What Pakistan should do in Afghanistan

Published: March 18, 2012
The writer teaches physics and political science at LUMS

The writer teaches physics and political science at LUMS

Many Pakistanis living and working in Kabul say they feel a palpable hostility towards them once their nationality becomes known. Some occasionally pretend to be Indians, which brings more acceptability. If this anecdotal evidence indicates an actual truth, then it is worrisome. In principle Afghans should like Pakistanis better; they share a common religion and the Pakhtun populations on either side of the border have strong kinship links. Indians have much less in common with Afghans and so should be liked less. So what explains the present situation, and what can Pakistan do to change things?

Relations between neighbouring states everywhere, and their people, tend to be complicated: countries sharing a common border often secretly meddle in each other’s affairs. Pakistan and Afghanistan have also played games with each other. Much before the 1979 Soviet invasion, Afghanistan had been an irritating but innocuous adversary with its territorial claims on NWFP. When General Mohammed Daud Khan supported the Pakhtunistan movement, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto proceeded to sponsor Islamic militancy in Afghanistan. After this was launched in the Panjsheer Valley under Ahmad Shah Massoud, Daud got the message and backed off.

Pakistan might have resisted the urge to interfere again but for the Soviet invasion. Thereafter it became a willing pawn for new American ambitions in the region. Under General Ziaul Haq, Pakistan soon joined up with the United States and Saudi Arabia to launch the first truly global jihad of history. This was to turn into the CIA’s largest ever covert operation — a successful one.

The Soviets would soon be defeated and Zia had plans for Afghanistan. In an interview to American journalist, Selig Harrison, he said: “All right, you Americans wanted us to be a front-line state. By helping you, we have earned the right to have a regime in Afghanistan to our liking. We took risks as a front-line state, and we won’t permit it to be like it was before, with Indian and Russian influence there and claims on our territory. It will be a real Islamic state, a real Islamic confederation. We won’t have passports between Pakistan and Afghanistan. It will be part of a pan-Islamic revival that will one day win over the Muslims in the Soviet Union, you will see.”

This dream temporarily soured after General Musharraf’s post-9/11 double-dealing with the ISI’s progeny, the Taliban. But it never went away. If the present series of Difah-e-Pakistan rallies across the country are indeed sponsored by the Pakistan Army, then it has sprung back to life.

The eagerness to put ‘our boys’ back into the driving seat in Kabul is driven by the impending 2014 US withdrawal. The GHQ’s strategic planners see India and Iran manipulating events in an effort to secure undue influence in the Afghan government. The conclusion they draw is that proxy forces should once again be fielded for gaining positional advantage in the fight to come.

But such earlier manipulations have had catastrophic consequences for the people of Afghanistan, which explains why so many Afghans are unhappy with us. In a prescient essay written in 1995, the late Eqbal Ahmad had seen disaster coming: “the quest of a mirage misnamed ‘strategic depth’ — has deeply alienated trusty old allies while closing the door to new friendships. Its national security managers have in fact squandered historic opportunities and produced a new set of problems for Pakistan’s security.”

The Taliban, who had then just emerged, turned out to be the most retrograde political movement in the history of Islam. These lords of war did to the people of Afghanistan what the people of Swat were to see many years later. They proscribed music and sports in Afghanistan, inflicted harsh punishments upon men for trimming their beards, flogged taxi drivers for carrying women passengers, prevented sick women from being treated by male physicians, and banished girls from schools and women from the work place. Iran denounced the new Pakistan-supported victors as “fanatical, medieval Taliban” after they slaughtered 5,000 Shias in Bamiyan province.

Today some local commentators, with an eye towards pleasing GHQ, are arguing that the ‘new Taliban’ are different from the ‘old Taliban’. But these are facile claims, unsupported by evidence. Afghanistan is now a war-devastated country and Pakistan, like the Soviet Union and the United States, shares responsibility for this. Rather than ‘gift’ Afghans a second round of Taliban rule using the ‘strategic assets’ based in Quetta and North Waziristan, we must make amends.

There is much that Pakistan can offer in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Surely we can build roads just as well as the Indians, or perhaps better. Afghanistan has just built its first railroad with assistance from China and Iran. Pakistan, which inherited an extensive railroad network from the British, should have been there to help. Like India, Pakistan can help train Afghan police officers, diplomats and civil servants, as well provide support in the areas of health, education, transportation, power, and telecommunications.

If Pakistan has to compete with India on various internationally funded reconstruction projects, then so be it. That is a choice for Afghans to make, not us. It is time that our TV defence analysts stopped trotting out the simplistic argument that India’s two billion dollars aid to Afghanistan since 9/11, and thousands of Indian construction workers, somehow endanger Pakistan. Are these workers actually commandos poised for raids against Pakistan? There is nothing to stop us from giving Afghanistan an even larger amount, and sending more of our skilled manpower across the border for help in construction projects.

