PAK-AFGHAN RELATIONS: BETTER TIMES LAY AHEAD

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The relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan has been quite rocky ever since they developed ties with one another. Both have seen extreme lines of friendship as well as animosity towards each other all these years. They have come a long way in this love-hate relationship with an important essence of USA on this relationship. It is important to look through the history and all the ups and downs of the Pak-Afghan relations in this context.

The official boundary between Pakistan and Afghanistan known as the Durand Line was drawn in 1893 by Sir Mortimer Durand. When Pakistan emerged on the map of the world as a separate entity in 1947, Afghanistan demanded certain territory of KPK and Baluchistan which Pakistan clearly refused to give them. Consequently, Afghanistan did not accept Pakistan as a state and presented an anti-Pakistan resolution in UNO against Pakistan. Tensions further sparked between both states after Afghan king Zahir Shah made an anti-Pakistan speech in 1950. Situation aggravated even further after Pakistan’s PM Liaquat Ali Khan was assassinated by an Afghan national in 1951.

The relations, however, improved a bit over the course of time and Afghanistan supported Pakistan against India in the 1965 war. Moreover, Afghanistan maintained a neutral spot in the war of 1971 and mutual cooperation increased between both the states. in 1979, the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan built an appalling situation for Pakistan because it brought the Red Army dangerously close to Khyber Pass. America started supplying Pakistan with arms and ammunition for its Mujahideen fighting in Afghanistan against the Soviet forces. Pakistan also let in millions of Afghan refugees after the Soviet invasion in 1979. The Geneva peace accord was signed between Pakistan and Afghanistan in 1988 which brought peace in the region.

The brutal attacks on World Trade Centre and Pentagon on 11th September 2001 changed the course of the whole word. So it was only inevitable that Pak-Afghan relations will not get affected by this. It marked a completely new phase of relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The US President George W. Bush announced the War on Terror against Taliban and the terror groups residing in Afghanistan. Pakistan was given the choice to either stand with America or leave it and it had to suffer extreme US retaliation if it parted sides with Afghan Taliban.

Pakistan obviously sided with America and provided full military and strategic support which led to the US military attack on Afghanistan on 7th October 2001. On the other hand, Pakistan also made several efforts to mediate peace talks between America and Afghanistan to end the War On Terror. Pakistan’s spy master Gen. Mehmood Ahmed visited Afghanistan with a high level delegation and met with Mullah Umer in Kandahar in September 2001. He persuaded him to hand over the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks Osama Bin Laden to USA but it was all of no use.

A massive number of Afghan Taliban and members of Al-Qaeda started dispersing from Afghanistan and disappearing in Pakistan. This really deteriorated relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan with Pakistan constantly throwing tantrums at Afghanistan for forcing its terrorists on Pakistan. Pakistan kept blaming Afghanistan for making Pakistan a safe haven for the Afghan Taliban and not being able to control their terrorist activities and movements.

Apart from all this, smuggling has also become a very evolving business between Pakistan and Afghanistan. This is due to the border proximity between both the countries. All different and dangerous sorts of drugs which are prepared in Afghanistan are directly smuggled over to Pakistan from the Durand Line.

Having faced all the ups and downs between themselves and years of curses and blaming on one another, it is now high time for both Pakistan and Afghanistan to develop eternal amicable ties. It will not only benefit the South Asian region and its stability but Pakistan will get a lot of benefits from the peaceful relations. Afghanistan should be seen as a path of regional integration and economic connectivity for Pakistan now. Equilibrium should be developed between both the countries in order to promote peace and preserve democracy in Afghanistan.

Several steps have been taken in this regard. The Pakistan-Afghanistan Transit Trade Agreement was signed in 2010 for the better facilitation in the movement of goods amongst the two countries. The supporting rapid technological advancement through the open access policy for fiber optics networks was also launched in 2016. The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline whose construction started in 2015 is the project from which Pakistan would benefit the most. Pakistan’s natural gas needs would be met through TAPI gas pipeline which is projected to transport 33 billion cubic meters of gas annually.

Most recently, Pakistan and Afghanistan’s relations boosted substantially when Pakistan was able to successfully conduct and host the peace talks between USA and Afghan Taliban in Qatar in September 2020. Furthermore, the Chairperson of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah paid a three days visit to Pakistan. This has been seen as a refreshing episode for Pak-Afghan relations from both the host and the guest. He met with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi along with several other high officials as well as Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Positive and constructive responses were given from both sides during this visit. Pakistan seemed determined to start afresh the relations with Afghanistan and bury the harsh past behind them. Pakistan has shown gesture by standing along Afghanistan at different fronts. Pakistan’s role in enabling Taliban in Qatar on negotiating table is the proof of it. Similar sentiments were reciprocated from Afghanistan’s side.

In a post Corona world, where the economies of third world countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan have been affected the most, it is crucial for them to have friendly ties with one another. Better and harmonious Pak-Afghan relations are better for the economic, political, strategic as well as security development. Both the countries should seize this opportunity of a friendly environment to secure and inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement. It is high time to forget the past and move on progressively with one another.

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