A Few Words: Peace in Afghanistan and Pakistani writers
Dr Qaisar Rashid
One wonders why this section of writers cannot envision the role of the Pashtuns in Afghanistan without the Taliban
Are peace and Afghanistan two conflicting concepts? Is it really lunacy to think of peace and Afghanistan simultaneously? During the Taliban era (1996-2001), Afghanistan might have experienced peace but that was under a regime that tried to imitate the medieval age. The question is, does Afghanistan feel contented with (replicating) the medieval age? Do peace and the outmoded norms complement each other, when the context is Afghanistan? Will its transformation into a modern democratic state be full of bloodshed? Will peace and democracy rest on the ends not meant for union?
Sometimes it seems that Pakistan is also a problem for Afghanistan. A majority of Pakistani writers, both English and Urdu, support the Taliban in Afghanistan but condemns their Pakistani version, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). This attitude may not be their affinity for the TTP but their hatred for seeing the situation improving in Afghanistan without the help of Pakistan. One may call the attitude a product of a patriotic Pakistani ego. Moreover, the outcome of every summit or meeting held on Afghanistan in any foreign country is declared a failure. The same section of writers expresses scepticism on the development in the name of analysis. Nevertheless, there is a reason for that. During the Afghan war (1979-1989), Pakistan was a hub of activities, both conflict and peace, related to Afghanistan, but not now. Perhaps that exclusion generated revulsion.
Generally, Pakistanis have failed to understand that they are considered a part of the Afghanistan problem and not part of the solution. Similarly, Pakistanis have failed to comprehend that if the world has so far not given importance to Pakistan’s refrain of its prospective role in Afghanistan, the world is not ready to rely on Pakistan after 2014. As apparent, the international players (that have invested billions of dollars and made their soldiers lay down their lives in Afghanistan for saving their homelands from the potential of the export of terrorism from Afghanistan) consider Pakistan a friend-cum-foe. It is considered a friend because Pakistan is needed for the continuation of the NATO supply line at least until 2014, and a foe because Pakistan overlooks the presence of al Qaeda and its Taliban supporters on its soil.
One wonders why this section of writers cannot envision the role of the Pashtuns in Afghanistan without the Taliban. What about the role of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hizb-e-Islami, whose representatives participated in a moot on Afghanistan in Paris held from December 19-21, 2012, and which was meant for promoting intra-Afghan peace talks? The Taliban are the offspring of the Afghan warriors who fought against the former Soviet Union. The Hizb-e-Islami, a Pashtun entity like the Taliban, can be promoted to play a role of swaying the decisions of the Taliban for the greater interest of Afghanistan. The elders of the Hizb-e-Islami can be invited for playing a role (for peace) bigger than they played in the Afghan war.
On February 3-4, 2013, in the UK, a trilateral meeting was held among the representatives of the UK, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The objective of the meeting was to make both Pakistan and Afghanistan think in a similar way, if not in an identical way. More than that, the objective of the meeting was to bring both Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership in sync with each other. The question is this: why can Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership not be on the same page on the topic of Afghanistan? Similarly, why can Pakistan and Afghanistan not hold successful bilateral talks at the regional level?
If the meeting held in the UK had been convened in Pakistan, the outcome of the meeting would have been declared successful, irrespective of the actual results. Pakistan seems to have been suffering from an attention seeking personality disorder. That is, the peace prospects in Afghanistan should flow through Pakistan and the latter should be considered the first and final stakeholder in Afghanistan’s internal affairs. Is the world ready to appreciate this monopolistic and narcissistic approach?
The negativity in the writings published in Pakistan’s Urdu and English dailies have been affecting the thought processes of Pakistani readers. They do not know the actual reason for the bias bombarded on them but they start transmitting the same to others. When the issue is Afghanistan, the general trend amongst Pakistani writers is to express pessimism on the future of peace in Afghanistan to conclude an opinion piece. It may not be that they are uninterested in seeing peace prevail in Afghanistan but it may be that they are interested in seeing the US and its allies humiliated in Afghanistan. If the US and its allies spend their money and sacrifice their soldiers to establish peace in Afghanistan, why does it worry Pakistanis?
This section of writers is failing to understand that their support to the Taliban operational in Afghanistan emboldens the resolve of the Taliban functional in Pakistan. If the Afghan Taliban seek a monopolistic future in Afghanistan, the Pakistani Taliban will also seek a similar future here. Trends are noticeable. For instance, on December 28, 2012, through a video message, the chief of the TTP, Hakimullah Mehsud offered peace talks with Pakistan to gain more political weight and relevance. It is interesting to read arguments in favour of the Afghan Taliban that the constitution of Afghanistan must accommodate their concerns but that the Pakistani Taliban should adapt to the current constitution.
This section of writers also tries to see the future of Afghanistan through the prism of its past. The question is, why should the past dictate the future? Why should the dominance of only one ethnic group be tied to the stability of Afghanistan? Why can the Afghan National Army not consist of a proportionate ethnic mix? Why can Afghanistan not construct a new future around the ideals of modernity, pluralism and democracy? If this section of Pakistani writers cannot forecast a new future for Afghanistan, it does not mean that no such future can visit Afghanistan.
The writer is a freelance columnist and can be reached at email@example.com