Despite the recent warming of relations, there is a long way to go before the relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan can be described as ‘normalised’. The attack on the Afghan parliament that was quickly claimed by the Afghan Taliban has led to an exchange of un-pleasantries and accusations. The Afghan intelligence service is claiming that elements within Pakistan were involved in the planning and financing of the attack, using the Haqqani network as a proxy. In addition to finance, it is alleged that these elements provided logistical support, and that the entire enterprise was planned in Peshawar. These are very serious allegations indeed, which Pakistan has refuted in the strongest terms.
The waters are further muddied by claims that the attack was the work of the Indian intelligence agency RAW, and was designed to derail the improvements in the relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Specifically, to undermine defence collaboration and the much publicised intelligence-sharing agreement signed between the two countries in the last month. This particular claim cannot be overlooked outright.
All the claims, counter-claims and refutations regarding the attack on the Afghan parliament hint that whilst there is both desire and willingness at the highest civilian and military levels in both Afghanistan and Pakistan for an improvement in relations, at a lower level, inside government institutions, such pacifism may be lacking. The role of other regional players that may not be wholly pleased with the recent warming of relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan cannot be discounted either.
Add to this, the sputtering peace process that involves the Afghan Taliban, the Afghan government and the Chinese, with Pakistan playing the role of a facilitator and honest broker, it is clear that the road ahead is going to be bumpy. Not all regional players are on the same page, or even reading from the same book and not all have an equal investment in the peace process in the region. Those who do not, will try to knock it off course, with the result being events like the one recently witnessed, followed by accusations and counter-accusations. Both countries need to realise before it is too late that the opportunities created by the recent warming of relations must not be wasted.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 27th, 2015.
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