‘Secret letter’ reveals Afghan pressure on Pakistan

Published: June 6, 2015
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President Ghani reportedly asks PM Sharif to arrest Taliban leaders in Pakistan. PHOTO: REUTERS

President Ghani reportedly asks PM Sharif to arrest Taliban leaders in Pakistan. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: Officials at the Presidential Palace in Kabul recently leaked contents of President Ashraf Ghani’s ‘secret letter’ to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, demanding the “arrest of Taliban leaders in Pakistan”.

Taking their usual stance, Pakistani officials insist they are unaware of any such letter.

Afghan and international outlets like BBC and Voice of America report that Ghani issued a month’s deadline to Pakistani leaders to take action against the Afghan Taliban and authorities in Kabul have not refuted any such media reports.

In his letter, the Afghan president pushes Islamabad to extend its operation against the Haqqani Network and not allow the Afghan Taliban to treat their injured on Pakistani soil.

The contents of Ghani’s leaked letter raise certain concerns about the re-emergence of the traditional blame game that previously widened mistrust between the two countries and badly affected security cooperation.

There is also speculation among observers in Afghanistan that ‘sharing’ details of the letter with the media could be an attempt by Ghani to respond to harsh criticism by some leaders about the government’s approach towards Pakistan.

During Ghani’s first state visit to Pakistan in November last year, leaders from both sides agreed to use bilateral forums to address each other’s concerns instead of the media, according to officials privy to those meetings.

Ghosts of yore

Public insinuations by former President Hamid Karzai caused a serious setback to bilateral relations between the two neighbours. Although Kabul has not officially issued Ghani’s letter to the media, the local and international press quoted an “unnamed official” at the Presidential Palace who shared the details.

A senior Pakistani official, dealing with Afghan affairs, told The Express Tribune “certain elements across the border are opposed to an improved relationship”. He especially mentioned Hamid Karzai and his close aides, saying they have “created obstacles” for his successor to normalise ties with Pakistan.

Karzai strongly condemned the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries about intelligence sharing and said it was against Afghan’s national interest. He had earlier opposed Ghani’s decision to send army officers for training to Pakistan.

Two to tango

Elements in Afghanistan will be trying to frustrate efforts by both countries to improve relations, but it will be unfair to shift all the blame on Kabul. Pakistani leaders will also have to seriously look into the past disappointments of Afghan officials.

Many in Pakistan believe that President Ashraf Ghani has taken practical steps to address to the concerns of Pakistanis and now it is Islamabad’s time to return the favour.

Ghani’s letter coincides with remarks by Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Karzai who said in Islamabad last week, “Pakistan has now agreed with our notion that both countries have been involved in an undeclared war for 20 years.”

“People in Afghanistan believe that whoever launches attacks on the security forces, kills tribal elders and burns schools has roots in Pakistan and they view this as an undeclared war,” said Hekmat who was in the federal capital to co-chair a Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process meeting.

Convincing the Taliban

Although these allegations are nothing new, they reflect a change in the mood of President Ghani’s regime.

There is also added frustration over the fact that the Taliban are unwilling to talk to the Afghan president. The fact that the militant organisation has stepped up its attacks is also seen as another major setback.

Afghan leaders will be mistaken of think Pakistan can force Taliban leaders to gather on the negotiating table with Kabul.

In fact, anyone who has held meetings with the Taliban, including China, has failed to convince the outfit to join the intra-Afghan dialogue.

Many in the Taliban office in Qatar such as its head Tayyeb Agha do not want Pakistan to be involved in the peace process at this stage, claim several leaders of the organisation.

For its part, the Taliban leadership encouraged interaction with Afghan political leaders, civil society members as well as women social activists at unofficial talks along the lines of the meetings held in Qatar last month. The Taliban on Friday confirmed its emissaries met Afghan social activists in Norway on June 3-5 to “listen to their concerns”.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 6th, 2015. 

