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Spoilers of Evolving Pak-Afghan Ties

Hassam Ahmed Siddiqi

The writer is a PhD Scholar at National University of Modern Languages (NUML), Islamabad.

The recent visit of NA Speaker Asad Qaiser along with his nine-member parliamentary delegation was cancelled as the plane carrying the delegation was not allowed to land on Hamid Karzai International Airport following the information that an unexploded ordinance had been found at the airport. It was reported by the Afghan media that a digging crew found unexploded ordinance that appeared to have been buriedfor quite some time in the area. Though, the visit was rescheduled however Wolesi Jigra Speaker Mir Rahman Rahmani formed a probe committee and called for investigation in to the matter. While the investigation of the issue is underway, and no final verdict hasbeen announced yet, however, the issue had raised suspicions.

The visit of NA speaker Asad Qaiser was being very keenly observed by national and international media. Welcome banners were posted in Kabul while optimistic vibes were being shared by leading figures as well as the masses on digital media. It was expected that this visit will help both states to further economic connectivity as Pakistan has recently initiated its border markets in the tribal districts. Moreover, measures have been taken to ease to and from movement of people across the border. Pakistan’s significant role in Afghan led and Afghan owned peace process has been well-recognized and accepted by all the stakeholders of Afghan conflict. It has also been reiterated on multiple occasions that Pakistan is and will remain the most important state for resolving the Afghan conflict and peace in Afghanistan is imperative for peace in Pakistan however, there are certain spoilers of evolving Pak-Afghan ties who remain divergent to the idea of improving Pak-Afghan ties.

Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have remained predominantly strained over last two decades however policy makers of Pakistan and Afghanistan have understood the very fact, that cordial ties and improved economic interconnectivity between Pakistan and Afghanistan is a prerequisite for desired peace in the region. Visit of President Ghani to Pakistan followed by a reciprocal visit of Premier Imran Khan to Afghanistan and later on the visit of Chairman National Council of Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah indicates the realization of the fact on both sides that Pakistan’s role at the crucial juncture of Afghan peace process is vital. Moreover, declined bilateral and transit trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan needs to be focused and improved so that any prevailing sense of animosity between people of both states diminishes and the idea of regional connectivity furthers.

Keeping in view the magnitude of improved ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan, if internal rift amongst the Afghan politicians has sabotaged the visit of NA Speaker Asad Qaiser, it is indeed worrisome. President Ghani and First Vice President Amarullah Saleh have always remained critical of Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan. Despite recognized efforts of Pakistan in Afghan peace process, they have on multiple occasions accused Pakistan of interfering in Afghanistan’s internal affairs and maintaining ties with Taliban. Although Pakistan’s leadership has repeatedly denied these accusations, Afghan leadership needs to realize that cordial and strengthened ties with Pakistan is a prerequisite for stable, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan. Intensifying ties on behest of others may not be a very wise option keeping in view the fact that voices from Afghan government and parliament are seeking resignation from President Ghani. Results of fact-finding committee constituted by Wolesi Jirga speaker Mir Rahman Rahmani must be shared with Pakistan and visit of NA Speaker should be rescheduled at the earliest so as to avoid any further strain in bilateral ties. APTTA Agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan is due to be negotiated and signed, and if any such development is finalized in the near future, it will tremendously strengthen the bilateral relations. Afghan peace process is currently at a critical juncture as United States has announced to completely withdraw after fighting an unending conflict for almost two decades. Future of Afghanistan is expected to be decided in much anticipated Istanbul conference, however role of Pakistan along with other regional stakeholders is critically important. Regional connectivity and economic integration is the future of the region, however peace and stability in Afghanistan is a prerequisite for it.

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