinese and Hindus combined. However, having no comparable state of their own they experience the stress of inferiority. That element too is causing instability and irritation amongst common Muslims. By creating a unified state of Pakistan and Afghanistan, a sense of satisfaction, pride and respect of having a national state will be achieved. That might lead to normalization of relations with the rest of the world and stability.
    Solution to economic problems
    At present, both countries are burdens on others, and pose barriers in exploring the resources of Central Asia by the world. After stabilization, it will be useful not only for Central Asia and for the World, but also for the new unified nation itself.
    Advantages to Pakistan:
    It was the vision of Quaid-e-Azam, the Founder of Pakistan, to unify the regions of West Pakistan, Afghanistan, East Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia. That probably needs time. It took many centuries for Europeans to realize that they shared a common goal.
    • By unification with Afghanistan, areas, which are included in Pakistan, will stabilize, and migration of people from disturbed areas will stop.
    • Smuggling of weapons across the borders will end, and Law and Order will be established.
    • Similarly, illicit drug trade will be minimized.
    • Whole areas of Pukhtoons (Pashtuns) speaking population will unify, and that will help the development of culture and language of that group which is now divided in two nations.
    • Expenses for Security measures on the borders will be minimal. The resultant balance can be used for the welfare of people.
    • Interference of other nations in this region will subside.
    • Due to unique historical importance for Buddhists and Hindus, tourism industry will flourish and business activity in the region will increase.
    Advantages to Afghanistan:
    • Through unification, Afghanistan will cease to be a land locked country. The union will promote freedom of people of Afghanistan to travel and engage in economic activity,
    • Extremism and terrorism will come to and end, as the people will become more engaged and involved in adjusting themselves in the new union. Utilization of raw products of Afghanistan will increase.
    • Security and military expenses will minimize.
    • Doors to Pakistan will open to Afghanis who look for jobs in Pakistan.
    • Shortage of food products in Afghanistan will decrease and it will increase the utilization of raw products of Afghanistan.
    • Linking Central Asia via Afghanistan to the rest of the world will generate extraordinary development.
    Based on above observations, suggestions and predictions, it is clear that unification of Pakistan and Afghanistan will be fruitful for everyone in the region and for the world at large.
    Mr. M. Akram Khan Niazi