If Pakistanis are to be welcomed in Kabul someday, we must change the way we are perceived across the border. This will require our military planners to give up their false and deadly dreams of strategic depth and regime change. They must not be allowed to forget the awful price Pakistan and Afghanistan have had to pay because of their proxy wars, and the damage inflicted by a cynical manipulation of politics inside and outside our borders. Suicide bombings have ravaged Pakistan, threatened minorities are fleeing, the rule of law has been badly damaged, and social peace has been replaced with strife. These are squarely the result of a foreign policy gone awry.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 19th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (81)

  • SalSal
    Mar 18, 2012 - 10:48PM

    Making roads hospitals schools costs money. Who will help Pakistan with that? And I don’t understand one thing, why on earth is India interfering so much in Afghanistan when it clearly does not share any border with it? Why? Why does it have so many consulates in Afghanistan around Pakistans border? To help Afghans? And what about the thousands of Sunnis killed by the Indian backed Northern Alliance during the Soviet times ? Remember Ahmed Rashid Dostum? The containers filled with ppl suffocated to death? If you know the nature of the Afghans and their thirst for revenge, it’s easy to understand the killings of Shias. I dont support that though.
    Pakistan does not want another India as it’s Western neighbor. As simple as that. India should get out of Afghanistan if u think Pakistan can help train Afghans police. Oh btw, the Taliban had brought peace in Afghanistan if u didn’t know that. And didn’t the Americans just say that Taliban is not the enemy??
    Oh and last but not the least, the northern Afghans hate Pakistan. The majority Pashtuns love Pakistan. I can get you 1000s of Afghans who love Pakistan


  • imranr
    Mar 18, 2012 - 10:53PM

    look at the damage done by the inept, corrupt and intellectually bankrupt leadership in Pakistan. article after article criticizing the military and its failed policies but the fact is that when the civil democrats come into power they rape and plunder like ther is no tomorrow.

    I know u don’t like the example of Turkey, because its the so called Islamist’s who have turned things around over ther but even then its an example of how u can reign in the military’s influence on state policy. Yes the Islamist’s have been able to transform the economy, improve and strengthen state institutions, whilst reducing debt burden and most importantly protected ther national interest.


  • Mar 18, 2012 - 11:01PM

    Afghanistan is deeply divided along ethnic lines. Tajiks and Uzbeks are minority groups in Afghanistan who generally dislike Pashtuns as well as Pakistanis. The pashtuns who make up the largest single ethnic group in Afghanistan live mostly in the south and they are barely represented in the Tajik-dominated Karzai govt in Kabul. This is the reason for the hostility experienced by Pakistanis living in Kabul.



  • S.H
    Mar 18, 2012 - 11:02PM

    Eqbal Ahmad was so true then. Alas if we could hear to such intellectuals then and even now. Still there is time. Pakistan has the potential to invest in education there. From primary to Higher Education. Pakistani Universities should offer investment in higher education in the shape of scholarships to allow Afghan students come to Pakistan for Master, MPhil and PhD’s. Pakistan should built schools and colleges particularly in the far flung areas of Afghanistan. Its long term and sustainable investment. An Educated, peaceful and developed Afghanistan is in the national interest of Pakistan.


  • Ayesha
    Mar 18, 2012 - 11:09PM

    Don’t forget that Pakistan hosted and continues to host 3.5 million refugees


  • kaalchakra
    Mar 18, 2012 - 11:21PM

    “The Taliban, who had then just emerged, turned out to be the most retrograde political movement in the history of Islam.”

    hmmm, that’s a big statement.

    Be as it may, why are we assuming that the Central Asian states would one day not be won over by a Pan-Islamic revival sponsored by Pakistan, as planned by Pakistani army? Soviet Union is dead, and Pakistani teachers are already bringing necessary awareness to the area.


  • amer
    Mar 18, 2012 - 11:46PM

    The writer being a scientist seems to have not realized the significance of our motherland as it is surrounded by a vicious enemy on the Eastern side so what is so wrong to wish for a secure
    Western border and he has rightly pointed out that we more kinship with our Afghan brothers than anyone else.
    We wish Afghanistan a peaceful transition in the post exit scenario.


  • khan
    Mar 18, 2012 - 11:47PM

    Time for pakistan to live according to their height, and stop punching above its weight… we shoudl realize that we are broken, hungry, unhealthy, uneducated, poor country where a handful of powerful guys create nonsense strategic depth concept to keep pocketing public tax and foreign aids. To me, pak should leave afghan at its fate and concentrate in lifting standard of 90% populating facing a bleak future..


