In the wake of Taliban attacks in Kabul last Friday, which killed 51 people and a similar offensive in the province of Kunduzthat claimed 21 civilian lives, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani made phone calls to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the COAS General Raheel Sharif. He probably agitated the point that these attacks were being planned and executed from Pakistani soil. Reportedly, both the Pakistani leaders assured him of all possible cooperation in dealing with the phenomenon and it was decided that a high powered Afghan delegation would visit Pakistan on Thursday 13th August, to hold talks and have meetings with both the Prime Minister and the COAS.

However after yet another suicide attack at the Kabul airport on Monday, the Afghan President publicly raised an accusing finger against Pakistan for allowing its territory to be used for planning and executing terrorist attacks in Afghanistan. Addressing a press conference he said “The incidents of the past two months in general and the recent days in particular show that the suicide training camps and bomb making facilities inside Pakistan are being used to target and murder the innocent people of Afghanistan. He also threatened of a permanent rupture in relations between the two countries if such attacks continued and even rejected Pakistan’s role in facilitating dialogue between the Afghan government and the Taliban, expressing doubts about her sincerity. A day after Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive of Afghanistan Abdullah Abdullah, addressing the council of minister accused Pakistan of concealing the death of Mullah Umar for two years and then openly organizing a meeting to elect new leader of the Taliban to restore their identity under the leadership of a new criminal.

That is indeed a tragic turn of events and has surely nullified the goodwill and ambience of trust that had been built between the two countries through cooperative efforts of the Afghan President, Prime Minister of Pakistan and the COAS. We are probably back to square one. President Ashraf Ghani had made a similar statement in the backdrop of an attack on the Afghan parliament on 22nd June saying that Pakistan was waging an undeclared war against Afghanistan ,sending the relations between the two countries into a nosedive. However a meeting between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Afghan President on the sidelines of the SCO Summit in Uffaprovided an opportunity to the two leaders to clear the haze. Both the countries reaffirmed their resolve to make concerted and collaborative efforts for establishing peace and stability in Afghanistan and fighting terrorism.The Afghan President even appreciated efforts made by Pakistan in facilitating dialogue between the Afghan government and the Taliban at Murree on 7th June.

The latest accusations of the Afghan President and the tirade of the Afghan Chief Executive against Pakistan seem a frustration-driven reaction to the renewed attacks by the Afghan Taliban rather than based on a concrete and irrefutable intelligence based revelation. After his conversation with the Prime Minister of Pakistan and the COAS, the decision of the Afghan President to go public on the issue in an accusatory mode is against the diplomatic norms. He should have at least waited for the outcome of talks between the Afghan delegation and the Pakistani leadership. The charges by the Afghan President also belie logic and common sense. Pakistan arguably has the highest stake in peace in Afghanistan. Peace in Pakistan and a decisive end to terrorism is inextricably linked to peace in Afghanistan as is the success of its strategic plans for regional connectivity and shared economic prosperity in the region. Pakistan is poised to have Chinese investment of US$ 46 billion in the infrastructure and energy projects under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which presents a historic opportunity to it to nudge a process of sustained economic development to lift the economic profile of the country as well as changing the economic situations of the teeming millions. The implementation of CPEC entirely depends on prevalence of peaceful atmosphere in Pakistan. With so much at stake, promoting peace in Afghanistan is decidedly the top priority. How could it do something which is inimical to its own interests?

The attacks by Taliban are part of the Spring Offensive which they launched early this year. It is pertinent to point out that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had condemned this offensive as an act of terrorism during his visit to Kabul at that time. Pakistan continues to view these attacks as acts of terrorism and is very much desirous of strengthening cooperation with Afghanistan in promoting dialogue between the Afghan government and the Taliban. The angry reaction of the Afghan leadership is understandable as every terrorist attacks puts them under tremendous pressure and raises questions about theirpeace offence and the policy of pursuing cordial and cooperative relations with Pakistan. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif speaking at University in Minsk, Belarus reiterated in unequivocal words that Pakistan wanted cordial relations with both Afghanistan and India and would not allow its territory to be used for terrorist attacks against a neighboring country; an explicit reference to Afghanistan. His words deserve to be taken at their face value.

Afghanistan needs to understand that Pakistan as yet has not been able to clear the entire North Waziristan of the terrorists. The two countries have a long porous border between them. The presence of the terrorists in these areas cannot be ruled out. Pakistan is also victim of terrorist attacks, particularly in Balochistan. Allegedly these terrorist enter the province who from Afghan territory. Therefore there is an imperative need for the two countries to enhance cooperation in intelligence sharing under the agreement signed between the intelligence agencies of the two countriesand taking joint action against the terrorists who might still be based in the border region instead of doubting the sincerity of the other and hurling unsubstantiated allegations. The military action also needs to be supplemented by efforts to find a peaceful solution through dialogue, which in any case should be the preferred option.

It is pertinent to point out that the new head of the Taliban MullaAkhtar Mansour and SirajUddinHaqqani were staunch supporters of the Pakistani sponsored dialogue between the Taliban and Afghan government that took place on 7th June. The retraction from the dialogue is probably a sequel to the rift among the Taliban over the successor of Mullah Umar and a calculated attempt by Mullah Mansour to win over the allegiance of his detractor. That was probably the reason that in his first video message he renounced dialogue and vowed to continue Jihad. My view is that the renewed attacks are also part of the same strategy. Once the leadership issue is resolved and the dust settles down, there is a strong possibility of Taliban returning to the negotiating table.