Over the past decade and a half, Pakistanis have become used to hostile statements emanating from Kabul, where anti-Pakistan sentiments run high, but President Ashraf Ghani’s uncharacteristic outburst on Monday was thoughtless and divisive.
One thing, however, clear from Mr Ghani’s temper-tantrum against Pakistan was that the bonhomie between Islamabad and Kabul, which was painstakingly developed by Mr Ghani himself and Pakistani leaders, now faces a reality check.
The flare-up cannot be dismissed as a one off emotional blurt, because Mr Ghani repeated the same in a meeting with foreign envoys at his presidential palace on Tuesday. It may soon become a norm, much like during the Karzai days. Chief Executive Mr Abdullah Abdullah, who was so far quiet, has also started churning out allegations against Pakistan in what now looks like an anti-Pakistan race between the two ruling partners.
Mr Ghani’s comments that came in the backdrop of a flurry of massive terrorist attacks in Kabul and other parts of the country accused Pakistan of continuing to shelter Taliban and not delivering on the pledges about preventing the militants from orchestrating attacks from its soil.
The frustration shown by Mr Ghani in his volcanic presser was expected from a leader, whose country is facing increasing insecurity because of stepped up terrorist attacks, but he went overboard in his criticism of Pakistan.
“It is natural for the Afghan leadership to feel jittery and there are enough anti-Pakistan elements inside and outside Afghanistan who will work overtime to create misunderstandings,” Ambassador (r) Aziz Ahmed Khan says.
It’s true that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif had over the past few months promised to help the Afghan government reconcile with the Taliban and went to the extent of declaring Afghanistan’s enemy as Pakistan’s enemy. These public statements by Pakistani leaders were accompanied by some tough talking with the insurgents on the back-channel. It was this pressure on the Taliban that forced the militants to attend the first round of reconciliation talks in Murree on July 7. One shouldn’t forget that those within Taliban who were opposed to peace negotiations had accused their pro-talks colleagues of trying to protect their “properties” and other interests in Pakistan. This was a proof that Pakistani security agencies had exerted pressure on the Afghan militants to talk.
“We need to go the extra mile for President Ashraf Ghani’s sake”
How the process faltered a day before the two sides were to reconvene in Pakistan for a second session, where a ceasefire was on top of the agenda, holds important clues as regards to who is at work against Pakistan’s role in facilitating the peace process and the improvement in bilateral ties. Mr Ghani thankfully admitted in the same presser that the disclosure about Mullah Omar’s death was his intelligence agency’s job.
Agreed, Mullah Omar had died years ago and it was wrong on part of the Taliban and others who knew about the information but kept it secret; but at the same time, wasn’t the timing of the disclosure not equally mischievous? What did Afghan intelligence aim to achieve from the revelation? How much peace did the move bring?
The untimely disclosure not only threw the nascent peace process off-track, but also ignited a bitter succession struggle within the militant group. One of the explanations for the latest attacks in Afghanistan is that the different contenders for the Taliban leadership are asserting their credentials through these attacks.
“With the Taliban in a leadership struggle, the security situation is likely to deteriorate before it improves. The IS is a new factor which will try to fish in troubled waters so as to get a foothold for a base in Afghanistan,” Amb Khan explains.
One should not also forget that the information regarding Taliban’s willingness to negotiate, which was confidentially shared by Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif with Mr Ghani in February, was also prematurely leaked to the media because of which the process got delayed by months.
Therefore, Pakistan Army’s repeated warnings about ‘detractors and spoilers’ in the process are not completely off the mark.
Mr Ghani’s complaint that Pakistan has not been cooperating against terrorism is also a bit surprising.
He should be better asked about what happened to the accord between ISI and NDS, under which the two countries were to cooperate against terrorism. A storm was unleashed in Kabul after the signing of the agreement, which now rests in limbo.
The elements opposed to the bilateral intelligence sharing and counter-terrorism cooperation were so strong and well entrenched in Afghan establishment that they then began threatening Mr Ghani’s continuation in office.
Pakistan Army’s warnings about ‘detractors and spoilers’ are not off
Before staking a claim that Afghanistan’s “righteousness has been proven and everyone in the region knows we (the Afghan government) made all sincere efforts for peace”, he may also think about the role of those around him and their sincerity in pursuing peace with Pakistan.
It is also beyond comprehension how Pakistan could guarantee cessation of hostilities in Afghanistan. Pakistan could only have offered to help with peace process and increase counter-terrorism cooperation. Beyond that it takes time for such problems to be resolved. The limited capacity of Afghan security forces and rise of groups like ISIS also need to be factored in.
But, at the same time, Pakistan too has many skeletons in its closet and cannot be completely exonerated.
The Afghans have a point when they raise the issue of continued presence of Taliban leadership in Pakistan, where they move about freely. The meetings Taliban leaders held in Pakistan after the confirmation of Mullah Omar’s death gave the Afghan leadership an excuse to point fingers at Pakistan.