  • WoW
    Mar 19, 2012 - 12:06AM

    With peoples mind so bent and fill with hatred, even IK cannot
    Help. I hope Allah can save Pakistan.


  • Zahir Yousafzai
    Mar 19, 2012 - 12:19AM

    Aghans don’t hate Pashtuns but Punjabis due to their mad military establishment’s hold on foreign policy which got both Pakistani and Afghan Pukhtuns nothing but a religious extremism. Still, Punjabi Military Establishment is not learning !


  • Falcon
    Mar 19, 2012 - 12:26AM

    A very well written piece. Sincerity has and will continue to provide deepest strategic depth among nations.


  • ana
    Mar 19, 2012 - 12:30AM

    @ salsal

    Northern Alliance wasn’t backed by India…..it was backed by Iran….and India is investing in Afghanistan to promote its market…bollywood films, Indian goods, India’s medicine and health industry are all well-established and need bigger markets..if they can sell it to Afghanistan why not…

    Pakistan cannot compete with India economically hence we resort to silly arguments and suspicions….


  • Diogenes
    Mar 19, 2012 - 12:38AM

    India and Pakistan have the same number of consulates in Afghanistan and in the same cities. The reason India has an interest in anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan is simple. Let alone the fact that many fighters in Kashmir have been linked to training camps in pre-2001 Afghanistan, the IC814 hijacking from Kathmandu to Kabul, which resulted in the death of 1 Indian hostage and freedom for 4 terrorists, including the person who would go on to behead Daniel Pearl demonstrated that India has legitimate security interests in Afghanistan. And it is pursuing those interests not by arming the Northern Alliance but by building roads, hospitals, schools, even the new Afghan Parliament building.


  • Mar 19, 2012 - 12:45AM

    @ Khan: I agree! Both India and Pakistan suffer from high levels of poverty and illiteracy. In fact, India has much higher levels of poverty and hunger than Pakistan. Both should stop their proxy war in Afghanistan…India should stop backing the Tajik-Uzbek dominated Northern Alliance and Pakistan should stop backing the Pashtun-dominated Taliban.



  • Kanwal
    Mar 19, 2012 - 1:04AM

    Our corrupt elite, both Army and Civilian (both are strongly linked anyway, through all kinds of bonds from familial to political level), is behaving jut as their interests push them to. This corrupt system can not bear a stable Pakistan. How do we expect them to let anyone else in their neighborhood become stable?
    I also happen to know many many highly educated Pashtuns, who are not from Northern Afghanistan. The tales they tell completely justify the hate they harbor for Pakistan. Islam does have sectarian divisions and these have pretty serious consequences if ever Zia’s version of Islam was to be considered a model. No way. I would rather live in a secular country, than his Islamic Confederation.


  • Meekal Ahmed
    Mar 19, 2012 - 1:35AM

    While you make cogent arguments, you know and I know that the ‘dream’ will never be given up.


  • Feroz
    Mar 19, 2012 - 2:41AM

    If Afghanistan falls to the Taliban it is Pakistan that will pay the heaviest price, Indians will simply pack up and leave. Pakistan is already Talibanised with only one Political party having feeble secular credentials, situation can only get worse.


  • avrom yarushalmi
    Mar 19, 2012 - 3:28AM

    Dr Sahib
    Fully agreed but what we can offer to Afghanistan. Railway, health, education….!!!
    We need badly to repair our own house. These all sectors are in really bad shape.can our strategic masters device some educational/health depth policy?


  • Enlightened
    Mar 19, 2012 - 3:48AM

    Can someone in Pakistan make these pseudo intellectuals to spare us from sharing their worthless rants?


  • 9inchLong
    Mar 19, 2012 - 4:20AM

    @salsal –

    its abdul rashid dostum and not ahmed rashid dostum. Shows how much you know about the situation there – the rest of your comment is simply gibberish.


  • asdf
    Mar 19, 2012 - 5:36AM

    “The Taliban, who had then just emerged, turned out to be the most retrograde political movement in the history of Islam. “

    In my humble opinion, talibans and wahabis adhere to the “original, true and orthodox” islam. Read the origins of Islam, Quran and other Islamic scriptures and compare for yourself.


  • kaalchakra
    Mar 19, 2012 - 5:45AM


    Few limitations of ‘height’ exist for those blessed with faith, unity, discipline. Khudi ko kar buland itnaa…..Pakistan must never abandon buland goals. It’s the nation that defeated and broke the Soviet Union – a huge neighbor. Americans are already on the run, and India stands no chance in the long run.


  • morva
    Mar 19, 2012 - 6:14AM

    Be as it may, why are we assuming that the Central Asian states would one day not be won over by a Pan-Islamic revival sponsored by Pakistan, as planned by Pakistani army?

