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Afghan conundrum: Pakistan’s new challenges ahead

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This situation in Afghanistan is turning critical day by day as the Taliban have expanded control over the territory by military offensives despite popular claims of a highly capable Afghan force by the USA. The War on Terror which began some 20 years ago with the ouster of the Taliban regime has ended with the Taliban regaining control over Afghanistan.
The US withdrawal of troops and the intra-Afghan dialogue, although called the Afghan peace process, still lacks peace as for now it is the gun that is deciding the future of the nation. And, it has resulted in an upswing in violence and civilian casualties.
Although the Taliban have gained control over the Afghan territory, it seems difficult that the Afghan warlords will accept the supremacy of the Taliban. Therefore, the danger of an Afghan civil war persists. For a stable and prosperous future in Afghanistan and peace in the entire region, an inclusive Afghan government is inevitable. And in case that is not achieved, the ensuing civil war will further worsen the situation, creating problems for Pakistan as well as the entire region.
The chaos in Afghanistan poses multifarious challenges to Pakistan, including diplomatic, political, security, socio-economic and information warfare challenges.
The first and most important challenge for Pakistan is on the diplomatic front. Pakistan has always supported the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned settlement of the conflict because it is in the best interest of the country to have a stable and peaceful neighbour. It has always voiced its support to the people of Afghanistan who have been in turmoil for the last 40 years and has played its part in the best possible way by bringing the Taliban and the USA to the negotiation table. But unfortunately, it is accused of playing a double game. And, unjustifiably blamed for backing the Taliban.
The challenge is grave as the USA is again pressing Pakistan to do more while India and its supported group in Afghanistan are trying to isolate Pakistan amid a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. India, which is under fire for its unabated barbarism and state-sponsored violence in Indian-Held Kashmir because of Pakistan’s diplomatic success, is trying to divert the attention of the world by blaming Pakistan for the Afghan conundrum.
For example, its prejudice can be observed by the fact that it denied Pakistan an opportunity to address the UNSC’s meeting on the current situation in Afghanistan, despite Pakistan being an immediate neighbour having direct stakes in peace in Afghanistan. Similarly, an Indian-supported faction in Afghanistan is also blaming Pakistan with no real proof.
The attempt to isolate Pakistan will require innovative diplomatic countermeasures and actions. It will require convincing the world about Pakistan’s positive and constructive role.
Moving forward, the next challenge is political. Pakistan is home to millions of people belonging to different religions, sects and ethnicities and it enjoys unity in its diversity. Due to this diversity, it is in the best interest of Pakistan to be impartial. So, it desires a political setup in Afghanistan according to the will of the people of Afghanistan. It is against any forceful authority that attains power ignoring the voices of people. Given that, Pakistan does not believe in the policy of pick and choose. No one is good or bad, for Pakistan.
Here, the role of a stable political government becomes significant which will need to ensure that no more proxies are fought on Pakistan’s soil. The sovereignty of Pakistan comes first and it cannot afford any external influence.
Furthermore, the other challenge ahead for Pakistan is national security. The major security threat emerges from the worsening situation in Afghanistan. As Pakistan has a 2640-km long border with Afghanistan therefore it will need to ensure the security of its border so that it remains safe from cross-border terrorism.
Having said that, there is a possibility of a large influx of refugees in case the situation worsens in Afghanistan. For example, according to reports, 500,000 to 700,000 refugees are expected. Pakistan already hosts more than 3 million Afghan refugees; the further addition of refugees will produce more problems for Pakistan, socio-economic in nature. The settlement of refugees, their registration and containment will be an uphill task. After that, their education, health and food will put an extra burden on the National exchequer and create administrative problems for the country. Above all, it will also create security problems for Pakistan as the refugees may be vulnerable to exploitation by foreign powers.
Last but not the least, the challenge of information warfare in the middle of Afghan unrest is a matter of considerable importance. India and its supported group in Afghanistan are using all means to discredit Pakistan internationally. For example, the recent disinformation propaganda campaign on Twitter involving disturbing and anti-state hashtags is a blueprint of the Indian conspiracy against Pakistan to blame it for the tempestuous situation in Afghanistan.
The next couple of months are very crucial for Pakistan, Afghanistan and the entire region. One can only hope the situation will get better and the people of Afghanistan will have their say in the political setup after an unsettling period of 40 years. However, whatever the situation may be, Pakistan must safeguard its prestige internationally and make sure it is not made a scapegoat of the Afghan crisis.