NationalVOLUME 16 ISSUE # 24

Pak-Afghan souring relations

The official relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have nosedived after levelling of nonsensical accusations by incumbent Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani, on Islamabad of supporting the resurging militant group, Taliban, and a satirical episode in Pakistan’s capital in which the daughter of the Afghan ambassador claimed to have been abducted by unidentified people.

Afghanistan, on June 19, withdrew its ambassador and five senior diplomats while Pakistan also recalled its ambassador from Kabul for consultation. Although the trigger of nose-diving of relations between Islamabad and Kabul was the claim of a great staged drama when Silsila Alikhel, the daughter of Afghanistan ambassador to Pakistan, Najib Alikhel, claimed to have been abducted by armed people in Islamabad when she was using a cab for commuting on July 17.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry, in a statement, said that the Afghan embassy had informed it that Silsila Alikhel was assaulted while riding in a rented vehicle. Police were investigating the “disturbing incident” and security had been tightened for the ambassador and his family, it said. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan wanted the matter treated as top priority and the culprits caught within 48 hours. While attacks and abduction of any diplomat and their family member is condemnable and brings a bad name to a country but it is important that in the situation it seems more a drama than a reality. If somebody had really kidnapped Silsila, what could have been the motive and she or her father even has not come up with any explanation in this regard. Moreover, keeping in view the highly volatile situation in Afghanistan and probable threats to the Kabul’s ambassador in Islamabad, she should have avoided moving around alone. She should have armed guards of the Afghan embassy with her for protection and her father could also ask for security from Pakistani authorities. It is beyond one’s imagination why an ambassador’s family member would roam around alone when she has all the resources for protection. The mala fide of the Afghan government was quite obvious in Silsila’s episode, as Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had ordered an inquiry and its outcome within 48 hours, in the meanwhile, without waiting for its completion Kabul withdrew its ambassador and senior diplomats from Islamabad. While Pakistan authorities completed an inquiry within the stipulated time frame and came up with 700 minutes of footage of 200 close circuit TV (CCTV) cameras in several places of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, where Silsila had moved in quick succession, the evidence could not prove that she had been abducted.

The matter of Afghan ambassador’s daughter could be seen in the backdrop of the unfolding situation in Afghanistan. The case is very simple to understand from this staged drama. Ambassador Alikhel might be the envoy of his country at the moment but he is more the representative of Ghani’s sagging government and its writ, which had already been very weak in Afghanistan, is evaporating with each passing day at the hands of the Taliban. Now from this staged-drama of abduction of the ambassador’s daughter, several objectives were aimed to be obtained. The foremost is the personal interest of the ambassador in question and his family. As the ambassador was sensing the total obliteration of the writ of Ghani’s government due to the Taliban onslaught and increasing dropping out of ANSF personnel, he wanted a safe passage and haven for himself and family in some Western country. For it, he had to stage a drama so that it could be feigned that the Taliban are after him and the family. Therefore, he should be given asylum in a Western country. It exactly happened and in no time Silsila was granted asylum in Germany as the benign leadership under Chancellor Angelina Merkel has granted asylum to millions of people from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other war-devastated countries during her rule in Germany. Many of these asylum-seekers are economic migrants, who could not make a fortune in their home countries for being work shirkers. Alikhel seems to be one such case. The second aim of the staged abduction of Silsila was more to do with Ghani’s government policy, which may not be perceived as the policy of Afghanistan, rather more a personal motivation and interest of Ghani and his kitchen cabinet members. Only by making the world believe Pakistan as a “bad guy,” Ghani could gather some international support as he has already been ditched by the US for being of no good use. It has been total bad governance by Ghani during the last many years that he could not stabilize Afghanistan, the advantage of which has directly gone to the Taliban. The foremost reason is that Ghani’s government has been involved in large-scale financial corruption and nepotism while he could not rise as a genuine leader. Thus, the alleged abduction of Ambassador Alikhel’s daughter was a created event to give personal advantage to the envoy and his family as well as President Ghani by negatively portraying Pakistan in the international media telling the world and Afghans back home that Pakistan was behind all the miseries of Afghans. Pakistan-bashing has always been the favorite pastime of the Afghanistan leadership and typical of a senseless and tribalistic mindset of the Afghan leadership which could not learn how to run the state and it cannot be managed either by accusing others but by putting their own house in order. However, apart from personal advantage in the form of relocation of the ambassador and his family to a Western country and even of President Ghani to the US, where he has lived for a long time, the drama would not serve any purpose or interest of the people of Afghanistan as their lives have become more miserable due to the civil war.

The frustration of Ghani could be gauged from his total undiplomatic posture he assumed in a recent meeting of heads of states and governments in Dushanbe, Uzbekistan. During his conference speech, where Pakistan PM Khan was also in attendance, President Ghani directly accused Pakistan of letting 2,000 fighters enter Afghanistan and fight on the sides of the Taliban against Kabul’s forces. This is indeed condemnable because even if the accusation was substantive, Ghani’s government should have taken it up secretly with Pakistani authorities. More importantly, even if Pakistan had let fighters join the ranks of the Afghan Taliban, what Ghani’s government has been doing along with its more than 300,000 ANSF personnel not to stop the infiltrators from Pakistan?

Pakistan’s relations with the Afghan government may have deteriorated yet again but the people of the two countries are linked in a historical and cultural context. If the relations between the two countries sever, the ultimate losers would be Afghanistan and its people, as they are dependent on Pakistan, not the other way round. So it is high time that Afghans should do soul-searching in earnest and make an all-out effort to put an end to 40 long years’ conflict and crisis in Afghanistan, as blaming Pakistan for its wrong would not make any difference.