REVIVAL OF PEACE PROGRESS AMID BOTH NEIGHBORS: Pakistan and Afghanistan being two neighboring countries share bilateral relationship along with cultural and historical links. Both are recognized as Islamic Republics and affiliates of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). Tensions between both countries got intense since War in Afghanistan (1978- present) and with it millions of Afghan refugees migrated to Pakistan which further complicated their ties. Afghanistan has also been demanding renegotiation of the border and it has laid its irredentist claim over some Pashtun dominated regions in Pakistan. Relations between both countries for many years have been characterized by shared disbelief and developed through a narrow security lens.
Afghan Taliban Delegation visited Pakistan to initiate peace talks between both countries. The delegation of the Taliban Political Commission (TPC) in Doha was received by Foreign Minister Pakistan, Shah Mehmood Qureshi at the Foreign Ministry during the first week of October. The delegation spoke about the peace situation in Afghanistan and the its regional situation along with how this peace progression can bring positive changes for Afghanistan-Pakistan relations. Director General of Inter-services Intelligence Lt General Faiz Hameed, FO Officials and Secretary Foreign Affairs, Sohail Ahmed also accompanied Shah Mahmood Qureshi in peace talks with Afghan delegation. According to officials, since TPS has been established, this is the first ever visit of Taliban delegates to Pakistan.
Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that both countries have faced the consequences of prolonged warfare in Afghanistan. Over the past 40 years, there have been instability and chaos in Afghanistan peace could not be prevailed and we witnessed deteriorating situation of law and order there. War was and never will be solution to our problems. Shah Mehmood Qureshi reportedly said that the only positive step towards resettling peace in Afghanistan is negotiations. Pakistan always want to see Afghanistan peaceful and stabile as it used to be earlier and we have and will be playing role of a mediator in the Afghan peace progress.
This is the 4th recent visit of Afghan Taliban officials. Before that they have been to Russia, China and Iran and finally this tour of peace progress talks ended up in Pakistan. From this visit, we can say that it can be a significant development for both countries and tensions can be resolved by taking an initiative and backing out from fragile attitude towards this concern. Remember that United States special peace envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad was also present in the capital when the delegation met Pakistani officials at the Foreign Ministry which is a signal that Washington has finally taken a bold step to restart peace progress in Afghanistan and this time United States wants complete involvement of Pakistan in this matter.
Iran, China and Russia had shown their support for the peace process in Afghanistan which legitimizes role of Pakistan in this regard and constructs Taliban identity as a leverage force who’s going to play a major role in future peace progress in Afghanistan. Pakistan needs to do more rather just making Washington happy with its involvement in the peace talks.
Formerly, in June, Pakistan and Afghan officials also held talks in Islamabad for resettling the troubles and reshaping their fragile nature of relationships between both countries. At the end of June, President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani had also met Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan where both leaders discussed economic and security issues. Khan also assured Ghani that Pakistan has and always will be committed to the stability and peace in Afghanistan. This is again a constructive indication that Ashraf Ghani has extended his support towards the expansion of bilateral ties amid both neighbors and fresh opportunities for Pakistan to improve this association of mistrust.
Hence, now Pakistan has more opportunities to engage constructively with Afghanistan by recalibrating its relations and consolidating economic ties with Afghanistan and finally finding solutions for millions of Afghan refugees who’re present on the soil of Pakistan.