As the landmine-littered road to peace in Afghanistan snakes through Pakistan, prudence has consistently demanded that the major players engaged in the ongoing efforts to stabilise the war-ravaged country and at the same time prevent it from slipping into the hands of deadly insurgents rely heavier on Pakistan to succeed in fulfilling their long-term strategies.
Like a gracious ally in the neighbourhood, Islamabad had often gone the extra mile to provide whatever assistance was required of it. Yet its wider acceptance of that role has brought it little dividends apart from a litany of accusations that usually end with the US-led mantra of doing more. The onus placed upon Pakistan is neither fair nor just. The frustration of not establishing its writ over the whole of Afghanistan after 17 long years is understandable but Islamabad should not be browbeaten into accepting the responsibility for US or Western failure to secure its objectives. Since the war has been prohibitively expensive, it has been harder than ever to justify or live down the ignominy of fighting its longest war.
On Wednesday Oct 17th Pakistan gave its clearest endorsement of the need for continued Western engagement in Afghanistan. In doing so Islamabad has effectively transferred the fulcrum on which the fate of the neighbouring state rests. It also serves to dispel any suspicions about any imagined nexus between the Pakistani state and the Afghan Taliban no matter how offensive the thought may be. Owing to Afghanistan being on its doorstep, it is Pakistan that has to be the most wary and vigilant of incursions as well as contend with the continued spillover effects from the never-ending conflict, not the other way around.
Disappointingly, the impetus for increased dialogue has been wasted or used too sparingly and haphazardly by global powers. Greater efforts were needed to draw up a proper framework for harmonising international and regional initiatives. In view of the sufferings of millions of Afghans, it is necessary to achieve peace and realise the important opportunities that lie beyond a much-needed peace agreement.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 18th, 2018.