That was the only tangible proof Mr Ghani had to offer in his meeting with foreign envoys. He said that Taliban during those meetings in Pakistan, after confirmation of Mullah Omar’s death, renewed the pledge to wage war against Afghanistan.
This is something that no country would allow.
These and other issues would have come up during a visit of an Afghan delegation to Pakistan planned for Thursday. The trip is believed to be for ratcheting up pressure on Pakistan with regards to presence of Taliban leaders on its soil.
It’s good that the two sides are talking as well, but the maximalist position taken by Mr Ghani ahead of the security meeting is not very helpful.
Amb Khan counsels patience and asks not to get prickly over the Ghani tirade. “Pakistan needs to be patient and increase high level interaction at political, security and intelligence levels in order to allay Afghan apprehensions,” he says. “We need to go the extra mile for President Ashraf Ghani’s sake. He means well and wants to bring peace to his country through reconciliation and accommodation and to work with Pakistan to achieve this.”
The writer is a freelance journalist based in Islamabad
This was one guy wanted to reach out to you and become friends.. but you cannot be magnimous and let got of your old assets.. So China, India, Iran and Afghanistan all complain about terrorism from your borders.. do you have any other neighbours left?
Old habits never die. Unless madrassah eduction is modified to reflect modern thoughts, this mentality of violence will continue. These madrassah educated children have no idea of anything besides muslim religion and thus can’t find any job
which causes frustration. Religion is important but its also important to have a job, house, family and other thing in life. Who knows if these children have proper education , they could be scientists, doctors, engineers and economists. I do feel sorry for these children and and the wasted talent they have.
Understand that every terrorist act in Pakistan’s neighborhood cannot be attributed to the state of Pakistan but the continued presence of extremists in Pakistan and the state looking the other way or quietly supporting them is not helping. In fact it is hurting Pakistan more than its neighbors.
It is not just the madrassah’s that potentially effect the thinking of the youth but also the Pakistan Government sanctioned text books and their slanted depiction of minorities especially the Hindus and India. The Blasphemy law too is suffocating to the minorities.
Unless there is a better distribution of resources, more towards education, health and new job opportunities and less to the ever hungry military, Pakistan may continue to suffer and to some extent the neighborhood too. There was a lot of hope after the Pakistan Military started moving against the extremists the past 12 months – however the tempo has been weakened and more needs to be done for Pakistan’s sake.
Ghani is seen as GHQ ‘Pindi’s man in The Arg, Kabul. His fulminations against Pakistan are seen as scripted and coordinated with Pindi – to resonate with the intense anti-Pakistan sentiment in Afghanistan, with a view to preserving his position. Both propositions are, in all probability, entirely true. In less than a year that Ghani has been President, he has managed to become a pathetic and much-reviled figure in Afghanistan. For all the advantage ‘Pindi had gained by positioning its stooge in The Arg, the net result has been a truck-load of scrambled egg. Tsk! Tsk!
Let’s forget about who is Pakistan and who is Afghan, let’s take it a side that who blames whom- I have few questions and I hope you will understand to frankly reply-Again forgive me please if you think I am whatever…
1. Where are the Taliban leadership living?
2. Where were they living in the past?
3. Where was Mullah Omar treated?
4. Was ISI and Agha Khan hospital unaware of his name and status?
5. Who took him there?
6. What resources do Taliban use for communicating each other? and whether it belongs to Afghanistan or PTCL?
7. Where was Bin Laden living and where was he killed?
8. Where have been the major number of Al-Qaeda members living and where were they arrested, here are Pakistani statistics: http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-2-44773-Top-al-Qaeda-leaders-captured-or-killed-on-Pakistani-soil
9.Who trained Taliban, wasn’t he Hamid Gul or Colonel Imam, did they belong to Afghanistan or India or Israel?
10. If the suicide bombers arrested in Afghanistan say that he was given money at Rawalpindi by XX person, kept at BBB guesthouse, trained by YYY at this and that headquarter, shall we still say that Afghans are blaming Pakistan for nothing?
11. Why do our leaders in Islamabad (Hamid Gul, Sirajul Haq, Maulana Diesel etc.) wants killing in Afghanistan by supporting taliban and are against the same thing inside Pakistan?
12.Can’t we make a public opnion on this and say clearly to our leaders to stop this proxy war in our neighbor’s houses..we can’t be safer if they aren’t.
13. The Quran we read is the same what is read by Afghans, why should they be killed and we are happy that Taliban did the justice and if they same happens with our brothers and sisters here in pakistan then we mourn and say India…Israel…bla bla…
The last question, if ISI can bring Taliban to Murree into a nice place to meet Afghans why simply they can’t fold up their blanket and shoot them and finish the story???????????????????????????/ do we have two Muhammads that brought separate Quran for us different than what they read there???????????
I have a lot more to ask my brothers and sisters but hope you may not label me as a spy…it happens usually when you speak the truth.