Pakistan and Afghanistan, as neighbors, have quite a lot in common. They have cultural similarity because both are home to a significant chunk of Pushtoons which constitute a major chunk of both countries’ populations. Not only overlapping culturally, both are also facing the invisible threat of extremism led terrorism which is ripping apart the social fabric of both countries. With so much in common and  both being caught in the vortex of extremism fed terrorism, on the face value, it seems that both should have an effective relationship that could help them counter the menace of extremism, but what is unfolding before us is about-face. Instead of capitalizing on their commonality against the menace of extremism, their current disillusionment with respect to each other is feeding extremism to thrive in the region as in the their disunity militants have found leeway to strike with full potential. How did the two countries lose sight of deteriorating relationship in the face of extremism led terrorism, can be understood from their failure of not maintaining “P/PC” balance in their relationship.

Stephen R.Covey, in his book entitled The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, talks about a principle that can ensure effectiveness in any relationship. He calls that principle P/PC balance. Though the target audience of the book are individuals, and all the principles mentioned there in the book are catering to an individual’s life, but the principle mentioned above is so encompassing that it can be applied to relationship among states. Before applying the aforementioned principle to Pak-Afghan relationship and how they have both failed in having this balance, let me give the readers a brief idea about P/PC balance.

P/PC balance is the abracadabra for bringing effectiveness in any sphere of life, be it any relationship, organization, or any other human activity. P stands for “production of desired results”, and PC stands for “production capability”. P/PC balance can be understood, as per author of the book, from fable of goose and golden egg in which P is the golden egg and PC is the goose. The story goes like that there is a poor farmer who has a goose that lays a golden egg a day. The farmer, instead of having one golden egg a day, decides to kill the goose in order to have all eggs at once. And when he does so, he finds none.

According to the author:

“Most people see effectiveness from golden egg paradigm; the more you produce, the more you do, the more effective you are. But as the story shows, true effectiveness is the function of two things: what is produced (the golden eggs) and the producing asset or capacity to produce (the goose).

If you adopt a pattern of life that focuses on golden eggs and neglect the goose, you will soon be without the asset that produces golden eggs. On the other hand, if you only take care of goose with no aim towards the golden eggs, you soon would not have the wherewithal to feed yourself or the goose”.

In the case of Pakistan and Afghanistan relations, the golden egg (P) is elimination of extremism led terrorism and the goose (PC) is the trust and cooperation they need to extend to each other in rooting out the menace of terrorism. Both are required to fend off strains they have in their relations which is indispensable for their battle against the menace of terrorism.  

P/PC balance is missing in Pak-Afghan relations in the sense that both are in the grip of their narrow interests. Both want consolidation of their desired results i.e. elimination of terrorism, but without PC i.e. trust and cooperation required to battle extremism led terrorism.The relationship has become weak because each one wants the other to submit to her interest without quid pro quo.

Pakistan’s policy vis-à-vis Afghanistan is being dictated by its myopic interest of having Pakistan’s friendly government in Afghanistan and that is not accommodating to expanding influence of India in Afghanistan. In order to make sure that these interests are met, Pakistan has maintained a set of “Good Taliban” as strategic asset in Afghanistan’s political spectrum for making itself count. Afghanistan cannot take the sympathy of being a victim. It equally bears role in bringing this relation to such a low trust. Afghanistan’s blind tilt towards India, which is hell bent upon squeezing Pakistan from Western border through supporting all those groups of Taliban in Afghanistan that are anti-Pakistan, and Afghanistan’s failure to bring a full stop to India’s proxy war venture on its soil against Pakistan have hardly left any leeway for Pakistan to rethink its Afghan policy. It seems as if both are legitimately trapped in a closet and cannot think beyond that.

Each one is shouting at other to unilaterally contribute to elimination of terrorism, but nobody is ready to pay the price for forging a relationship that is based upon trust and cooperation and that can help achieve the desired result. In other words, sans PC (goose) i.e. trust and cooperation, P (golden egg) i.e. elimination of terrorism cannot be made possible, thereof pitting this relationship against endless strains.

Both countries have been ripped apart by the menace of terrorism. The recent spate of terrorist attacks that happened in Pakistan brought into play again the old characters talking to each other from the old script of scapegoating the other for the whole mess, thereof resulting in border closure. In the face of common threat in the form of terrorism that is haunting two countries, there is a prospect for rooting out the menace because both countries have much in common. But for this to happen, PC, that is trust and cooperation, needs to be strengthened which needs an out of the box approach on both ends.