COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s meetings with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and chief of the Afghan High Council Abdullah Abdullah in Kabul have been reported to be “substantive”, where both sides expressed their desire for peace to return to Afghanistan through resumption of an intra-Afghan dialogue process. As its neighbour and home to thousands of Afghan refugees, Pakistan has always shown keen interest and readiness in facilitating talks between the opposing sides of the conflict.

Now that US President Donald Trump has taken a clear position in favour of withdrawal of US troops and starting an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process, Afghan policy circles are considering reviewing their hawkish position on Pakistan – often adopted at the behest of Indian interests – and beginning to see the wisdom in acknowledging the positive role Pakistan can and wishes to play in resolving the dispute. The US also acknowledges this role which is borne out by the visit to Islamabad of its focal person on the subject, Zalmay Khalilzad. The ceasefire during Eid and some progress in prisoner exchanges between the Afghan government and the Taliban have created a better environment for talks, but due to mutual mistrust and problematic experiences, the process has proven to be quite challenging so far. Therefore, it is wise to remain cautious and manage expectations. For now, it is one step at a time. It is important to isolate those who wish to see perpetual war and not fall victim to their attempts at preventing the peace process from making progress.

Most importantly, it must not be forgotten that the people of Afghanistan have suffered immensely due to war and destruction that has never fully ceased since the Soviet invasion in the 1979. Afghanistan too deserves to thrive under a democratic government, which represents the collective will of all Afghan people, and protects the rights of its citizens including women and minorities. Pakistan should do whatever it can in helping the Afghans realise this dream.