October 14, 2011
The decade long protracted warfare in Afghanistan has perilous repercussions for Pakistan’s national interest. Despite its colossal losses in war on terrorism, Islamabad has failed to win the hearts and minds of the ruling elite in Kabul. Moreover, the Americans are also very much skeptical about the role of Pakistan in the ongoing war on terrorism. Unfortunately, they have been questioning the integrity of the armed forces of Pakistan.
Although, the law enforcement agencies of Pakistan arrested and killed large number of Al Qaeda led terrorist syndicates, yet Kabul and Washington believe that Pakistani intelligence agencies have soft corner for the terrorist groups, particularly Afghan Taliban. Indeed, this kind of the impression is not obliging for intelligence sharing and joint military operations against terrorist groups.
Recently, Pentagon expressed its severe dissatisfaction over Pakistan and its leading officials accused Pakistani intelligence agency—Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) for supporting Haqqani Network, which was involved in numerous attacks against the coalition forces in Afghanistan. Though, the State Department and White House did not support Admiral (retired) Mike Mullen assessment about ISI role or connection with the Haqqani network, yet they maintained that Pakistan should do more.
Importantly, the United States rhetorical onslaught antagonized both the political and military establishment in Pakistan. The Chief of Pakistan Army, General Pervez Kayani had categorically rejected Americans allegations and refused to start military operation in North Waziristan. The armed forces stance was supported by the political forces in Pakistan. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani convened All Parties Conference (APC) to deliberate Pakistan-United States relations on September 29, 2011.
Almost all the political parties participated in the APC and their representatives chalked out a consensus communiqué. The communiqué manifested that the ruling elite in Pakistan is on the same page and the country is not ready to accept dictates from the super power. Though the participants expressed the desire to maintain cordial relations with the United States, yet they were very much determined not to compromise on the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Pakistan. They also stressed that they would not tolerate any unilateral American action inside of Pakistan. Subsequently, the parliamentary committee also supported the stance of the armed forces of Pakistan and findings of the All Parties Conference.
The Pakistanis unity has an impact on the Americans perceptions about the Pakistani state and society. They softened their rhetorical strikes, but continue their drone strikes in North Waziristan. Immediately, after the APC, the White House and State Department adopted a reconciliatory approach to pacify Islamabad.
President Karzai frequently criticizes Pakistan to camouflage his governance shortcomings, failure to establish his government’s writ in Afghanistan and also to satisfy anti-Pakistan Afghan factions, particularly, former Northern Alliance comrades. During his recent interview with the BBC, he candidly called for engaging the Taliban through Pakistan. This statement needs critical examination for understanding Kabul’s perceptions about Pakistan.
President Karzai seemed realistic and pragmatic, if he was acknowledging the constructive role of Pakistan in the reconciliatory process among the stake-holders in Afghanistan. Conversely, if he was referring Pakistan as a trouble maker and a spoiler of the peace process in Afghanistan, he sounds very much cynical. He has been failing to realize that Afghan Talibans are a reality in the Afghanistan affairs and they have successfully been fighting asymmetrical warfare with the coalition forces. Indeed, they are not in control of Pakistani intelligence agency.
Pakistan has been interested in a peaceful Afghanistan after the withdrawal of United States led coalition forces. It is an established fact that Afghanistan’s internal instability severely tax Pakistan and is in the advantage of the anti-Pakistan forces. Since 1979, for example, Pakistan has been suffering due the political and economic instability in Afghanistan. The Russians and Americans invasion on Kabul not only ruined Afghanistan but have severe repercussion for Pakistan’s internal security. More precisely, stable and peaceful Afghanistan is in the interest of Pakistan.
Pakistan has been combating the menace of transnational terrorist groups. Ironically, without realizing the limits of Pakistani capacity, both Kabul and Washington have been pressurizing Islamabad to do more. In addition, they are not doing enough to stop the cross-border attack on the Pakistani check posts at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. This apathetic approach antagonizes the common man in the country.
Therefore, it is imperative that Kabul, Washington and Islamabad should seriously address the conflicting issues and chalk out a comprehensive collective strategy to restore the peace in Afghanistan.