Pukhtun leaders’ visit reignites hope for better ties

If dialogues are held between Kabul and Islamabad, many crises can be resolved peacefully and politically


Shamim Shahid November 29, 2015
PHOTO: NNI

PESHAWAR:


In order to pay tribute to late Pukhtun nationalist Mohammad Afzal Khan, commonly known as Khan Lala, the Afghan government arranged a conference in Kabul on Saturday. Many politicians including Asfandyar Wali Khan, Mahmood Khan Achakzai and Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao along with a number of tribal leaders and intellectuals were invited to attend the conference.


The conference was held at a time the political scenario between Islamabad and Kabul is ripe with tension.

Hot button issues

ANP Central Secretary General Mian Iftikhar Hussain attached a great deal of significance to the three leader’s visit to Kabul. He termed the conference, “an event that could lead to a major breakthrough in the deadlock that erupted last August-July between the neighbouring countries.”

According to reports in Afghan media, Asfandyar, Achakzai and Sherpao managed to persuade Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to meet Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. However, the time and venue has yet to be finalised.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Iftikhar said Pak-Afghan relations and the merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas with K-P are two extremely important issues at this stage and time. “Both these problems would remain at the top of the agenda in Kabul – regardless of whether the talks are formal or informal,” he said. Mian Iftikhar remarked that except for the future of Fata, the three leading Pukhtun politicians had similar points of view regarding all regional and international issues. “If dialogues are held between Kabul and Islamabad, many crises can be resolved peacefully and politically,” he added.

Geopolitics

In order to end terrorism and militancy, and perhaps more importantly, save trillions of US dollars invested in war-devastated Afghanistan after 9/11, the world community, particularly US-led allies, seems to be reaching some sort of consensus regarding Fata’s merger with K-P. However, the same cannot be said about Asdfandyar, Achakzai and Sherpao who are willing to stand united on topic of the long-standing Afghan conflict but refuse to work together for the future of Fata. What they fail to realise is that both these issues are not only inter-linked but Afghanistan has a very high stake in it.

While Asfandyar and Sherpao’s parties favour the merger of Fata with K-P, Achakzai wishes the people of Fata to decide the future of their territory. According to historical agreements of 1893 and 1905, Pakistan is bound to take Afghan government into confidence regarding the status of Fata.

Reaching common ground

Though Achakzai’s Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party is part of PML-N-led coalition government, Asfandyar and Sherpao have also reached an understanding with PM Nawaz Sharif. Before departing to Kabul, Asfandyar held an exclusive meeting with Nawaz and discussed matters of high significance. The two leaders debated about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and the ongoing situation in Afghanistan, in particular about tense relations between Islamabad and Kabul. Asfandyar also proposed talks at a high level between Pakistan and Afghanistan, suggesting Nawaz and COAS General Raheel Sharif meet President Dr Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Dr Abdullah Abdullah from Afghanistan.

Looking back

After assuming office in 2014, Ghani had been very hopeful about good terms between Afghanistan and Pakistan. He travelled to Pakistan to meet Nawaz and Raheel and upon his return to Kabul, assured his people of an era of peace and tranquillity.

However, these hopes were shattered when Afghan militants not only refused to hold peace talks but also revolted in Kunduz and engaged in unprecedented violence in Khost, Nangarhar and several others regions in Afghanistan. Militancy not only fuelled hardships for Ghani and Abdullah’s unity government but also created uncertainty in the international arena where many countries had invested heavily in reconstructing Afghanistan.

Time to act

At a time when leaders, technocrats and analysts are attaching great significance to events in both neighbouring countries and casting light on their inter-related affairs, it is the time to take steps to initiate and maintain stability. Continuous distrust between Islamabad and Kabul is not only detrimental to the very interests of both countries but enables war mongers to exploit the situation.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 30th,  2015.

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