InternationalVOLUME 15 ISSUE # 15

Concluding the Afghan peace process

Once German-born theoretical physicist, who developed the theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics, Albert Einstein said that peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding. The peace negotiations between the United States and the Taliban started in 2018 but the chances of thier success were never expected perhaps by both parties.

Taliban Deputy Leader Sirajuddin Haqqani wrote an important article for the New York Times about the Afghan peace process, supporting the peace process and it is has many things to reflect on. The process was not easy, especially when there were disruptions in it either by President Trump and his administration or by some uncompromising points by the Taliban. Pakistan made a remarkable work by facilitating the process for the betterment of Afghanistan, itself and particularly peace of the entire region. The exit of American troops from Afghanistan after the loss of 3,500 Americans and allied troops is good news for America and all people of the region and it also indicates towards a new situation in the region. Pakistan must be ready for it. It would be more accurate to say that Pakistan must prepare itself for a new revolution.

Afghanistan is a tough country and all its invaders now must understand it. It can be said that Afghanistan really proved itrself the graveyard of empires. Mistakes were made by Pakistan’s immature political and administrative elite. Moreover, Pakistan was left unable to realize the real consequences of nurturing unintellectual thoughts then. The so-called thought of Jihad was not born by Pakistan. Pakistani governments were of the view that they were exploiting America but instead of it, Pakistan was being exploited by America for its specific motives. America wanted to humiliate and defeat the erstwhile Soviet Union in Afghanistan and its purpose completed but it also distressed itself in the fire of Afghan war. However, what did Pakistan achieve by getting into the fire of Afghanistan other than the loss of 75,000 Pakistani lives and economic debacle? The Soviet Union was already very weak and its economy was also stumbling at the time. It also made a mistake by coming into Afghanistan and it proved a quagmire for it. But, the 9/11 incident reminded America that things made difficult for others, most of the times fire back.

Now, it is difficult to imagine who is the winner or looser but it is quite clear that America did not win the war. Pakistan sustained the cost of managing the Taliban. Barring few exceptions, very few countries will openly criticize the arrangement. The Taliban are a tough nut to crack. It’s only a marriage of convenience, each has separate agendas. Liberals vehemently think that the Taliban are not built for peace, they are religious dictators and an enemy of peace and freedom.

While Afghans are Pukhtuns are the largest ethnic group, it is highly unlikely that they represent a majority. They are brave and they proved it by their steadiness in the fight for 18 years against America and on the whole 39 years including the Soviet Union.

When America invaded Afghanistan, the Taliban shifted to the tribal areas of Pakistan and made their hideouts in the areas and when America pressurized the Musharraf government, then Pakistan had to start operations against the militants in the tribal areas without any specific preparation. So, Pakistan faced a wave of anger from the militants in the form of worst terrorism incidents including suicide bomb attacks all across the country. Both Al-Qaeda and Taliban targeted Pakistan and hence, Pakistan was called the international centre of terrorism. The internal security of Pakistan was so threatened that after the 2014 Peshawar APS attack, the army and political leadership decided to fight back. An operation was started in erestwhile FATA, which actually defeated terrorism at large and the militants had to flee to Afghanistan. Now, America is leaving Afghanistan but complete withdrawal of American forces will not occur and it should not be done immediately but step by step, which would be beneficial for both parties.

A while ago, there was a perception and experts used to say that they don’t know when this war will end. One thing was sure that sooner or later Americans were going back leaving all debris of the war at the door of Pakistan. Another opinion was; everything will return to the status quo once US election is over. Sometimes, it seems that peace in Afghanistan is a wild goose chase.

The Taliban and US both are on good terms so far and it is very beneficial for the peace and bright future of Pakistan. If there is peace in Afghanistan, Pakistan would prosper easily without any external threat from the Afghan side. Pakistan must establish good relations with Afghanistan and trade must be its priority. Pakistan has already lifted a lot of burden of Afghanistan, especially in the form of Afghan refugees in Pakistan. Till date, 2.7 million Afghan refugees have been hosted by Pakistan. United Nations Secretary General António Guterres also praised the hospitality of Pakistan. Intra-Afghan talks are important and peace settlements are essential. Unless all stakeholders, including local leaders and regional countries are involved, there can never be lasting peace in Afghanistan.