Election fever in Pakistan is in full flow, but what is fascinating is that the excitement and anticipation that accompanies the triumph of the ballot box is being regularly matched by an angry war of words between the establishments of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
As an Indian observer of the politics of the subcontinent, I am beginning to think that the bad blood between India and Pakistan is absolutely no match for the ongoing vituperative combat between Islamabad/Rawalpindi and Kabul.
History, they say, has that incredible way of coming home to roost. The great Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan or Badshah Khan pleaded with Mahatma Gandhi not to allow the partition of the subcontinent to take place in 1947, not least because, he argued, the Pashtuns would become the first victims to the religious radicalisation that was already taking place in his part of the world.
It is said that Gandhi, who had incredible respect for Badshah Khan and believed that he was the first foot soldier in the non-violent movement, or satyagraha, that had been launched to evict the British from India, even considered the idea. But Gandhi was dissuaded from pushing it through by his fellowmen in the Congress party who pointed out that it would be virtually impossible to sustain a lifeline to the Pashtuns so many thousands of miles away. India would, unfortunately, have to let them go.
More than 65 years later, so many new questions are in the offing, not least the relationship between the Pashtuns of Pakistan and Afghanistan and the ongoing struggle over the transformation of the Durand Line into an international border.
And as the Americans begin to leave Afghanistan, in preparation for withdrawal in 2014, it is fascinating to watch the rising tension between Kabul and Islamabad/Rawalpindi. None other than President Hamid Karzai, as well as his senior officials, have directly accused the Pakistani government of instigating terrorism inside Afghanistan through their proxies — read: the Haqqani network in North Waziristan and sundry Taliban outfits. Naturally, the Pakistanis have junked that claim.
Pakistani analysts have often said that India cannot begin to take Pakistan’s place in Afghanistan’s affections — a strange statement that implies the Afghans have no minds of their own. The Pakistani argument is that India doesn’t even share a border with Afghanistan and that it is Pakistan, not India, that has suffered the blowback from the Afghan problem these many decades.
Both Delhi and Kabul concede both these points. In fact, the Afghans always seem grateful to the people of Pakistan for hosting them in their country for decades. It is the Pakistani establishment, the Afghans believe, that has not been able to reconcile to the fact that Afghanistan is an independent country and will take decisions in its own national interest. If that includes the improvement of relations with India, well, so be it.
Several Pakistanis concede Afghanistan’s sovereign right to pursue relations with the countries of its choosing. But as Pakistan moves to complete the first five years, ever, of democratic rule in its history, one question remains unanswered: why is Karzai and his government continuing to point an accusing finger at the Pakistani agencies?
According to Musa Hotak, a former Taliban leader of some repute, a senior Pakistani diplomat in Afghanistan told him that Kabul cannot allow New Delhi to become a favoured partner. This conversation is supposed to have taken place during Ramazan last year.
Even at the trilateral forum in London in February, when Pakistan pressed the Afghans to sign a strategic partnership agreement, one key demand was that India needed to be sidelined. It seems that the Pakistani side kept asking the Afghans why they didn’t want to sign such an agreement with them, when they had signed a similar document with India in 2011.
Nothing infuriates the Afghans more than this; that they need to be “told” by a foreign country — in this case, Pakistan — how to conduct their foreign affairs. Several Afghans have told me that Pakistan still hasn’t come to terms with the fact that 2014 will not be 1989, when the Soviets left Afghanistan, or 1992, when Mohammad Najibullah was killed.
As Pakistan goes to the polls again, the question remains: will the new government in Islamabad move to transform its relationship with Kabul?
Published in The Express Tribune, April 11th, 2013.
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@Grace: to @ Afghan Maihan
I think you don’t realise that there is no such race as Indian – even Indians have different races among themselves
But where has Afghan Maihan said anything about Indians being a 'race'? He is simply saying that Pakistanis are descendants of Indians. You are responding to an imaginary statement.
In fact Afghan Maihan further says, Most people cannot tell Indians and Pakistanis apart, but you will turn blue in the face denying this fundamental fact that genetically, civilizationally and linguistically you are an Indian.
