Prospects of a Pakistan-friendly Afghanistan

Pakistan’s Afghan policy remains unflinchingly consistent since the withdrawal of the Soviet Union in 1989

Anish Mishra July 31, 2021
The writer is an analyst on Pakistan’s domestic politics and foreign policy. He holds a Master’s from South Asia Institute, University of Heidelberg, Germany and can be contacted at


Max Webber, a German sociologist, outlined the definition of a ‘state’ in his 1919 seminal lecture “Politik als Beruf” (Politics as a Vocation). According to Webber, a state is a human community that has the ability to assert its monopoly over the legitimate use of violence within a given territory. Webber views the state as a relation of men dominating men supported by means of legitimate violence. The existence of the state is dependent on the obedience of the dominated class to the authorities that possesses the powers of the monopoly of legitimate violence. Based on Webber’s definition of the state, I make the argument that within the international borders of the landlocked Afghanistan there exist not one but two states; the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (Afghan Taliban). These two warring states operating within the boundaries of Afghanistan are both partially sovereign states and must not be treated as regimes or governments which bear entirely non-identical political connotations.

The international community is keenly witnessing the ongoing phenomenon of the systematic gradual dissolution of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan — a puppet state imposed upon the Afghan people by the US and NATO occupational forces in Afghanistan soon to be vanquished by the emerging Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. The Western-backed Islamic Republic of Afghanistan headquartered in Kabul may possess de jure sovereignty, but the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan now has a stronger claim of de facto sovereignty over the territory of Afghanistan which it has been able to capture through a series of successful military campaigns at a gradual increasing rate over the last two decades, thus reducing the dispensable authority of President Ashraf Ghani to nothing more than the mayor of Kabul. In the next couple of months, President Ghani is highly likely to find himself in a situation similar to the one President Dr Najibullah Ahmadzai was faced with following the withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan in February 1989.

If one analyses the phenomenon of the emergence of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan over the ruins of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan through the lenses of Pakistan foreign policy and geostrategic objectives then it is beyond any reasonable doubt that Islamabad-Rawalpindi will finally achieve its longstanding goal of establishing a ‘Pakistan-Friendly Afghanistan’. It is a big misconception that the ISI controls the Afghan Taliban such that they operate on its diktats. This false propaganda has been actively promoted by Kabul, New Delhi and other international actors through disinformation networks. The EU DisinfoLab which describes itself as “a young independent NGO focused on researching and tackling sophisticated disinformation campaigns targeting the EU, its member states, core institutions, and core values” published a detailed report on 9 December 2020 titled “Indian Chronicles”. The 89-page report uncovered an ongoing massive 15-year influence operation focusing on India’s primary objective of discrediting Pakistan internationally and promoting anti-Chinese sentiments in favour of Indian interest abroad. The DisinfoLab found vast Indian disinformation networks — comprising 265 local media outlets, dubious think-tanks and NGOs in 65 countries — operating actively from Brussels and Geneva aimed at creating and amplifying content to malign the image of Pakistan.

Pakistan has never denied its deep-rooted ties with the Afghan Taliban, however this does not amount to providing support and exercising command and control over the Afghan Taliban. At the same time, it must be recognised that Pakistan has some ability to relatively influence the Afghan Taliban given its position as a vital stakeholder in the Afghan peace process. Pakistan’s Afghan policy has remained unflinchingly consistent since the withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan in 1989, with its main features as follows:

1) As matter a policy, Pakistan does not support any warring factions in Afghanistan i.e. it has no favourites in Afghanistan, 2) the Afghan peace process must be owned and led by the people of Afghanistan through a negotiated political settlement, 3) Pakistan desires to play the role of a facilitator of the Afghan peace process as such Pakistan must be seen as a friendly entity to all elements in Afghanistan including the Afghan Taliban, and 4) in any case, the soil of Afghanistan must not be allowed to be utilised by Hostile Intelligence Agencies (HIAs) and militant organisations against Pakistan or any other country.

As Pakistan was genesised as a security-seeking state, the stability of a peaceful ‘Pakistan-friendly Afghanistan’ is a serious matter for Pakistan. A retrospective view of the historic role of Punjab/Pakistan in Afghanistan since the pre-colonial era shows that in the present day and age Pakistan’s ambitions are largely moderate. Pakistan has no aspirations to be a hegemonic power in Afghanistan but rather it only desires to live peacefully next to a non-antagonistic Afghanistan with brotherly relations built upon socio-cultural religious affinities and ties of kinship between the two Muslim countries.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2021.

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