Pakistan and Afghanistan, two Muslim majority countries with have linguistic, racial, religious and traditional resemblances with each other lying in the midst of Asia. Afghanistan being called the “Heart of Asia” by national poet of Pakistan and visionary person of 20th century, while Pakistan an important transit for emerging superpowers like China & Russia in South Asia for their geopolitical and economic purposes towards Arabian Sea.
Pak-Afghan relations are having quite much ups and downs since mid of 20th century, whether they are in form of border skirmishes, the alleged use of proxies against each other, and exchange of bitter diplomatic statements. Despite of all facts, there has been an exchange of humanitarian-based actions as well while having blood relations among people on both sides economic, social, cultural, educational and trade ties in the disturbed correlation of Pakistan & Afghanistan.
It can be called a diplomatic success for Pakistan in terms of Afghan Peace Process because every regional player including Central Asian States, United States which is a direct conflict actor in Afghan Conflict, Iran, China, Russia and even leading Muslim-majority states like Turkey and Saudi Arabia appreciated Pakistan’s efforts for using channels to bring Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan aka Afghan Taliban’s leadership on the table of Peace Talks with United States.
The Pak Afghan relationship regarding Afghan Taliban is also of importance. No doubt there have been some concerns by Government of Afghanistan regarding the Peace Process with Afghan Taliban regarding the issues of Women Rights and their denial in steering talks with them because of some historic concerns vis-à-vis Warlords-cum-politicians like Abdul Rasheed Dostum that are part of Afghan government. Anyhow Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan are looking in the direction of probable Intra-Afghan Talks after their representative Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar signed “Reduction of Violence” or a peace deal with United States Envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad at Qatari capital Doha on 29th February, 2020 and the exchange of prisoners were held from both Afghan Government and Taliban.
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Although the Peace Process is still in process in Afghanistan, how this Peacemaking effort in Afghanistan will bring stability on geopolitical for Pakistan and how both states stability, peace and progress are interrelated with each other? As it is stated before in this observations that despite of all consequences that both states have faced in form of Soviet-Afghan War, so-called War on Terror, skirmishes on Durand Line, cross-border terrorism & insurgency, refugee crisis and diplomatic rifts; the people of both states have blood relations, local traders of both states are dependent on each other’s commodities, have cultural and religious ties and shares some very strong traditions and historic components regarding linguistics and aesthetics.
The people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (with merged former Federally Administered Tribal Areas) and Northern Balochistan from Pakistani side are that much integrated with the people of Paktika, Paktia, Nangarhar, Kandahar, Zabol, Ghazni, Helmand and Kunar whether they are on geographic basis or on religious, social and cultural aspects. Secondly Pakistan is now in the focus of China because the project “Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)” formulated and one its major part will pass through Pakistan in form of “China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)”. The Pak-Afghan relationship also holds significance for China.
The BRI project will connect Eurasia and other parts of world for the purpose of communications & trade through maritime, railway, internet fiber cable and road linkages. So for the success of this huge BRI project initiated by Chinese government there should be peace and stability in Afghanistan regarding its geographic position and to follow the Mackinder’s Theory of increasing influence in heartland, the geopolitical importance of Afghanistan has attracted China by initiating projects there that will perchance bring economic progress in Afghanistan as well while bringing success to the economic and geopolitical gamechanger in form of CPEC inside their closely neighbored Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
The spillover affect on each other due to political instability, unmanaged border and terrorism had been affecting both states and thousands of people from both sides have lost their lives in which majority of them are from Pashtun ethnic community and they faced the most crisis in form of extra-judicial killings, bombings, target killing, forced disappearances and militancy, so resolving the issues mentioned above in Afghanistan will ultimately bring a positive spillover in Pakistan specially in its Pashtun majority areas.
No doubt all these massive economic projects & post-conflict situation will help in instigating post-conflict rebuilding not only inside Afghanistan but also in conflict-affected parts of Pakistan. Now what should both states do that will form an atmosphere of mutual trust and combined strategy for bringing stability in region that will not only benefit Pakistan and Afghanistan but will also benefit the whole Asian region.
- First of all, there should be a combined strategy to counter those terrorist outfits whether they are Daesh (Khorasan), TTP, Al-Qaeda or any other sort of terrorist organization for which intelligence sharing and military diplomacy should be initiated despite of blaming each other for conducting terror violence.
- Secondly, Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) should be operated like comprehensive trade deals, guaranteeing of each other by not providing safe havens to proxies to bring instability against each other, provision of easy visa services, providing easy border crossings (which are in process on Torkham Border already) and conducting of Sports Diplomacy from both sides.
- Thirdly, the fencing from both sides is not possible so conducting activities like fencing on whole Durand Line will not stop terrorism but will increase hatred on both sides.
- Fourthly, in both states the most familiar thing is Pashto language so the media on both sides should increase focus on development of Pashto Language and use the religious factor of Sufism of which legendary poets from Pashtun ethnicity like Rehman Baba were advocates that eventually will help in spreading message of love, harmony and peace on both sides of Durand Line.
- Fifth point is that the process of Conflict Transformation, by following the agenda that to forget about the bloody and mysterious past which is no doubt a quite difficult thing but to come and initiate joint reconciliation program Pak-Afghan state-level to level of common people (for which system of local Pashtun Jirga will also help), to address with each other and to talk about shared future that may help in bringing two neighbors closer than before and to stay peaceful in future.
The points here doesn’t supports the expansionist policies (or theories) of both sides which are not acceptable in post-Westphalian System of state sovereignty but to maintain harmony on both sides of Durand Line. The theory of “Lar ao Bar” according to me not like those who believe it is a theory of Pan-Pashtun Nationalism to establish free “Pashtunistan” in Pashtun-majority lands constituting Pakistan and Afghanistan but a theory of joint struggle for peace, stability, humanity, progress and absence of animosity among not only Pashtun population of both states but of people belonging from every ethnic or sectarian group in both states.
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