It is indeed very regrettable to note that despite the best efforts made by Pakistan to promote the process of reconciliation in Afghanistan and to develop a common strategy to deal with the common enemy of terrorism, the relations between the two countries continue to be marred by an ambience of mistrust and consequently there has been no material change in the situation. The relations between the two neighbours went into yet another nosedive when Pakistan perforce had to close the Pak-Afghan border in the wake of recent terrorists attack in Pakistan carried out by the TTP operatives based on the Afghan soil and also had to hit the training camps of the terrorists along on the Afghan territory close to the border between the two countries.
However it is gratifying to note that courtesy mediation by the UK government the security advisors of the two countries met in London last week to break the ice where both sides agreed to develop a joint mechanism to counter the common threat of terrorism. Reportedly both sides also exchanged lists of the wanted terrorists. Resultantly the Prime Miniser Nawaz Sharif has ordered immediate opening of Pak-Afghan border as a good will gesture recognizing that the closure was against economic and public interest. The order has been given in the hope that Afghanistan would take appropriate action to address the reasons that forced Pakistan to take this action.
There is no denying the fact that terrorism is the common enemy of Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as other countries of the region which have been affected by it in one way or the other. Nevertheless Pakistan and Afghanistan have a pivotal role in warding off the threat posed by this scourge which seems to have increased due to the arrival of IS in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan all along has been raising an accusing finger towards Pakistan whenever an incident of terrorism has been happening there and similarly Pakistan has also been pointing out the presence of the TTP operatives on the Afghan soil and calling upon the Afghan government to take a decisive action against them. However after the operation Zarb-e-Azb there remains no reason for Afghanistan to continue in the same vein as all the terrorist groups including the Haqqanios who had found refuge in North Waziristan have been uprooted and their hideout completely destroyed. Perhaps it is pertinent to mention that before the commencement of operation Zarb-e-Azb Pakistan had requested Afghanistan to make sure that the terrorists did not escape to Afghanistan to avoid the onslaught by the Pakistan military. But the necessary cooperation did not come forth with the result that most of the terrorists including operative of TTP crossed over to Afghanistan and have set up their training camps there. They continue to hit targets within Pakistan and repeated protestations by Pakistan have failed to invoke the desired response from the Afghan government. It was in the backdrop of the failure of the Afghan government to take action against the terrorists based on its soil and the unfurling of the spate of terrorists attacks within Pakistan like the one at Lahore and the other at Sehwan Sharif that Pakistan had to resort to this punitive measure.
The killing of the notorious terrorist Qari Yaseen in a drone attack in the province of Paktia on Monday is enough to corroborate Pakistan’s claims that the terrorists have found refuge in Afghanistan. Qari Yaseen is reported to be the mastermind of the terrorist attacks on Sri Lankan team, GHQ, Marriot Hotel Islamabad and Data Darbar Lahore. Only last Friday the terrorists based in Afghanistan attacked two Pakistani border security posts in which three security personnel were killed and eight seriously wounded. The nexus between TTP, Indian RAW and Afghan intelligence agency NDS is also an established fact as confessed by Latif Ullah Mehsood, Deputy leader of the TTP, who was arrested by the NATO forces in Afghanistan in 2013.
Pakistan has always believed that peace in Afghanistan was indispensable for peace in Pakistan and eliminating the menace of terrorism. It is because of this inevitable reality that in spite of continued non-cooperation by Afghanistan and its hostile attitude, Pakistan has continued its efforts to bring peace in Afghanistan which is quite evident from its participation in the QCG and QCCG mechanism as well as the trilateral dialogue between Russia, China and Pakistan , started at the Russian initiative. The scope of this initiative has been further enhanced and reportedly in the next meeting in early April twelve countries including Afghanistan will be attending it. Taliban reportedly have welcomed this move.
The military and political leaders of USA are also mindful of the need for Pakistan and Afghanistan to overcome their differences as they believe that the solution of Afghan conundrum without Pakistan was not possible. The Afghan leadership also needs to accept this inescapable reality and engage in a dialogue with Pakistan with sincerity of purpose. They surely need a joint mechanism to deal with the burgeoning threat by the terrorists.
Now that through the courtesy of a third party the stalemate has been broken and Pakistan has unilaterally ordered the opening of the border as a gesture of goodwill, Afghanistan must take reciprocal measures to build an ambience of trust and to consolidate the gains made through diplomatic channels. There is a need for joint efforts to manage the border between the two countries. Pakistan has already taken some concrete steps unilaterally to manage the border and the option of fencing the Pak-Afghan border has also been mulled because Pakistan simply cannot afford to allow cross-border movement of the terrorist elements.
Pakistan and Afghanistan are neighbours and have very strong religious, cultural and historic and economic bonds. Afghanistan being a land locked country depends on Pakistan for its trade with the outside world. None of the two can change the geographical and historic linkages between them. Their interests are inextricably linked with each other. Afghanistan needs peace and stability. Pakistan needs peace and stability and so do the countries of the region. That provides a very strong common cause for them to act in unison to eliminate the threat of terrorism.
Powerful countries of the region like Russia and China are ready to help in promoting the peace process in Afghanistan as well as dealing with terrorism. They are probably in a better position to pull it off than US and its allies who must through their weight behind the regional initiative. Simultaneously they must also help to remove the permeating mistrust between Pakistan and Afghanistan and encourage them to evolve the agreed joint mechanism to tackle terrorism. Talking peace with sincerity is the only option to find an amicable solution of the continued strife in Afghanistan and dealing with terrorism.