By the way after dividing India it is too late to realise that there are actually no 'racial' differences.
I like the country where Indians can write critical opeds in our newspapers.
In case you are looking for an oped about Afghanistan, by a Pakistani. Now point out the difference.
“We are a new Afghanistan,” Ashraf Ghani insisted, in our meeting. “Unlike in the past, we no longer kill our previous rulers or would-be-kings, or exile them. We have a dozen people who contested or wanted to contest presidential elections who are alive today living in the same city and working towards rebuilding Afghanistan despite their disparate ideologies. This state respects and protects its leaders now. And we will be contesting elections again, without any urge to kill our opponents. Democracy is now our constitution, even if it’s a work in progress. That’s our destiny.”
As he said this, I couldn’t help thinking we in Pakistan usually end up either killing or exiling our rulers — the first prime minister was assassinated, the first elected premier was hung, two were exiled, and another gunned down only 5 years ago. Most of our big leaders today live under the shadow of death.
And THAT is the difference.
@Sterry: If you have read the history, the current Pakistan , was always ruled either by Afghans or Sikh dynasties ( Maharaja Ranjit Singh and all). Afghanistan and India has a long history. Pakistan came in existence just 65 years back and since then has been nothing but a trouble for both India and Afghanistan. If only Pakistan could mend its ways, there could be peace in the region. I hope that after elections in Pakistan, there would be wiser brains and heads to lead Pakistan which would be out of clutches of "establishment" .
wow, I am amazed to see the arguments from some Pakistanis on how Afghanistan should maintain it's ties with the rest of the world. Pakistan advising Afghanistan on relations with India will be like India telling Sri lanka how to maintain its ties with Pakistan, which would totally be absurd. Just because Afghanistan does not have borders with India, does not mean it can not have relations until Pakistan approves.As for the Pashtun refugees in Pakistan, they won't have to leave their country if it was not Pakistan and America's great Jihad to liberate them. No one has done more damage to Afghanistan than Pakistan and US. While US is trying to make things work, it is still Pakistan which is a greatest hurdle in bringing peace to Afghanistan. Pakistan army and government want Taliban to rule Afghanistan for their own petty interests.Is it fair? Do ordinary Pakistanis like to be ruled by the same Taliban in their country? There is an old saying, don't wish for your neighbor what you don't wish for yourself.
I bet you look just like an Indian but will deny that you are of Indian descent. What is Pakistan? Afghans and Indians have history what do you have a false ideology based on religion. Still in denial.
Most people cannot tell Indians and Pakistanis apart, but you will turn blue in the face denying this fundamental fact that genetically, civilizationally and linguistically you are an Indian.
Afghans out of Pakistan! Good bye and good luck! Please prosper on the other side of the Durand Line!
Will you please tell the guests in NWA and Quetta?
@Shakir Lakhani: "Ever since independence, India has tried its best to dismember Pakistan. It supported the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, hoping that the Soviets would enter Pakistan and break it up."
Huh? Any evidence? To the contrary from day 1, Pakistan had offered itself as a base to US and signed Seato, Cento and received billions of dollars of aid by saying that they would prevent Russia from moving forward. So it is Pakistan that was cashing in on USSR presence in the region. Even during the Afghan war, it is Pakistan that cashed out big time - not India who had nothing to do with it.
@Saleem Bugti: "I like the country where Indians can write critical opeds in our newspapers."
As an Indian, I will certainly give credit to Pakistan for a couple of excellent newspapers (Dawn, ET) and some excellent Pakistani OpEd writers.
Kabul and New Delhi haven't gotten over the fact the Pashtuns voted for Pakistan. Who was New Delhi going to support when the Pashtuns didn't want their support? Ghaffar Khan and his cronies haven't accepted the fact that they don't own Pashtuns.