    @kaalchakra, that was General Zia’s fantasy. He used to endanger Pakistani embassy personnel in Moscow using the embassy premises to hand out religious literature to Central Asian Muslims, e.g. when he visited Russia to meet Gorbachev when the latter came to power in 1985. If General Zia had paid a little more attention to, say, the rate of literacy in Pakistan and founded a couple of decent universities in his 11 years of rule (7/77-8/88), things might have been in better shape in Pakistan. Karachi’s descent into a spiral of lawlessness and Kalashnikov culture also began at the exact same time as General Zia was visiting Moscow (4/85).

    At the very same time that the unelected General Zia was indulging in his fantasies, across the border Rajiv Gandhi was promoting computer/IT education with the result that the biggest software companies in the world have huge campuses in India that are intimately involved in the very future of these companies. In fact, Rajiv Gandhi was even 30 years ago only following up on “seeds” planted a further 3 decades ago with the founding of Indian Institutes of Technology. Perhaps you need to read Cervantes’ Don Quixote to not bring your head down from the clouds with your notions of “Pan-Islamic revival” in Central Asia and start paying attention to the ground level realities all around you.Recommend

  • indian
    Mar 19, 2012 - 6:33AM

    @ Riaz Haq

    good observation. But still why do they hate Pakistanis and like Indians? Any plausible reason? After all Pakistanis are fellow muslims, right?


  • Indian
    Mar 19, 2012 - 6:52AM

    Pervez Sir,

    Nice article. I’m a regular reader of your thoughts.
    I think you provide a long term and sustainable solution to problems of Pakistan.
    Hope people support your idea.


  • MarkH
    Mar 19, 2012 - 6:56AM

    “In principle Afghans should like Pakistanis better; they share a common religion and the Pakhtun populations on either side of the border have strong kinship links. Indians have much less in common with Afghans and so should be liked less.”

    Not quite. It depends what people have in common. If two people are both extremely stubborn and differ ever so slightly in an area neither want to bend on they end up enemies even if everything else is in perfect harmony. If you are with someone who is more accepting though extremely different, even if you aren’t, chances are you’ll get along if you don’t have to be around them 24/7.

    Then again I could just keep it simple and mention the whole “live and let live” idea but that’s centuries away from being a realistic option.


  • MarkH
    Mar 19, 2012 - 7:21AM

    Does faith, unity and discipline require that you forget you would have been crushed by the Soviets without the support of the people you think you can take on just the same?


  • Chulbul Pandey
    Mar 19, 2012 - 7:33AM


    Pakistanis helping Afghanistan by building roads, hospitals and educational institutes? Where would the funds come from? The education sector in Pakistan is not doing very well. Same goes for other infrastructural sectors. It is a bit ambitious to think that Pakistan can help other countries while it needs borrowed legs to stand on.

    Dr. Hoodbhoy, I am an avid fan of yours from across the border but this article has me dismayed.


  • unbeliever
    Mar 19, 2012 - 7:37AM

    not compatible in these times. wahabis and talibans would certainly one day banish, but not without harming the general populace of pakistan….
    @ author
    the link that you have provided seems a very accurate description of the things that was about to befall on pakistan…the writer of the article seems no less than a visionary who is speaking as if he is 10 years ahead of us.
    must be ranked in the category of great auliyas, for predicting the future accurately.


  • Ali Syed
    Mar 19, 2012 - 8:09AM

    “you Americans wanted us to be a front-line state. By helping you, we have earned the right to have a regime in Afghanistan to our liking.”

    I don’t doubt Zia may have said the above words to Selig Harrison, but just for the record, we have to make sure we remember that it was we (i.e. Pakistan) who asked the Americans for help to fight the Soviets. And it took a few years of lobbying to get them on board. The Americans were helping us. We weren’t exactly helping them, although the containing the Soviet Union was also in the interest of the US.


  • kaalchakra
    Mar 19, 2012 - 8:34AM


    Islam’s and Pakistan’s glory is not Zia’s fantasy. It’s a more basic issue. May be a very brief video will help you at least develop an appreciation of Pakistan’s great destiny:



  • Mar 19, 2012 - 8:59AM

    Though I generally agree with many of the opinions expressed in articles by Mr Pervez Hoodbhoy but have serious complaints regarding this article: First the heading of the article: A person must have the command of the situation to propose such a heading. I have been travelling in Afghanistan since last 8 years, Mingling with ordinary Afghans, Travelling day and nights on the far flung territories of Afghanistan. Area from Torkham till Jalabad people are anti Kabul and Pro Pakistan. Afghan Currency is acceptable less than Pakistani Currency. Tajiks majority complains about Pakistan because of Taliban but appreciates Pakistani nation. Uzbeks are Pro Uzbekistan and complain about Pakistan. Pashtuns only working in Government talk anti pakistan. After having good knowledge of Afghanistan I feel our Ambassador knows better than myself what Pakistan must do in Afghanistan. I always feel irritated when I see articles written by people who do not know any thing about Afghanistan.


