A stable, peaceful Afghanistan vital for regional connectivity, prosperity: Experts

ISLAMABAD (APP): Despite the fact, being a biggest victim of spillover of terrorism from the war-torn Afghanistan, Pakistan played a pivotal role of a facilitator in the Afghan peace and reconciliation process.

Prime Minister Imran Khan and Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi had consistently maintained that being a victim of instability in Afghanistan, it was Pakistan’s interest that peace should be established in Afghanistan. It also synced with the incumbent government’s policy of geo-economics and regional connectivity.

According to experts, as a result of terrorism and refugee influx during the last many decades, Pakistan’s economy faced severe setbacks with slowdown of commercial activity and depletion of revenues.

According to these experts, Pakistan was pushed into the clutches of International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans and for returning these loans, Pakistan had to compromise on its developmental and social welfare projects. “Its total losses due to the war in Afghanistan amount to over $150 billion which is almost half of its GDP volume,” they added.

These losses are solely due to the spillover of instability in Afghanistan which compounded Pakistan’s existing challenges.

When terrorism increased in Afghanistan 20 years ago, entire Pakistan bore the brunt of terrorist attacks that continued on almost daily basis. Although the border regions were most affected, no corner of the country was spared.

“Ultimately, Pakistan lost over 80,000 lives as a direct effect of the war in Afghanistan. Terrorist groups like TTP and JuA found refuge in Afghanistan’s lawlessness and started carrying out attacks against civilians and military personnel in Pakistan,” an expert said.

The worst incident was the attack on Army Public School Peshawar that was carried out by Afghanistan-based TTP terrorists.

After the Afghan war of 1980s and then after the US invasion in 2001, Pakistan faced a massive influx of refugees from Afghanistan. Despite economic problems of its own, Pakistan welcomed them, rehabilitated them and integrated them into its society.

The number of Afghans living in Pakistan today rose to more than 4 million.

The world acknowledged that Pakistan had made tangible contributions to the Afghan peace process including; signing of US-Taliban peace agreement, initiation of intra-Afghan dialogue, adoption of rules of procedure for Afghan talks and establishment of the Afghan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS).

As already emphasized by Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, if situation in Afghanistan deteriorated further, it would displace more people from the country. But today, Pakistan is not in a position to absorb any more refugees.

Through peace and stability in Afghanistan, the region could return to a normalcy providing conducive atmosphere to economic development and social uplift.

“Pakistan has shifted its focus from geo-politics to geo-economics. For reaping the dividends of this policy, peace in Afghanistan is critical,” the bottom-line of government’s policy said.

With stability in Afghanistan, according to experts, Pakistan would be able to establish direct trade links with Central Asian Republics and many stalled projects would be revived.

China, Pakistan and Afghanistan had already agreed to extend Belt and Road Initiative/ China Pakistan Economic Corridor into Afghanistan. Once peace returned to Afghanistan, this mega-project will see pace of development. The ultimate economic beneficiary will be Pakistan as it would be connected with more markets and more suppliers.

It is an established fact that poverty and instability were the breeding grounds of extremism. If such conditions continued in Afghanistan, more extremist organizations would surface. More concerning is the possible revival of terrorist proxies that operate from Afghanistan and often target Pakistan.