@Zalmai: Why can't the same Afghani refugees make their way to India instead of Pakistan if they are so loyal to India? We know that from the day the British left the region, Afghanistan has been a willing puppet of India. I wonder if this has to do with the facts that Hindu Shahis ruled at Kabul or that many Indians consider Afghanistan also as Atang Bharat. Be mindful of your sly insinuations about Pakistan being a land of Afghans and Indians; you should tell the Afghans too that you Indians consider Afghanistan also as your people despite the fact that Pakistan has greater right than Afghanistan to boast a different civilization. When you see the centuries old artifacts being shown in the US from the Kabul museum, make sure to celebrate the Hindu Swastikas on a lot of the Afghani cultural treasures.
@Pakistani 342, Possibly before reminding India, they may end up creating havoc in Pakistan, considering what Ghauri, Ghaznavi and Abdali did to the area that now forms part of Pakistan. Never heard of Atlas, Thor, Delta, Titan having invaded America as Ghaznavi, Ghori & Abdali laid waste the area that is now part of Pakistan.
Don't you think those names are quite appropriate: Ghauri, Ghazanavi, etc. They are meant to remind India of the devastation Afghans wrought on the people of the subcontinent.
I didn't hear you scream foul when the American named their rockets: Atlas, Thor, Delta, Titan!
Ah, I'm glad I live in the 21st century. .... Afghans out of Pakistan! Good bye and good luck! Please prosper on the other side of the Durand Line!
@Pakistani 342 "Further this cycle goes further back in history as Pakistani Generals rightly enunciate these days: “All our invasions have come from the north-west” " Still this doesn't stop Pakistan from naming all its missiles after these invaders from the North-West.
Your are comparing Karzai to that coward who fled from Lal Masjid in a burqa and he was supposed to be some holy warrior. Karzai will be in Kabul after his successor takes over and it will be business as usual.
All Pashtuns are Afghans so your wish cannot be granted because you would have to repatriate millions of Pashtuns from Pakistan. Unfortunately, you are stuck with us and vice versa and we have to find workable solutions to issues that affect us mutually.
To the rest of Pakistanis that are still stuck in the 80s, 90s or 2000s please fast forward to 2013 and realize that Afghanistan has moved on and there is overwhelming consensus among Afghans of all political, ethnic and sectarian stripe to bury the hatchet and move forward as a responsible nation by signing strategic pact agreements that will guarantee the prevention of the events that took place in the last 30 years to be repeated and more importantly interference from its meddlesome neighbors. The days of proxies are over but the Pakistani establishment is still stuck in 1989 or 1992.
Pakistan still has not figured out if it is going to be an Islamic welfare state, a theocracy, a security state or a modern democratic state and this ambivalence makes it an unreliable and untrustworthy neighbor to the bordering states. In short get your house in order before you dictate terms to your neighbors that are not beholden to you. Pakistan is made of Indians and Afghans and the sooner you learn to treat them as equal partners the better off we will all be.
think it should not concern us Pakistanis what becomes of Afghanistan, whether their fortunes decline further or they become the Switzerland of Asia. We should wish them very well.
Having said that Pakistan and Pakistanis should ruthlessly pursue their interests vis-a-vis Afghanistan and Afghans. We should not be in the business of charity, the Afghans are not granting us any quarter after having hosted million of them for 3 decades, why should we.
The author has rightly said: "History has that incredible way of coming home to roost" - however, sadly, like many Indians, Afghans and yes us Pakistanis, she has seems to think redacting history is her sole purview.
A more un-redacted history: 1. The Afghans have interfered in Pakistan since the 50s 2. Pakistanis should study the doings of the Afghan government under Serdar Daud Khan - they supported separatists in Pakistan - attacked Pakistan and elicited USSR's help to build up their conventional capacity with the intention to dismember Pakistan 3. Further this cycle goes further back in history as Pakistani Generals rightly enunciate these days: "All our invasions have come from the north-west"
There is again an increasing call in all sections of Afghan society to do a "Daud Khan" on Pakistan. Thes calls permeate the secularists, the zealots, the young and the old.
I say let the Afghans pursue their interests as a *sovereign people" and I say we return the favor as a *sovereign people" and ruthlessly pursue ours.