  • Ahmed
    Mar 19, 2012 - 9:17AM

    The situation is so hopeless. Tajik and Uzbek hate Pakistan and Pashtun; Even the Pasthuns hate Pakistan – Afghan Pashtuns see Pakistan’s Pashtuns as their brothers and claim KP, Balochistan and Attock (Punjab). Afghan Pashtuns see the rest of Pakistanis as arch enemies and blame ISI, to some extent correctly, for the wars brought to them since 1979.

    So far the Afghans have been unable to run their country well. Also for Pakistan the cross-border activities, on northwestern side, are devastating. In this situation the only solution that seems viable to me is a federation, or at least a confederation, of Pakistan and Afghanistan.


  • Alam Khurshid
    Mar 19, 2012 - 9:44AM

    I don’t buy the prof hoodbhoys argument. All is fair in love and war. We are really really good at nonstate actors and jihadist type war to exert our influence on other countries. And we are not that good at soft power (building roads, schools etc). Heck, we don’t even do these activities in our own country, leave alone in Afghanistan. It Is sheer madness to abandon our key strength where we are best for crazy soft power type of ideas where we have no experience. We should continue to do what we do best and let others like India do their soft power thing.


  • Sadia
    Mar 19, 2012 - 10:06AM

    so don’t read it. simple.


  • Sadia
    Mar 19, 2012 - 10:08AM

    please add self-delusion to ‘faith, unity, discipline’


  • Asif
    Mar 19, 2012 - 10:22AM

    Pervez Hoodbhoy a man I most of time don’t like to listen to. The reason is simple, I always felt your views are somehow against Pakistan (e.g. articles on Nukes etc). But I must admit your this article is well balanced and it makes sense.You didn’t just show one side of picture instead you showed both sides. The errors Afghanistan has made in the past and the errors Pakistan has and is making now are well highlighted in your article.

    Well Done!!!

    One question though if it’s that simple like you’re saying. Why does our politicians and establishment don’t understand this. I never heard any of them talking in this sense.


  • pashtun
    Mar 19, 2012 - 10:34AM

    I am an afghan, lived in PAKISTAN… i really thank PAkistani people, the way they treated us. BUT EVEN Pak people woll agree with me that PAK GOVT, ISI, ARMY was hostile to AFGHANISTAN…nd dats d reason we r still not dat much into brotherhood, as we had to.


  • PakTiger
    Mar 19, 2012 - 10:36AM

    @Indian…. let USA go away from afghanistan…. then i will ask u who loves whom :D……..


  • BlackJack
    Mar 19, 2012 - 11:12AM

    India is also building roads and hospitals in Africa – no contiguous borders there as well. We see an opportunity in resource-rich Afghanistan that you guys ignored in all the years when you were the de-facto rulers. We also need to ensure last mile connectivty, hence the Chabad port in Iran and the road linking it to Afghanistan, which you seem to have missed. We also have the same number of consulates as Pak in Afghanistan and there isn’t much mischief we can create with the ISI watching us (and all the Indian company personnel over there) all the time – but then facts were never a strong point with you guys.


  • Faesal
    Mar 19, 2012 - 11:14AM

    for those talking about Indian poverty…It is increasingly getting over and people are getting better as we grow..



  • sadhu
    Mar 19, 2012 - 11:23AM

    Why there are 50+ Muslim countries if you are all brothers. More, they have fought and are fighting amongst themselves.


  • Mar 19, 2012 - 11:25AM

    what about the stream of Indian counslates afghan side adjoining our borders??
    what about Afghans refusing to avail scholarships offered by pakisatn??
    what about afghans refusing to get trained by pakistanis??
    and going for india in every speher??


  • Truth Teller
    Mar 19, 2012 - 11:29AM

    As usual a fantastic article from PH! Hats off to you.


  • Reasoner
    Mar 19, 2012 - 11:39AM


    There are only four Indian Consulates in Afghansitan !

    Shame on you for trying to justify massacres of Shias in Bamiyan and Mazar-e-Sharif by Taliban barbarians !

    “the Taliban had brought peace in Afghanistan if u didn’t know that”
    I think you love peaceful calm in grave-yards !