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Reader Comments (23)

  • Bewildered
    Jun 6, 2015 - 11:45AM

    If Afghanistan really want the full and wholehearted cooperation from Pakistan, their are only 2 preconditions for this. 1- Stop acting as a proxy of India against Pakistan. 2- Eliminate all the terrorist outfits working against Pakistan from the Afghan soil. And you will have every possible help and cooperation you want from Pakistan.Recommend

  • abreez
    Jun 6, 2015 - 1:17PM

    Good news for His Excellency President Ashraf Ghani
    Registered Drug Users in China Hit 2.95 Million, but Actual Number Exceeds 14 Million
    yibada.com
    May 12, 2015
    China’s registered drug users reached 2.95 million by the end of 2014, according to China’s National Narcotics Control Commission, but the actual number is thought to exceed 14 million.
    Among the registered drug users, heroin addicts reached 1.45 million in 2014, with synthetic users reaching 1.46 million. More youth are also turning to synthetic narcotics.
    The new number of 2.7 million registered drug users is double the number from six years ago.
    One of the reasons for the proliferation of circulated drugs is the growing accessibility and ease of transactions via the Internet. The additional efficiency of the digital age encourages more consumers to turn into dealers.Recommend

  • zeb abdul ghani
    Jun 6, 2015 - 2:41PM

    @Bewildered: so in other words Afghanistan should do as pakistan wishes.. not gonna happen, Afghanistan can show the door to USSR then think what they can do to pak. We afghans will do what we think is right for our country. How about handing terrorist of quetta shura 1st n that rat mullah omar.. how can pakistan forget u supported taliban who killed so many afghan, u think we forgive pak for it? Next is pak, we dnt accept durand line either. Recommend

  • shahid
    Jun 6, 2015 - 2:42PM

    First things first, You Afghani so called Prez; First hand over mulla Fazlullah and his criminal touts of TTP to Pakistan, then talk about other things. Recommend

  • shumaila Khan
    Jun 6, 2015 - 3:36PM

    @Zeb Abdul Ghani Afghanistan had started the undeclared war in late 60’s and early 70’s by training Baluchistan separatists militants on their soil and when Pakistan replied in the same manner, then you started crying foul? We too are not going to forgive Afghanistan for all the deaths by the hands of BLA and Fazllulah. You started the game and now you want to proceed it on your terms. Don’t accept the durand line just leave Pakistan!Recommend

  • Malia
    Jun 6, 2015 - 3:59PM

    @zeb abdul ghani:
    “Afghanistan can show the door to USSR then think what they can do to pak.” — Yes, you were the ones who single-handedlly showed the USSR the door, the billions of dollars and massive loads of stingers and other weapons supplied by the West and Arabs, and the massive levels of training, intelligence & logistical support and command and control over the whole operation against the Soviets just didn’t happen! All of us just imagined these well-documented things happening! You did it all on your own. Ha!
    Afghan, just you try and touch Pakistan, do it practically, don’t just talk about it on Express Tribune.
    You Afghans and your communist government had completely bowed down to the Russians (whom you had invited into the country as an ally to wage war on Pakistan with), and it was resistance fighters massively aided by Pakistan who threw them out. On the one hand you pat yourselves on the back for defeating the Russians (which Pakistan did, not you) and on the other hand you shout day and night about Pakistan having destroyed your country with its interference.
    Come on, you can’t have your cake and eat it it too. Choose only one of these two things and use only that to smack in our faces your absurd self-serving arguments.Recommend

  • Junaid
    Jun 6, 2015 - 4:01PM

    This letter is just leaked to keep a lid on anti-Ashraf Ghani critics in Afghanistan. This “pressure” is just meant for public consumption in Afghanistan because there is already a lot of agreement and mutual cooperation being reached with Pakistan within which each side is adequately addressing the other’s concerns. This leak was just to silence anti-Ashraf Ghani critics.Recommend

  • Lolz
    Jun 6, 2015 - 4:50PM

    @zeb abdul ghani: We supported Taliban? Dude, the same Americans who actually fought a war with USSR, still reside in your country and actually control resources and puppet authorities – fix them first instead of reminding Pakistan its role! Moreover, Afghanistan has never done as per own wishes, never in history, Why not the wishes of the closest neighbor be fulfilled ;-) Recommend