Ever since independence, India has tried its best to dismember Pakistan. It supported the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, hoping that the Soviets would enter Pakistan and break it up. Afghanistan, under the obvious tutelage of Nehru, raised the Pakhtunistan stunt. It was the only country which voted against Pakistan's entry into the U.N. When the Soviets walked in, the only country directly fighting to remove them was Pakistan. It was Zia's stern determination that forced the Soviets to exit. If only the U.S. hadn't abandoned Pakistan after the Soviet withdrawal, things would've been much better today. Pakistan has paid a heavy price for its support to the Afghans, and as far as India's influence in Afghanistan is concerned, it is confined only to non-Pashtuns. The Pashtuns are solidly behind Pakistan, because they know that India has ulterior motives in helping Afghanistan with a billion and a half dollars aid annually. All this aid, of course, will come to naught when the Americans leave and the Indians will find out just how unpopular they are in the Pashtun-dominated areas of Afghanistan.
There is no issue regarding the Durand Line, it is the internationally accepted border for Pak-Afghan and is shown on all official documents around the world...Pakistan should stop entertaining Afghanistan's govt on this issue and just go ahead with putting up stronger border controls across the border
As a Pakistani I'd be very content: 1. As long as there are no Afghans in Pakistan 2. As long as your don't block waters in the rivers Afghanistan and Pakistan share 3. As long as nothing else flows from Pakistan to Afghanistan and Afghanistan to Pakistan
I like the country where Indians can write critical opeds in our newspapers. I doubt it , if an indian newspaper would publish, opeds by Pakistani authors, critical of Indian security establishment. Indian newspapers publish articles of Pakistani authors only if these criticise Pakistan.
None of this would have happened if 65 years back Pak didnt secede. if Ind and Pak had stayed together it would have been a much better sub continent today.
An Indian advising Pakistan on how to be a good neighbor Reality check, India absorbed Sikkim 1960s, dismembered Pakistan 1971,raised LTTE in Srilanka 1978, through classic Chankya strategy militarily interveined in Srilanka to help Srilanka fight LTTE it created 1980, intervened in Maldeves 1990s,made Farrakha Barrage to steal Bangladeshi water, made couple of dams to steal Pakistani water(being upper reparian),made dams within Nepal to steel electricity(being lower reparian),subjugated Bhutan to a subordinate status,fought war with China,keeps poking Srilanka after defeat of RAW in 2009,established ten consulates in Afghanistan to keep Durand Line on Fire... That is examplary conduct of good neighbourly relations.
I read the whole op-ed and now trying to figure out what actually author is trying to say!??
Turbulence ahead in Af-Pak area with blow back in Kashmir likely. However, Chinese proactiveness vis-a-vis Pakistan may have some calming effect but a lot will depend on the size of US contingent left behind.
@Usman: Everything that you said sounds like your opinion - which is fine. But you prefaced it with, 'this article told me several things'. It is unclear where the article said any of things you claim it did.
@Z Khan: Since Pakistan has suffered due to Af (I wonder who interfered into the matters of Af at the time of Soviet Union as proxy of USA), It is absolute right of Pakistan to decide everything on behalf of Af. Great logic!!!!!!
Please apply same logic here too. Since India has suffered erroneously due to Pakistan terror policy..................................
@Babloo: "There wont be any good relations between Pakistan and Afganistan . . ." Would replacing Afghanistan with India will make you rewrite your paragraph?
"Why can't I be contented with Pakistan that belongs to me And be satisfied with what's already mine What makes a stolen Afghanistan such a precious thing I guess it's just because you can't be mine..."
This article to me shows several things: . 1) Indians have no understanding or the willingness to understand Afghanistan. They are content with the Afghans being in blue-eyed love with Bollywood and using Afghanistan as land to 'stir up trouble' in Balochistan.