  • Ozymandias
    Mar 19, 2012 - 12:32PM

    This is all very well and good. Can’t argue with the fact that strategic depth has backfired terribly. But let’s also not forget that war is pretty much the natural state of affairs in Afghanistan, and that following the US withdrawal, ALL regional parties will arm and aid their favourite factions. A policy of non-interference is only viable if all littoral states also adhere to it. They won’t. Also bear in mind that the Taliban were originally propped up (not created, but aided) by Pakistan because they seemed best able to bring a measure of stability to Afghanistan and thus facilitate trade links with C. Asia.


  • Firaaq
    Mar 19, 2012 - 12:47PM

    The ruling party in Turkey are Islamists in the context of the total absence of religion from Turkish politics for decades..
    They would be branded as “liberal fascists” in the context of Pakistani politics. Please refrain from comparing the AKP to “Difaa -e Pakistan” and other sundry holy warriors..


  • Firaaq
    Mar 19, 2012 - 12:48PM

    A vicious enemy that Pakistan attacked thrice.


  • Wonderful
    Mar 19, 2012 - 12:49PM

    Pakistan was just ‘a paper pusher’ in the Soviet-Afghan war.


  • fixer
    Mar 19, 2012 - 1:36PM

    zaid hamid is better


  • Depths of delusions
    Mar 19, 2012 - 2:44PM

    Pakistan is on the verge of its own collapse and sinking to such depths. So why does it need controls over Afganistan an even more chaotic country?
    However its true, that a bankrupt country can ill afford to help build a country and gain influence and respect(costs money), and its easier to just use cheaper options such as non state actors, jihadis and make them ones “strategic depth”
    In anycase, Pakistan has been grappling with internal troubles and instability ever since 1947, and has lost 65 years of its existance. World community is not a fool and sees the silly things pakistani establishment does.
    So, to get respect, behave like a good world citizen. Then look inwards, rather than cast evil eyes on neighbours.


  • mateen saeed
    Mar 19, 2012 - 2:51PM

    With curriculum packed with jehadi stories and obsession of holy war, it is difficult educate laymen who can at best read Urdu dailies. .


  • Atif
    Mar 19, 2012 - 3:38PM


    Believe me we will be there again. But we must better our lesson first.


  • Ozymandias
    Mar 19, 2012 - 4:46PM

    That’s four consulates in a country that doesn’t even have four actual cities! And the Taliban DID bring peace, whether you like it or not. That in fact was the bulk of their appeal.


  • anticorruption
    Mar 19, 2012 - 4:52PM

    In my opinion, the only way we have any chance of popularizing the idea of a more economic development oriented approach in place of strategic asset centered obsessions is to focus on bringing more Afghan voices into the debate. Get more Afghans to write op-eds in our newspapers and have more Afghan guests on talkshows on Afghanistan rather than letting our retired Generals and former diplomats almost completely monopolize the debate and telling us what’s better for Afghanistan.


  • GJ
    Mar 19, 2012 - 4:59PM

    You stole Eqbal Ahmad’s following sentence:

    Afghanistan was long an irritating but innocuous adversary with territorial claims on NWFP, Pakistan’s largely Pashto speaking province.



  • Ahmee (Pakistani)
    Mar 19, 2012 - 5:53PM

    Pervez Hoodbhoy…Impressed by your unbiased and truthful writings…

    I have been to Kabul (stayed a year and a half) a telecom Engineer by profession and had interactions with people from all Ethnic backgrounds. Sadly not only the Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbuks but the Pashtoons equally not only dislike but hate Pakistan which obviously I could not take most of the times and had heated conversations but truly speaking we cannot run away from our wrong doings. The article covers what I would like to see Pakistan do for Afghanistan. It goes both ways though; there is Indian involvement there which cannot be neglected. I have seen them first hand. India/Iran/Russia should help build Afghanistan but Afghanistan should make sure they don’t indulge in Anti-Pakistan activities.
    Here I would also like to add Afghans are also equally if not more responsible, Pakistanis (common population) have been brothers & sisters to them; they should not forget what Iran and Russia did to the migrants. Our society has taken a lot of toll from their presence. Cultural intermingle have led to various social problems in our society and crime rate and involvement of Afghans in them has always been on a high (I understand when one lose everything this perhaps is the only seeming option but still..).

    Besides doing all the possible measures for Afghans we should seriously take measures to send back all the Afghans to Afghanistan for that is their homeland. Refugees should be migrated back in a respectable and agreeable manner.


  • mrk
    Mar 19, 2012 - 5:57PM

    I do not believe that Pakistan’s military should meddle in Afghanistan anymore and I believe that it hasn’t been lately. Perhaps you should ask the interior ministry, police and the IB do control the gatherings or jalsas that you talk about?

