Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s first visit to Kabul seems to have been all about optimism and mutual trust for an ‘all inclusive settlement of Afghanistan’ post-2014. The visit was the outcome of months of efforts on part of diplomatic circles of both countries — political leaders from Pakistan have been visiting Kabul from June. While the meeting revolved around the shared interest of both countries, peace remained at the top of the agenda. PM Sharif’s assurance that a “peaceful stable Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s interest” is a welcome sign. The question now to ask is whether this is an end to the blame game from both sides whose volatile borders have been the cause of much tension between both countries.
While Pakistan has freed a number of top Taliban leaders recently, trying to prove its sincerity to the cause of peace, Mullah Baradar — one of the top Taliban leaders whose release has been the cause of much speculation — once again featured in the statements of both leaders. While PM Sharif promised to help the delegation meet the Taliban leader, the statement issued by President Karzai’s office after the meeting for the “full release” of Baradar points to the fact that there is much to be discussed and assured. A question that now needs to be answered is: who controls the foreign policy?
While President Karzai’s long walks in the hills of Margalla are suggestive in their own way about how much both countries have in common and how important it is for peace to prevail, this is not the first time that such linguistic gestures have been made. Pakistan is apprehensive about the consequences once the Nato forces withdraw. Alarm bells have rung as the Taliban and other warring factions in Afghanistan say that any settlement which allows foreign troops to have a permanent basis in the country will be unacceptable. It remains to be seen if there will be a major shift in Pakistan’s Afghan Policy. It must be noted, however, that such meetings usually vary from ground realities.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 5th, 2013.
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