Pakistan’s Afghan burden

Afghanistan sucks its friends in its conflicts,destroys them and then very conveniently blames them for everything too

Farrukh Khan Pitafi April 04, 2014
The writer is an Islamabad-based TV journalist and tweets @FarrukhKPitafi

An oft-repeated question one often comes across is: “What do you expect from the new Afghan government?” And invariably, the same mind- numbingly dull yet honest answer: “Same old blame game, what else!” Some may find this answer rather harsh, but come on, who are we kidding, we all knew this day was to come.

There is an underrated and underreported hostility between the two countries with very deep historical roots. And it has nothing to do with any “cross-border infiltration”. The land that we now call Pakistan once used to endure repeated excesses of marauding hordes of invaders from Afghanistan. For them, the real prize was India’s capital, Delhi, and we were only a sideshow meant for pillage. And this was even before Pakistan’s birth.

When Pakistan was created, there was only one country that voted against its admission into the United Nations. Not India, not any regional or global power. Surprise, surprise: it was Afghanistan. Saad Akbar Babrak, the assassin of the nascent country’s first prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, was Afghan by nationality. Many have still not forgotten the issue of greater Pashtunistan that once was pushed forward by the then Afghan government to dismember the newly-formed state. Speaking of cross-border terrorism (a border that the Afghan side does not accept since Pakistan’s inception), it might be of interest to you that in 1950, Pakistan had to suspend the trans-shipment of petroleum to Afghanistan in retaliation for Afghan tribal attacks across the border. The purpose of bringing these archaic facts up is to highlight the nature of hostility that has almost always prevailed on the other side of the Durand Line.

Our Afghan peers never get tired of blaming Pakistan for their suffering. But frankly, Islamabad is not responsible for the stupid decisions of their rulers. In a country that started flirting with the Soviet Union in 1950s, we were responsible neither for the creation of People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan, nor its Parcham and Khalq factions that brought Soviet invasion upon them. The rebellions that were used as an excuse for invasion were also staged by Afghan nationals — not any foreigners. Even the Afghan Taliban are, above anything else, a ragtag army of Afghan nationals.

Let us face the truth. No matter how harsh we are on the now defunct Soviet Union, the US or our own country, for intervening in the internal matters of Afghanistan, they all viewed themselves as friends of Afghanistan and stepped in to help at the call of Afghan citizens. But that is what Afghanistan does. It sucks its friends in its conflicts, destroys them and then very conveniently blames them for everything too.

In the 12 years after 9/11 and the subsequent US occupation, Afghanistan has very effectively exported its conflicts to our territory. Of course, there is no point in denying Islamabad’s stupidity in trying to influence Afghanistan. But the fact is that while it simultaneously seeks our help, it undermines the Durand Line, encourages the US invasion of Pakistan and its nationals habitually smuggle weapons and drugs through Pakistan, Afghanistan is a deadly brother and a deathly ally.

Back in the 1920s, during the Khilafat Movement, some Muslims of India decided to migrate to Afghanistan. Afghanistan closed its borders and countless perished. For the past 35 years, Pakistan has housed the largest population of Afghan refugees — the largest population of refugees in any country and yet we are the proverbial bad guys. As someone who believes that these refugees be now naturalised, I am the first one to accept that they have not lived in luxury, but they have lived and in circumstances not very dissimilar to a majority of Pakistani citizens. There is one hell of an ungrateful country there then.

And there is no point in blaming India for all this. I tell you, many Pakistanis who wince at the prospects of Narendra Modi becoming India’s prime minister find it easier to work with a government led by him than any in Afghanistan. And if this comes across as a diatribe to you, sirs, you know all you have to do is only to look into the mirror.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 5th, 2014.

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singh | 7 years ago | Reply

ET, please publish my last comment as I didn't say anything wrong. It was just a historical analysis. I was just talking about how the Janjua Shahi ruler Jayapala fought valiantly against the Turk Ghaznavids in Eastern Afghanistan (laghman and Ghazni) and then at peshawar and his era is considered one of the golden ages of sub-continental history. I was just highlighting his bravery.

Humza | 7 years ago | Reply

@important: You are very right - most invaders from Central Asia were of Turkic origin and they ruled present Afghanistan the same way they ruled present Pakistan and India. For a long time Afghanistan was ruled by Persians and even founder of modern Afghanistan Ahmad Shah Abdali, was a slave soldier of Persian ruler Nader Shah Afsar.I think the story of Afghanistan has been glorified without factual basis because we know modern Afghanistan is hardly 200 years old and it is a mix of different ethnic groups who barely tolerate each other. They were only abandoned by the British and the Russians to create an artificial buffer in the days of empire so these two european powers would not get into a war with each other. Then like now, there was nothing of value in Afghanistan but the fake pride comes from making up stories of defeating Russians and British when they were only too eager to serve all of these people for money that they were willing to sell their own people.

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