2) Afghans are not united, do not have a government that represents its people, so any statement from Karzai and his dozen or so ministers holds no weight. There no need for India to get over enthusiastic about its role in Afghanistan as it will not eventuate to anything. Afghans are good at double dealing when it suits them, any power that has tried to meddle in Afghanistan knows this. . 3) Pakistan is dealing with Afghanistan better than any other nation, and the Afghans know this. The fact that Pakistan has taken on board the key stakeholders in Afghanistan and has maintained communication with all group inside Afghanistan has irked Karzai's lopsided government which will evaporate as soon as US forces leave in 2014. All Karzai can do is ramp up the rhetoric, to get some local support. .
If the author is waiting for some 'change in attitude' on part of Pakistan in dealing with Afghanistan, she should know two things, this change will only come as a result of Pakistan's own evaluations of the situation in Afghanistan, not due to any external pressure. . India's role in Afghanistan will remain as a spectator from the outside, and any Indian hopes to control the Afghans will remain just that, hopes.
Just as Pakistan and China are 'natural allies' so are India and Afganistan. Long live Indo-Afghan friendship of the 'natural allies'.
@Sterry: You made many statements, that I would like to get further details from you.
1 . Chuck Hagel had made a statement at a time that he was not in government and was part of an opposition party. As such therefore they were his opinion. But I do not believe he has reiterated his statement after he became Defense Secretary when he would be expected to have access to such information. Since you claim that Defense Secretary made such a claim, can you please provide any reference that he made the claim after becoming defense secretary?
You claim that Afghanistan takes dictation from India. Can you please provide independent reference to this from non-Pakistani media?Why would Afghans act like Indian puppets? What's in it for them?
Kabul will fall; it is a matter of time as the USA leaves. Karzai will then run in burqa on motorbike much like his entry in 2001.
For Pakistan to become a normal country it will need to fundamentally change its attitude not only toward east but also toward the west. Most astonishing thing is to hear normal Pakistanis speak of Afghanistan as their vessel state entirely subservient to them only because it shares a border with them. Islamist Pushtoons who have been brainwashed by Pakistani establishment don't see the irony of it all when supporting Pakistan's hegemonic attitudes.
@Author: Informative article that actually gives the Afghan point of view as well, thank you. I do have a minor quibble. When Pakistanis refer to Jinnah they say, Qaid-e-Azam Mohamed Ali Jinah. Such respect is appropriate for the father of their nation. As an Indian, can you please show the same for the father of our nation and call him Mahatma Gandhi or Gandhiji instead of plain Gandhi?
As an Afghan I am and every Afghan should be interested in the politics that happens in our neighbouring countries. A country like Afghanistan cannot afford to have a strong anti-west sentiments in Iran and blind folded obedience for west as in Pakistan. Both of these political ideologies pose threat to these countries (at least in long term) as well as to nations surrounding them. As an Afghan I also hope for better relations between Afghanistan and its neighbours as well as between those neighbouring countries themselves (two are nuclear powers and one is alleged to have the capability even though I disagree with the last assessment). I think the foreign policy of Afghanistan regarding India-Pakistan "paradox" should be based on "We choose who our friends are" and "We choose not to have any enemies". This may seem very naive and simplistic but I don't see any other way Afghanistan can tackle Pakistani concerns regarding India and vise versa as well as remain sovereign within its own borders once foreign forces have left.
If Afghans do not want to be tutored by Pakistan, then they should not be tutored by India also!
A very biased article. you do not even need to look at the name of the author to figure out from where it is coming. this kind of mindset from our eastern neighbor is not helping the situation in that troubled region. Pakistan is a genuine stakeholder in the end game as its the only country who suffered the most due to the continued conflict there for over three decades and I am saying this as Pakistani Pashtun. as for as author's stance on Karzai regime constant blame game towards Pakistan is concerned, than its an open secret that Karzai will blame Pakistan for all under the sun as this unfortunate country has been an easy & convenient target for him for so many years.
cat mouse game fit on india pakistan ....
There wont be any good relations between Pakistan and Afganistan , until and unless Pakistan learns to respect Afganistan as a soverign independent nation which has a disputed border with Pakistan.