Contrary to what it has been like in the past, this time the Pakistani government and the media gave respect and space to Afghan President Dr Ashraf Ghani’s visit and engagements in the country. This shift in policy deserves our unqualified appreciation.
Since they assumed offices some 15 months apart, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Afghan President Dr Ashraf Ghani are sincerely striving to handle the situation and undo the trend of extremism and terrorism. Regardless of all that happened in the past, it is now crystal-clear that both the neighbouring countries are on the same page when it comes to tackling religious extremism.
Though rulers, politicians, the media and intelligentsia from the two countries have remained divided on the issue of militancy and terrorism since long, it is now time to change conflicting mindsets. The spread of extremism, with the infiltration of Islamic State militants in the region, is a challenge that both countries must face and fight together.
Earlier, Pakistan and Afghanistan had remained the hubs of violence and terrorism, which erupted in the second phase of religious extremism. Now the third phase is monopolised by the Islamic State, which has become a threat to almost all Muslim countries, particularly to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Unlike in other countries, the IS will perhaps need to strive very little in this region, as a like-minded ‘ideology’ exists to aid its cause.
Despite the interior minister’s claims to the contrary, the IS influence is spreading at a very fast pace in Pakistan. Washington, sensing the danger, has already initiated efforts for stopping the IS advance in the region, by making sure that Dr Ashraf Ghani and Dr Abdullah agree to a power-sharing deal. Dr Ashraf Ghani is now making his best efforts to convince Pakistan to adopt a joint strategy for heading off the threat of the ultra-extremist group in the region.
Pakistan and Afghanistan had suffered a lot under warfare and terrorism. Now millions of their citizens are also faced with socio-economic challenges. If the two countries’ leaders want to mitigate the suffering of their citizens, they will need to adopt a unanimous stance on all issues, especially terrorism, and wage a joint fight.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 19th, 2014.