A top Pakistan Foreign Office official has levelled a grievous charge against Afghan President Hamid Karzai: “Right now, he is the biggest impediment to the peace process...In trying to look like a saviour he is taking Afghanistan straight to hell,” he told Reuters on Monday. It should be understood that there must be incontrovertible, solid reasons for a high-ranking diplomat, known for making cautious utterances, to accuse the head of state of another country in such harsh terms. After all, Afghanistan is not only Pakistan’s neighbour, but is also closely and inextricably linked to it in more than one ways, each vying for being characterised as the most deep-rooted and the most significant. Ethnic homogeneity – the same Pashtuns tribes living on either side of the Durand Line, sharing family ties and, thus, joys and sorrows, speaking the same language and moving across the border freely; the commonality of religious factor and its outgrowth culture tends to cement their relations even further. In the war-on-terror context, as reflected in the sufferings of the Afghan people, in particular the Pashtuns who constitute the bulk of the Taliban, it is idle to assume that their kith and kin in Pakistan’s tribal belt could have remained aloof and insensitive to the ongoing tragic drama across Afghanistan. Pakistan has suffered most in siding with the US in the war, as its own ethnic Pashtuns felt outraged at our help that was being targeted against their co-ethnics.
Pakistan even today hosts over two million Afghan refugees (at one time the figure touched even four million or five, according to different estimates), who entered the country after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1989, most lingered on, and then their number swelled as fallout of the war on terror. Then, being landlocked, it would be too hazardous for the country to put the age-old commercial relations in jeopardy.
It is hard to fathom whose agenda President Karzai could be following to throw spanner in the works of efforts to bring about reconciliation in the war-torn and ethnically torn Afghanistan. It is a measure of the confusion that prevails in his mind that his stalling of the process, with the exit of foreign troops not far away, is, in fact, thwarting his own agenda of survival in the Afghan milieu. With that prop gone, the fear of Foreign Office official that there will be “complete chaos in Afghanistan if settlement is not reached by 2014” looks to be a terrible reality. Islamabad, apart from approaching the Taliban, is also establishing contact with the Northern Alliance, its erstwhile enemy, to make sure that the two could forget the hostilities and rancour of the past to move together to create a happier Afghanistan where progress and prosperity are the order the day. Thus, President Karzai should realise that Pakistan’s role is positive and crucial in arriving at the goal. Secretary of State John Kerry whose country has all along promoted India in Afghanistan would not otherwise have acknowledged that Islamabad’s role was indispensable to ensuring peace and stability in the post-withdrawal period.