Acting on the agreement reached among Islamabad, Kabul and Washington about furthering the reconciliation process in war-torn Afghanistan, Pakistan set free eight more Taliban leaders from its custody on Monday, bringing the total number of such detainees so far released to 26. The rationale behind this understanding was to facilitate the participation of Taliban leadership in negotiations designed to work out a formula of post-withdrawal governance that is acceptable to all parties and, obviously, results in putting an end to the raging scourge of terrorism. Thus, Islamabad’s gesture of releasing Taliban detainees underlines its commitment to creating the right conditions for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned solution to take place. It should set at rest the notion that Pakistan still holds on to the doctrine of ‘strategic depth’ that at one time was its military strategists’ top priority. All Pakistan wants is a peaceful Afghanistan governed by a leadership that appreciates the sincerity of feelings we have for the Afghans.

Sadly, as things stand, the present government in Afghanistan has not been responding to Pakistan’s goodwill gestures in a positive manner. The militants, led by Maulvi Fazlullah, who managed to escape the military’s onslaught launched to clean up Swat of these dangerous elements, continue to operate from the across the border and, as it seems, without let or hindrance. As a result, our check posts on the border remain vulnerable to their sudden forays into Pakistan causing casualties among our soldiers. Kabul or, for that matter, the US-led Nato forces in control of the country have not addressed our concerns about this irritant even though the location of their stronghold is no secret. In addition to that, Kabul rarely, if ever, has the decency of acknowledging what Islamabad has done to strengthen the bilateral ties of friendship. Accusations of sanctuaries of militants who hop across into Afghanistan and strike at US and Afghan interests are the frequent fare of its leadership’s utterances. One would sincerely wish that the reality sinks in with the government in Kabul that the interests of the two countries could only be served when the both join hands in eliminating these militant forces and restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan. For, that would have a positive spillover impact on the situation in Pakistan and the region as a whole.

The deadly phenomenon of TTP, whose sole focus appears to be to inflict the greatest harm to Pakistan in terms of human life, property and sense of security, cannot be excluded from the Pak-Afghan equation; for its avowed links with al-Qaeda and training centres in Afghanistan. The TTP brutally killed 21 of our soldiers it had abducted. Pakistan, forced to attack one of its safe havens in North Waziristan in which nearly 10 militants were killed, is facing a threat of retaliation. There is a need to take a holistic view of the situation and act with the purpose of bringing peace to the troubled region and for that both the countries would have to act in unison.