Policy matters: Pakistan advised to stay neutral in Afghan affairs

Published: June 6, 2014
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A file photo of the Senate. PHOTO: FILE

A file photo of the Senate. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan should prepare itself to tackle any adverse fallout from the uncertain future of Afghanistan by dealing the country as an autonomous friend and neighbour rather than handling it as its province.

These views were expressed at a public hearing on the withdrawal of US Forces from Afghanistan and its implications on Pakistan, which was organised by the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Relations.

The open hearing was attended by present and former diplomats, policymakers, parliamentarians, journalists and representatives of civil society, who agreed on the point that Pakistan should have a neutral policy about Afghanistan and should take extra measures to handle the fallouts of the situation — as experienced after the disintegration of USSR in the 90s.

“Afghanistan is an independent country and not a province of Pakistan. Our military and civilian establishment should have a neutral foreign policy about the neighbouring country,” said Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Relations chairman Senator Haji Muhammad Adeel.

“The Afghans should be allowed to decide their own fate as an independent nation.” Any attempt to indulge in their internal affairs would not only leave a negative impact on Afghanistan but Pakistan itself will also suffer from such policies, he maintained.

Senator Adeel suggested that there should not be any policy on the basis of likes and dislikes, in fact transparent diplomacy should be maintained with whosoever comes in power in Kabul.

Former diplomat Dr Maliha Lodhi said that Pakistan should work with the international stakeholders eyeing the best-case scenarios but should also be prepared for the worse. She urged the need to learn from history, “Pakistan should carefully assess what might happen across its western border and promptly take appropriate actions.”

We failed to take these steps 25 years ago, when the Russians were withdrawing from Afghanistan, leaving Pakistan in an awkward state which it was not prepared to deal with, she said. “We ignore the lessons of history at our own peril.”

Dr Lodhi described how Pakistan, with such a high stake in the success of Afghanistan’s transition, has offered to extend whatever help Kabul may want to support its transition of power.

Former ambassador to Afghanistan Qazi Hamayun suggested that Pakistan should secure itself from any fallout from the Afghan scenario by remaining neutral in the Afghanistan’s internal issue. He noted that Afghan peace is a fragile matter and Pakistan should assess the situation to check any fallout.

Former ISI chief Asad Durrani, however, defended the Pak-Afghan policy during the 80s against the USSR, saying that Pakistan had also an option to remain silent, but whatever it did was in the better interest of the country as the region was under war and Pakistan could not be remain a neutral in such a situation. “Every policy was based on good intention and its results could be different”, he added.

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Reader Comments (9)

  • Professor
    Jun 6, 2014 - 12:11PM

    Very sensible. Alas, the decision makers are not the ones sitting in this august hall.

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  • Jun 6, 2014 - 12:24PM

    Not possible. Pakistan has lost control of large chunks of its territory, where anti-Afghan militants have refuge.

    Not that Pakistan was sucked into this situation. It willingly sheltered anti-India, anti-Afghan Terrorists, who have now become stronger than the state.

    No Pakistani leader will dare visit such regions, for he knows it is not Pakistan anymore.

    Pakistan has decided which side it is on and it decided it 10 years ago.Recommend

  • Afghan
    Jun 6, 2014 - 12:37PM

    Here we go Former ISI chief Asad Durrani confessed what their rule in imposed civil war in Kabul.. Do we forget? Of course not. You started the fire and you still keep its flame but be carefull one day it will reach your house too!

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  • Bakhtiyar Ghazi Khan
    Jun 6, 2014 - 4:04PM

    Currently, 60% of Afghan population (Pukhtoons) have no power, representation, or safety whatsoever in the Afghan government. Civil war in Afghanistan is inevitable. If almost all regional powers like India, Iran, US, Russia, and others are supporting anti-Pukhtoon factions, then someone has to defend the Pukhtoons from being abused and massacred. I applaud Pakistan for always being the sole protector and safeguard of Pukhtoon rights in Afghanistan.

    As a Pukhtoon, no one cannot separate us from our relatives in Afghanistan. We are the same people in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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  • Feroz
    Jun 6, 2014 - 6:18PM

    @Bakhtiyar Ghazi Khan:
    Please read the newspapers once in a while. Afghanistan has had an elected Pukhtoon President Mr Hamid Karzai for around ten years now. Afghans will decide democratically who they want to lead them, not Net surfers.

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  • SenseKhan
    Jun 6, 2014 - 7:32PM

    How can this be? We have always regarded Afghanistan as our backyard – why should we change our position now? Afghanistan are our little brothers who will always need our protection and help. Moreover, we shouldn’t be neutral. Our sympathies must obviously lie with the true protectors of Islam, i.e., the Aghan taliban. Let’s be sensible here.

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  • unbelievable
    Jun 7, 2014 - 1:27AM

    This the same country that provides sanctuary to the Haqqani? So long as that continues it really doesn’t matter what your Senate or anybody else says – words are cheap – time for some action.

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  • Pukhtoon
    Jun 7, 2014 - 10:50PM

    @Bakhtiyar Ghazi
    Looks like ur knowledge is just limited to paki newspapers only. Pukhtoons have quite broad representation in govt. Moreover it no longer matters which ethnicity has wider representation as was demonstrated in the first round of elections. The nation is more concerned on governance, economy and security issues.

    @SenseKhan
    Gone r the days when u had manipulated the religious sentiments of Afghan mujahideen and gained influence inside Afghanistan. Now this country has infiltrated ur so called strong spy agency and is fully aware of ur govt’s evil tactics. If u r nurturing haqqani’s etc then we r having TTP as a tool. Moreover there is more reason to save our Pukhtoon brothers from the slavery of Punjabis than they need to wage jihad on this side of durand line. I am sure as a Pukhtoon u wouldnt feel comfortable watching any paki tv channel with family.

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  • WhatEver!
    Jul 8, 2014 - 11:38AM

    Just start wrapping it up, shall we?
    Enough said and done. We are not going anywhere with these backnforth arguments, we know that. Neutral Pak is as important as Neutral India. Who will start first. Let’s Afgh do that. “Protect our border from the “Election Fall Out” is really a wake-up call for Pak security machine. Start with throwing out all anti-state activities with proofs & persons involved. Warn all neighbors if they think of Pakistan as their Province too. Keep moving forward no mater how hard the enemy tries. Some people only think if winning by breaking the leg of other participants. Just watch for that!

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