    We cannot just blame someone for decisions done in the past to the end of time. That’s like saying that Bhutto declared Ahmadis as non-muslims therefore PPP stands for that till the end of time. Times change; situation changes. Pakistan army has lost thousands of its personel and several of its officers and their family members in attacks such as the prade lane incidents and Swat operations.Recommend

  • Ali Wali
    Mar 19, 2012 - 6:54PM

    Pakistan and Iran are neighbors of Afghanistan, as Afghanistan depends on their imports that is why they will have influence over there, as simple as that.


  • Ak
    Mar 19, 2012 - 7:33PM

    @Alam Khurshid:
    Unfortunately your strength is the biggest weekness. It is consuming Pakistan from inside.


  • s shah
    Mar 19, 2012 - 7:54PM

    Thank you for another excellent article. I agree 100% with your analysis. However as @khan points out, Pakistan should be concentrating on providing schools roads and hospitals to its own people before it tries to supply the same to Afghanistan. We need peace and friendly relations with all our neighbours if we are to provide our people with even a minimal standard of living. There is really no other rational alternative left.


  • Ashvinn
    Mar 19, 2012 - 7:57PM

    @Alam Khurshid:
    Thank you for the laughs but Pakistani have potential then Indians with soft power thing


  • Pashtun
    Mar 19, 2012 - 7:58PM


    One thing that all Afghans share in common is their hatred for Pakistan and its policies in Afghanistan. You are dead wrong in you assessment about Pashtuns loving Pakistan or Pakistanis.


  • Pashtun
    Mar 19, 2012 - 8:26PM


    “Taliban did bring peace and that was their appeal”. You can have a Taliban government in your country and all the peace and retrograde social policies that comes with it. Don’t impose your agenda and views on others, most Afghans abhor the Taliban and what they stand for. Taliban Redux, no thanks but you can have it in your country if you so desire.


  • Hindu Indian
    Mar 19, 2012 - 8:45PM

    Everyone says India has “so many” consolates along Pakistan border in Afghanistan (term “so many” varies from person to person), Can someone redirect me to any sites which gives any details on this? And does Pakistan considers Afghanistan as a sovereign nation ? If yes, then i think the Afghans have can think for themselves.


  • kanishka
    Mar 19, 2012 - 9:33PM

    What Pakistan ought to do?


    Just leave Afghanistan alone now.

    They have gone through enough of death and destruction caused by direct and indirect interference of Pakistan.


  • well-wisher
    Mar 19, 2012 - 10:23PM

    A thought provoking article by the author and suggestions given if implemented by Pakistan can turn around the whole scenario and Afghanis may be won over to its advantage. Afghanistan has been is in a state of turmoil for many decades now and its people want peace and development in the country but Taleban can provide none of these except its own brand of fundamentalism and repression. Pakistan dream of strategic depth is misplaced and would indeed backfire by supporting the forces who only have the sole agenda of enforcing sharia in the region including Pakistan. The terrorists and sectarian organisations raised during the late Zia era, like skud missiles have veered of its course and now fallen on Pakistan itself but unfortunately the same are still being courted by the state which might result in more disastrous consequences.


  • Shahid
    Mar 19, 2012 - 10:47PM

    @Zahir Yousafzai: It was not the Punjabi but Pakistani pashtun general who wanted pashtun dominance in Afghanistan.


  • kaalchakra
    Mar 19, 2012 - 11:00PM


    It is probably safe to say that Pushtoons who have attempted to bring Afghanistan under Pakistani influence have mostly been those indoctrinated as Islamists. That is consistent with Pakistani state’s policy of using Islam to establish dominance both within its state’s often contested boundaries – kashmir, Balochistan, NWFP and outside of those boundaries. Note that Islam has been part of Afghanistan and Pushtoon life for a long time. However, Islam’s explicit political use has been theorized and implemented – using Pushtoon brawns and Punjabi/Mohajir brains – only with the advent of Pakistan.


  • anis
    Mar 20, 2012 - 5:48AM

    if afghans are so much prejudiced against pakistan .they should go to bharat than to crossborder into our cities for breadearning..when we meet them we feel a brotherly islamic bond between us while they find affinity with hindus.. better keep them at a distance than to sacrifice our lives for their betterment


  • Jan
    Mar 20, 2012 - 5:46PM

    @Depths of delusions:
    Keep dreaming….


  • Zalmai
    Mar 20, 2012 - 10:25PM

    Afghans love India simply because India is perceived as a benevolent friend towards the Afghan nation without harboring any ill will, unlike some of Afghanistan’s other neighbors.


  • sootla
    Mar 21, 2012 - 12:22AM

    Afghanistan rightfully belongs to The Great People of China.
    It must be returned to China as soon as possible.
    Chind will bring back peace in Afghanistan { Chinuwa Province}


  • Babloo
    Mar 21, 2012 - 1:36AM

    The best thing Pakistan can do in Afganistan is ‘nothing’. Just leave it alone.
    Meanwhile, get some clues about what Pakistan needs to do in its own counrty.


