Pak-Afghan ties, prospects for peace and cooperation

The Chief of Pakistani’s diplomatic mission in Kabul has returned to Afghanistan’s capital more than four months after surviving an attempted assassination. In the first go after resuming his duties in Kabul, Ambassador Ubaidur Rehman Nizamani called on the Acting Foreign Minister of Afghanistan at his office in the Foreign Ministry of Afghanistan. During the meeting, the acting foreign minister of Afghanistan Amir Khan Mutaqi hoped that the return of Pakistan’s charge d’affaires in Afghanistan would improve ties between the two countries. Muttaqi welcomed the release of the vast majority of Afghans from Karachi’s prison and urged to further increase transparency in the visa issuance regimes of both countries. Ambassador Nizamani expressed hope that his return would improve the ties between the two countries and that the Pakistan Embassy would collaborate with the concerned Afghan ministry on matters concerning visa issuance and other formalities.

Pakistan Ambassador to Kabul was attacked by a terrorist affiliated with the IS-K inside Pakistan’s Embassy compound in Kabul on December 2, last year. A brave Pakistani security guard foiled the assassination bid while the government of Pakistan called back its Chief of Mission amid anger over insufficient security measures and serious security concerns in the host country. Meanwhile, the diplomatic relations between the two brotherly countries remained downgraded and there had been recurrent incidents of cross-border attacks on Pakistani security forces, exchanges of firing between border troops as well as the accusations of hosting banned terror outfits and exchange of statements regarding interference in internal matters by the political leaders of the two neighbors often appeared in the local and international media over the past months. The bilateral relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan remained soured despite a high-level Pakistani delegation visit to Kabul and the continuous engagement of the two governments over the past several months.

Historically, Pakistan had always faced an uncomfortable and unfriendly situation from its first-door neighbor and brotherly Muslim country in its west, as the successive Afghan governments mostly stuck to their unreal claim on Pakistan’s land, while Afghan leaders always try to leverage Afghan influence in Pakistan one or the other way. Previously, Afghan Republicans blatantly hailed the anti-Pakistan narrative of the PTM, while the current interim Afghan government is hurting Pakistan’s interests by mustering the banned outfits on its land.

The government and the people of Pakistan owe utmost sympathy and brotherhood to their Afghan brethren who suffered unimaginable hardships and miseries due to the persistent conflict and violence in the country over the past decades. Pakistan hosted millions of Afghan refugees on its soil for decades, while Pakistan faced multiple social, economic, financial, and security issues due to the continuous presence and unrestricted entry of Afghan refugees into its country.

The current security and economic challenges and the giant of terrorism are the outcomes of Pakistan’s Afghan policy during the Afghan Jihad against the Soviet Union, before and aftermath of the US-led War on Terrorism (WoT) in the AfPak region. Historically, Pakistan had always worked proactively out of love and sympathy for the people of Afghanistan and played a vital role in all regional and global initiatives regarding peace in Afghanistan including the Geneva Agreement and the historic Doha Agreement between the United States and the Taliban.

Pakistan thinks the people of Afghanistan have the sovereign right to form an independent government representing all political and ethnic groups in the country. Similarly, the government of Pakistan had been stressing to the global community not to isolate Afghanistan, and help facilitate Kabul in addressing the worst effects of years-long war, and economic and humanitarian crises in Afghanistan.

Pakistan and Afghanistan are not two common neighbors but both nations are tight in multiple bonds of religion, culture, history, language, and Muslim brotherhood. Both countries have a shared fate and a joint destiny, they could not remain indifferent to each other during a difficult time. Both countries have to act rationally by adhering to the policy of peaceful coexistence, non-violence, noninterference, and respect for each other. Meanwhile, continuous diplomacy and bilateral engagements are the only way forward to address each other’s grievances and resolve mutual issues. Pakistan took the lead and repositioned its envoy in Kabul to keep open the window of dialogue and diplomacy despite all oppositions and odds. It is time for the Afghan side to positively respond to Pakistani outreach to help build momentum for the realization of a long-term friendship and strategic partnership between the two neighbors.