  • Naveed Jasim
    Jun 6, 2015 - 5:21PM

    @zeb abdul ghani:
    “We afghans will do what we think is right for our country.”
    Zeb, that’s exactly what you Afghans have NOT done for the last three quarters of a century. It was your expansionist lust against Pakistan that led you to sponsor terrorists against it and even repeatedly invade Pakistan with your regular army all during the 1950s, 60s and 70s and then your Mohammad Daoud Khan courted the USSR to help you against Pakistan. What happened instead was that the USSR’s proxies in your country murdered your own leader took over the country, and systematically destroyed it until Pakistani backed mujahideen repelled the Soviets and liberated your country.
    Then since 2001 your Hamid Karzai sponsored a vast array of terrorist proxies that devastated Pakistan across its entire western flank, but that couldn’t help you defeat the Afghan Taliban or make your country slide dangerously in the direction of another collapse and civil war which threatens to break out in your country at any time until Pakistan started mediation between you and the Afghan Taliban. Ashraf Ghani saw the writing on the wall, realized the futility of Hamid Karzai’s policies, which at the end of the day only harmed Afghanistan further without meaningfully weakening Pakistan, and so he abandoned Karzai’s policies and has started cooperation with Pakistan.
    If you Afghans had ever done “what you think is right for your country” then there would have been no Soviet invasion, no Pakistani interference, no Taliban, no American invasion, no Pakistani proxy war, and no uncertain future for you now. What is “right for your country” is to now stop your senseless hostility against Pakistan and start cooperating with that country for mutual peace and prosperity. The last 7 decades have shown that confrontation with Pakistan will only come back to destroy you, cooperating with Pakistan will give you immense rewards.Recommend

  • Naveed Jasim
    Jun 6, 2015 - 5:34PM

    @zeb abdul ghani:
    “Afghanistan can show the door to USSR” — As Malia pointed out above, Pakistan, not Afghanistan, showed the door to the USSR, you Afghans were merely cannon fodder for OUR war effort against the Russians. You were the ones who invited the Russians to take over the country (on whose begging did the Russians take over your country and kill Hafizullah Amin? Look it up!) so if you really think you can beat a superpower then you can only be pitied.
    “then think what they can do to pak.” — Please do it to us! Then Pakistan will practically demonstrate to you how absurd your self-delusion is.
    @Express Tribune: Why do you publish comments by people like Zeb, who are able to make ZERO constructive contribution to this discussion?Recommend

  • Naveed Jasim
    Jun 6, 2015 - 5:40PM

    @zeb abdul ghani:
    Your country suffers from Pakistani interference because that is exactly what you inflicted on Pakistan starting from 1947, and then you joined hands with India and the Soviet Union to help you create Pakhtunistan, which would have wiped Pakistan off the face of the earth. In the face of that, did you really expect Pakistan to sit back and be walked all over on? You were the ones who started a zero sum eat-or-be-eaten confrontation with Pakistan with your absurd rejection of a legal international border instead of letting Pakhtunistan go and choosing the path of friendly neighborliness with Pakistan. You reap what you sow.Recommend

  • Naveed Jasim
    Jun 6, 2015 - 5:49PM

    @zeb abdul ghani:
    It takes two to tango. If Pakistan did something to you, it must have been because you did something to provoke it. Read the journal article in the following link very carefully, because this is the reason why Pakistan interfered in your country: http://yalejournal.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Article-Gartenstein_Ross-and-Vassefi.pdf
    Besides, consider this:
    When you are a geostrategic prize, fail to form a functioning state and stable government, are under constant mob rule, are brainwashed with unjustified racist megalomania geared toward territorial conquest of large parts of Pakistan, for that purpose pursue alliances not in the best interests of peace for yourselves or anyone else, pursue alliances that are not advisable given the region’s strategic realities, never cease and desist from your illegal expansionism, and vow to wage a perpetual all-out war and low intensity conflict along Pakistan’s entire western flank, then you should naturally expect interference and hostile retaliation from the nation whose very existence you have always made it your business to actively threaten and endanger.
    It is only bare-faced hypocrisy and an irresponsible unwillingness to take full credit for your own utter destruction and national ruin that could make you denounce Pakistan on this forum for choosing to defend itself from your provocations.Recommend