  • Mar 21, 2012 - 4:37AM

    Pakistan had all the time in the world to develop Afghanistan, but unfortunately did not do it. It is too late now to placate the Afghans. You have hurt them badly! I think Pakistan needs to seriously introspect and do some soul searching and do some damage controlling exercise asap. You just don’t have the money to help Afghanistan! At least don’t think of controlling that country. In fact you have lost the control!


  • G. Din
    Mar 21, 2012 - 4:54PM

    @Ahmee (Pakistani):
    “India/Iran/Russia should help build Afghanistan but Afghanistan should make sure they don’t indulge in Anti-Pakistan activities.”
    Do you know how silly you sound when you spell conditions others “should make sure” that still others “don’t indulge in anti-Pakistan activities”? Even you are powerless to ensure that. You have absolutely no clout, sir. Not even to spell conditions!


  • G. Din
    Mar 21, 2012 - 5:02PM

    “Pakistan must never abandon buland goals. It’s the nation that defeated and broke the Soviet Union – a huge neighbor. “
    I remember a cartoon from a long time ago. In the first frame, it showed a golfer preparing to hit his ball. In the next frame, he has hit the ball, and it is on its way. In the third frame, the moon is shown shattering. In the fourth frame, golfer is weighed with heavy remorse on how his golf ball shattered the moon.
    “The nation that defeated and broke the Soviet Union – a huge neighour!” Indeed! Mother of all delusions, eh!


  • Ahmee
    Mar 21, 2012 - 6:14PM

    @G. Din:
    I recommended your post so that you don’t feel unattended or say UN-backed
    I may sound naive but i do reserve the right to keep my ideas and write them on open forums.

    About the “OTHER SHOULD” life is strange and a lot of things for you in Life is done by OTHERS and this is how things work.

    From our part (Pakistan) we should be sincere with Afghanistan and hope that THEY SHOULD return the favor. I still would want Afghanistan to stop anti-Pakistan activities from their soil and before that i want to stop any wrong doings from our part towards them.

    May Peace Prevails…Amen


    Mar 21, 2012 - 8:49PM

    {They must not be allowed to forget the awful price Pakistan and Afghanistan have had to pay because of their proxy wars, and the damage inflicted by a cynical manipulation of politics inside and outside our borders. Suicide bombings have ravaged Pakistan, threatened minorities are fleeing, the rule of law has been badly damaged, and social peace has been replaced with strife. These are squarely the result of a foreign policy gone awry)

    That is the crux of the whole matter which unfortunately the author has only mentioned in the end instead of basing his article on the cost benefit ratio of keeping / aspiring for strategic assets. In realpolitik games nations play, morality hardly matters. On the face of it cultivating proxies / non state actors in pursuance of strategic ambitions at a very low direct cost is a dream come true for any deep state anywhere. Remember CIA cultivated right wing murderous militias in many South American countries like Chile and Nicaragua. Let’s assume we do succeed in meeting all our objectives in India and Afghanistan ( although still no signs of it actually happening), will it be the worth the price we are paying and continue to pay on our internal front? (forget worldwide condemnation).

    Why no in the parliament asks the security chiefs as to whether they ever contemplated that these militant outfits will one day turn against their own countrymen? And as per standard practice if an agent turns rogue, he has to be put to sleep. So exactly what measures they have taken in this regard. And most importantly DO THEY CONSIDER THE GENOCIDE STYLE EXECUTION OF MINORITIES, LOWERING THE TOLERANCE LEVEL OF SOCIETY, SPREADING HATE AND BIGOTORY AND EVEN FREQUENT BITING OF THE HAND THAT SUPPOSEDLY FEEDS THEM ETC AS AN ACCEPTABLE COLLATERAL DAMAGE IN THE LARGER STRATEGIC SCENARIO. Can anyone say YES and keep his job?

  • indianatheist
    Mar 23, 2012 - 7:37PM

    @Chulbul Pandey: He is suggesting that support for infrastructure building should come at cost of sponsoring militants. The money that is used for aiding militancy should be diverted to build infrastructure. He is just suggesting good usage of that money. If that happens, it will generate good will among afghans for Pakistan also and Pakistan’s need for strategic depth will no longer be necessary for Pakistanis(we all know strategic depth is a myth). If we Indians see stable Afghanistan which does not provide safe heavens for terrorists then we will also be happy. I know I am dreaming a lot! :)


  • Jack Hamer
    Mar 31, 2012 - 2:57AM

    When someone says he is 6 ft tall he is actually 5.5 ft tall.


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