Just last Sunday, Pakistan’s new foreign policy chief Mr Srataj Aziz denied backing Afghanistan’s breakup or planning to end the Afghan war with a power-sharing role for the Taliban during a fence-mending visit to Kabul, aimed at lowering cross-border tension. His mission was to stop the rot, extend a supportive hand to the Afghan government and reiterate the invitation by PM Nawaz to President Karzai to visit Pakistan. He met with Karzai and Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul and asserted once again the need of any peace parleys being owned and led by Afghanistan itself, and ruled out the possibility of Pakistan keeping in line the Taliban be they of any origin Afghan or Pakistani.

Sartaj Aziz further explained that Islamabad wanted a reset on diplomacy with Kabul after a sharp deterioration triggered by botched efforts to aid US efforts to start peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar. A peaceful, stable and united Afghanistan is in the vital interest of Pakistan. Without peace and security in Afghanistan, peace and security in Pakistan cannot be ensured, Aziz said after meeting Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmay Rassoul. But unfortunately this optimistic Pakistani stance was almost immediately embroiled in a furor after Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry accused him of having raised the idea of power-sharing between the government in Kabul and the Taliban to help end the 12-year-old Afghan conflict. He bluntly remarked that the efforts of both sides to fight terrorism and to strengthen relations have failed.

The reluctant Afghan President Hamid Karzai government has always rejected power-sharing with the Taliban, who shut their political office in Doha two weeks ago, after Kabul accused insurgent leaders of behaving like a government-in-waiting. Few Western diplomats in Kabul hold high hopes that the Doha talks can be successfully revived. Earlier, Pakistani authorities had also supported travel to Qatar by Taliban representatives at the request of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, charged with pushing peace with insurgent leaders.

To improvise the same, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered a new policy of no-meddling in Afghanistan and told his Foreign Ministry to formulate a new strategy of improved dialogue with Afghanistan. The nascent government seems to have the understanding that the policies of past regarding the Afghanistan and the other stakeholders within has harmed itself. Pakistan helped the Taliban take power in Afghanistan in the 1990s and faces an insurgency at home. This gave birth to Pakistani Taliban that is a separate entity from the Afghan Taliban, though allied with them at their own terms.

Pathetically President Hamid Karzai has set a prerequisite to consider Mian Nawaz’s postulation to visit Pakistan that was offered to him by Sartaj Aziz on Prime Minister’s lieu. The stipulation made was that Pakistan had to make somber attempts to battle terrorism and must collaborate with Afghanistan in restoring peace. Perhaps the Afghan leadership has failed to appraise a deep-seated fact that relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan are a key element in any desired peace process or a possible agreement with the Taliban, a fact agreed to by all sides.

The need of hour is to take correct decision, the decision that benefits the both sides in long run. If we can work out the approximations to our reciprocal gratification and security, then possibly a utilitarian negotiation may be done. However the delusions and misdeeds may not resolve the answers to our conundrums that lead us to the middle of nowhere.

KHURRAM ALI KHAN,

Lahore, July 24.