A Pentagon report released on Monday for use by the Congress, once again terms Pakistan one of the three main obstacles to peace and stability in Afghanistan. The other two are the widespread corruption in the country and weak Afghan capability to effectively check incidents of terrorism. Islamabad figures prominently for its alleged oversight of the existence of militants’ safe havens in the Pak-Afghan border region, an obvious reference to the Haqqani group based in the North Waziristan Agency. This has been a long-standing charge despite Pakistan’s repeated disclaimers that the Haqqanis living the Agency were not responsible for targeting Nato/Isaf interests across the border; rather its faction located in Afghanistan that is avowedly committed to the ouster of foreign forces carries out such terrorist acts. But, somehow, the stand has failed to cut much ice with Washington.

At the same time, there is the realisation, in Washington, of the role that Pakistan can play in helping persuade the Taliban to sit on the negotiating table to work out the post-withdrawal governance framework. And that is why, in all probability, the report goes on to acknowledge that since the resumption of Nato supplies there has been ‘some cooperation on both sides of the border in coordinating counter-terror offensive’, resulting in perceptible improvement in the security situation in Afghanistan. Islamabad’s help cannot be denied in bringing around the Taliban to participate in the Afghan conference to be held in France later this month. A report appearing in yesterday’s newspapers says two representatives of the Taliban would go to France for this purpose. Their spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said that they would put across their point of view before the world, pointing out that by extending the invitation to the Taliban to attend the conference the US had accepted the reality on the ground, clearly suggesting that their cooperation had been acknowledged as essential to peace after the foreign troops have left.

Peace and development in Afghanistan are contingent upon several factors. In the main, they would rest on how the ethnic mix in the country is represented in the ruling setup immediately after withdrawal and, in that, how far the traditional power wielded by the different communities is respected with due adjustments agreed to among them. An imposed system is a recipe for disaster. The corrupt mafia, a hindrance in executing the much-needed reconstruction work, is not expected to easily give up the fight. The drug industry that has flourished over the years can be anticipated to be another source of trouble. The element of agitation against those considered to be collaborating with the foreign forces would keep the pot boiling for some time at least. In short, it is no mean task and it calls for all friends of Afghanistan, especially those in the region, to give genuine help to the Afghans to finally put an end to the decades-long cycle of instability and destruction that they have been living on the edge of, by no fault of their own.