As the days and weeks pass it is ever clearer that there really is a change in the nature of the relationship that exists between Pakistan and Afghanistan — which may give pause for reflection on how much more may have been achieved and sooner were it not for the obstructions of the Karzai years. It appears that the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban are to hold face-to-face talks in the coming days, in part at the urging of Pakistan, among other players. There have been indirect contacts for some time, and there seems to be consensus that this is a positive move. The Americans are not going to be directly involved but their representative in the form of Daniel F Feldman travelled to Pakistan on March 10 — and has given his nod of approval. A possible venue for the talks is yet to be finalised, with Beijing, Kabul and Dubai all ‘possibles’. Interestingly, China is reportedly the guarantor for any deal that may be reached.
None of this is to the liking of the erstwhile ruler of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, who still holds court and considerable sway in Kabul. Mr Karzai has warned against Afghanistan succumbing to pressure from Pakistan, and deplored what he sees as unacceptable concessions by his successor Ashraf Ghani. Mr Karzai has said that he will not openly criticise his successor, but will “offer advice in private”. It is impossible to ignore Mr Karzai, who still has his supporters, and as the Ghani government moves towards rapprochement the ‘mafias’ are gravitating in the direction of the man who was their protector for so many years — Hamid Karzai. Despite the protestations to the contrary, Mr Karzai and those around him have a developing capacity to throw several spanners in the works of any future peace deals with the Afghan Taliban. Whilst we are to a degree in uncharted waters with Afghanistan in these precarious times, and there are undoubtedly emerging relationships, the viability and durability of which are untested by time or circumstance; the weaving of a durable peace must continue — and Mr Karzai needs to keep his meddling fingers to himself.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 12th, 2015.
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