  • amit
    Jun 7, 2015 - 12:34AM

    @Bewildered: your comments are beyond stupid. i am bewildered as to why you would even have this opinion. you pakistanis arent even worth talking to anymore. read the article again, in typical pakistani fashion their leaders deny any letter. everyone in the world is sick of your double speak. if you dont want peace just say it. afghanistan gets it, saudi arabia gets it, india gets it. you will never stop your taliban from attacking afghanistan. your leadership is only considered with lining their pockets. you guys on the bottom just advocate for your poor leadership because thats all you can do. every year your country gets further and further away from development. how many years pass where you speak of development yet year over year there is nothing. if you had some development, your kids wouldnt have to be suicide bombers and may have a shot at education. but taliban dont like education…they dont like peace, pakistan backs this view. soooooon your country will be irrelevant….YES! Recommend

  • Alina
    Jun 7, 2015 - 2:19AM

    @zeb abdul ghani:
    “we dnt accept durand line either.” — Well, now you know why Pakistan interfered in your country and sponsored Taliban.
    When you Afghans accuse Pakistan of having hegemonic designs on your country, you act like Pakistan is the one who wants to grab 60% of Afghanistan and create Loy Pakistan.Recommend

  • powvow
    Jun 7, 2015 - 9:40AM

    Pakistanis kabhi nahi sudhrenge!!! On one hand they shed crocodile tears for Rohingyas, but stab their fellow Muslim Afghans in their back…Recommend

  • Obelix
    Jun 7, 2015 - 10:09AM

    Pakistan’s existential crisis is due to its attitude towards its neighbors. The game may be up.Recommend

  • Bewildered
    Jun 7, 2015 - 11:05AM

    @Obelix:

    *”The game may be up.”

    Says who! Whose own generations upon generations lived under slavery of few thousand for over a thousand years.Recommend

  • Bewildered
    Jun 7, 2015 - 11:18AM

    @Naveed Jasim: @Malia: @shumaila Khan:

    Please be careful while replying to comments apparently posted by Afghans so that our replies don’t create hatred with each other as most of the comments posted here are by Indians pretending to be Afghans with the sole objective of pitting Afghans against Pakistanis while enjoying the fighting of the two brotherly Muslim nations. Thank you.Recommend

  • stevenson
    Jun 7, 2015 - 9:32PM

    @zeb abdul ghani: Indians may continue to play games and confuse the issue but you can tell that Afghanistan has only suffered by being an Indian puppet for over 60 years. There is a reason why millions of Afghans prefer to live as refugees in Pakistan and do not wish to go home so loud talk and bluster makes no sense.Recommend

  • Times up
    Jun 8, 2015 - 11:39AM

    Okay that was your last chance. Wait until Afghans become your eternal enemy. We will make India seem like kind hearted women.

    As long as you know that Afghanistan gave you every last oppurtunity to be nieghborly. Have it your way.Recommend

  • Funnt Pakis
    Jun 8, 2015 - 11:42AM

    @Malia:

    You couldnt even fight India. You defeated the USSR? That one was funny.Recommend

  • Ashok
    Jun 9, 2015 - 8:35AM

    @Bewildered:

    If Afghanistan really want the full and wholehearted cooperation from Pakistan, their are only 2 preconditions for this. 1- Stop acting as a proxy of India against Pakistan. 2- Eliminate all the terrorist outfits working against Pakistan from the Afghan soil. And you will have every possible help and cooperation you want from Pakistan.

    Replace Afghanistan by Pakistan and Pakistan by India in the above comment and you will realize that’s what Indian Govt. is asking for Pakistan from so long. ;) Recommend

  • devindersingh
    Jul 4, 2015 - 1:11AM

    @zeb abdul ghani: pakistan want to treat Afghanistan as a pakistan’s own state or Pakistan think they are the only savior of Afghanistan. Pakistan should understand that Afghanistan is a country not a Pakistan persinal propertyRecommend

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