by Muhammad Tahir
Sept 30, 2014
ISLAMABAD, Sept. 30 — Pakistani leaders are hopeful to develop good neighborly relations with the new Afghan government as the years of tensions have proved unhelpful to effectively counter serious security challenges.
In his farewell speech last week, former President Hamid Karzai blamed both the United States and Pakistan for the continuing war with the Taliban insurgents. This blame game continued for a long time over the cross-border shelling, lack of cooperation to jointly fight terrorism and alleged hideouts of the Taliban militants in both countries. The lack of trust harmed all efforts for reconciliation with the Afghan Taliban and Karzai admitted his failure to carry forward the reconcilary process.
Karzai also pointed out that peace with the Taliban is not possible without the help of the U.S. and Pakistan. Cross-border attacks have caused a serious blow to bilateral relations and Afghan Foreign Minister Zarar Ahmad Osmani raised the issue of the alleged Pakistani “rocketing into Afghanistan” at his U.N. General Assembly’s address last week. This shows a deterioration in bilateral relations, as Kabul preferred an international forum rather than using bilateral diplomatic channels.
Kabul claims Pakistani rockets affect “civilians” in eastern Kunar province. Pakistan, however, denies it fired rockets into civilian areas and says its forces only target positions of the militants who attack Pakistani border posts. Karzai seemed to be upset at what he described as, “Pakistan’ s lack of cooperation” to encourage the Taliban to enter into peace talks with his government.
Islamabad, for its part, added that they do not have control over the Taliban and that it can only play the role of a facilitator. Pakistani officials insist they have freed over 50 Taliban detainees, including some senior leaders and former ministers, at the request of Karzai and his peace council to accelerate the reconciliation process, however, all the freed Taliban refused to join the intra-Afghan dialogue.
For its part, Pakistan says it is disappointed at “Afghanistan’ s failure to stop the Pakistani Taliban from entering the Afghan side of the border.” Security officials insist that many Pakistani Taliban fighters who have fled to Afghanistan following military operations in the tribal regions and Swat valley, now operate from the Afghan border region. Afghanistan-based Pakistan Taliban insurgents are being blamed for cross-border attacks on check post and villages. Pakistan military spokespeople have claimed that the Afghan gov’ t has not helped to stop fleeing militants from crossing the border from North Waziristan tribal region, where the security forces are battling local and foreign militants.
Pakistani forces launched the biggest offensive in the region in June to flush out the militants from their last major sanctuary. Afghanistan itself and the U.S. had also been calling for the operation, as they claimed al-Qaeda and the Haqqani Network also had hideouts in North Waziristan.
As political tensions had a negative impact on bilateral relations over the past 13 years, the two countries now have a good opportunity to bury the hatchet and deal with the post-NATO situation. Any instability in Afghanistan will directly affect Pakistan’s fragile security situation.
Pakistan made the wise decision to represent itself at the highest level in attending the swearing-in ceremony for President Ashraf Ghani on Monday. President Mamnoon Hussain was the only head of the state among the nearly 200 foreign guests who attended Afghanistan’s historic first ever democratic transition. President Mamnoon Hussain held separate meetings with President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and ” conveyed Pakistan’s commitment to working closely with the new government for the promotion of common goals,” the Foreign Ministry said late Monday at the conclusion of his day-long visit to Kabul.
“Underlining the importance Afghanistan attached to its relations with Pakistan, President Ashraf Ghani reiterated his perspective that both countries should have a ‘special relationship,'” a Foreign Ministry statement said.
Dr. Abdullah also expressed his desire for the new government to forge a cooperative and forward-looking relationship with Pakistan. Statements from the leadership of the two countries have raised hopes for a new tension-free beginning, as their cooperation could enable them to meet the ongoing serious security challenges they would be facing after the foreign troops withdraw from Afghanistan in less than three months.