It was no doubt, a laudable idea to dispatch seasoned politician Sartaj Aziz to Kabul by the newly-installed PML-N government to reiterate before its leadership Pakistan’s firm commitment of genuine and abiding interest in the peace to prevail in the strife-torn Afghanistan. Mr Aziz holds the portfolio of Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs and National Security and enjoys the complete trust of Mian Nawaz Sharif. The obvious assumption was that with the new setup holding the reins of power in Islamabad, President Karzai and his leadership would not look askance at the assurances Mr Aziz would hold out to them. Alas, however, the signals from Kabul emit rather a frustrating response indicating that the message has not sunk in and there persist doubts and suspicions about our role.

Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmay Rassoul, with whom Mr Aziz held talks during his one-day visit to Kabul on Sunday, has bluntly remarked that the efforts of both sides to fight terrorism and strengthen relations have failed. On Monday, President Hamid Karzai put forward a precondition to accepting Mian Nawaz’ invitation to visit Pakistan, which was extended to him by Mr Aziz on Prime Minister’s behalf. The precondition was Pakistan must make serious efforts to combat terrorism and must cooperate in restoring peace in Afghanistan. For Afghan Senators as well, Mr Aziz’ visit did not raise any hope of Pakistan’s sincerity.

But what the Afghan leaders fail to appreciate is a fundamental reality that both the countries have common stakes in peace and stability in the region. Peace and stability in one country would generate similar conditions in the other; and unrest and chaos in one country would cast its dark shadows over the other. Thus, our assurance that we earnestly desire the end of turmoil and disorder in Afghanistan cannot simply be thrown out of the window. Besides, the Afghans themselves acknowledge that it is not possible to bring understanding between the various ethnic groups in their country without Islamabad coming on board.

As Adviser Sartaj Aziz told them, we have “some influence” over the Taliban, but “we do not control them”, Pakistan can help bring them to the negotiating table and then “it is for the Afghans themselves to decide what system and what kind of post-2014 arrangement they would like to have.” Pakistan genuinely and sincerely looks forward to an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process succeeding. That alone holds the guarantee that the arrangement thus arrived at would hold.