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Afghan peace options

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President Biden’s decision to withdraw unconditionally all foreign forces from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021 will leave behind an uncertain and genuine security concerns that ramifications will be borne by Afghanistan as well as the region.
The Taliban seems least interested in peace talks with the Afghan government and appear determined to take control of the entire Afghan government territory by force during post-withdrawal of American forces. Short of the total surrender, Afghan government has no possible influence to force the Taliban to prefer talks over violence. Resultantly, the apprehensions that Afghanistan could plunge into another civil war runs very high.
The consequences of yet another civil war will be deadly for Afghanistan and the whole region as well. Among the neighboring countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan will bear the severe burnt of an escalation of violence in particular. A civil war or possible Taliban takeover will surely upsurge and reinvigorate the Islamic militancy in Pakistan, thus threatening to lose the hard-won gains made against militancy over the past decade.
The Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, nevertheless, are the two sides of the same coin. Coming back to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan is surely emboldened and revives Pakistani Taliban and other militant outfits. Moreover, spread of violence would not only reduce all chances of repatriation of refugees but possibly increase the inflow of refugees from Afghanistan to Pakistan.
Furthermore, worsening of the security situation in Afghanistan will jeopardize the prospects of trade, foreign investment and economic development initiatives such as China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The chances of Gwadar and Karachi ports to become a transit trade routes for the region and link the energy rich region of Central Asia will become bleak until a sustainable peace and stability is achieved in Afghanistan.
It is against this background that the successful end of the intra-Afghan talk is highly required for Pakistan, for its own sake. Officially, Islamabad stated policy is to ensure the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace solution of the Afghan conflict. It helped in bringing the Taliban on the negotiation table, which finally resulted in the signing of the Doha deal between US and Taliban. Further, Pakistan has time and again pressurized the Taliban to resume the dialogue. Moreover, Islamabad holds that, unlike in the past when it wanted a friendly regime in Kabul, it aims to develop a friendly and diplomatic relation whoever is in power in Kabul.
Notwithstanding the stated policy and position of the Islamabad, the Afghan government and the many in the US remains dubious of Pakistan’s commitment. Against these concerns, Islamabad categorically stated that it does not have complete control over Taliban.
The success of the peace process will require coordination and cooperation among allthe regional actors and the US and Afghan government. Pakistan’s role is of an immense significance because of its past relations with the Taliban. There is no denying of the fact that Pakistan has not complete control over the Taliban. Despite, it has more leverage than the other actors in the region.
The Islamabad’s willingness to use its influence over Taliban is her real test in the achievement of peace process. However, Pakistan has successfully used its leverage and brought Taliban on the negotiation table. Although, history is the testimony of the fact that mere cajoling won’t dissuade Taliban from unleashing violence.
The prospects of intra-Afghan talks will develop in success when the cajoling strategy is backed up by with credible threats of crackdown which may involve denial of safe heaven to militant leaders and their families, stopping medical treatment, and disruption of finance etc. on the other hand, strong arm tactics fail to bring the Taliban to the table, then Pakistan should make sure that its territory is not used to carry out attacks in Afghanistan.
The Afghan peace process has an opportunity for Pakistan to bury its hatchet with Afghanistan and start its diplomatic journey with a new vigor. While Kabul every time attaches its failure with Pakistan and shun away from its responsibilityof providing peace to people of Afghanistan, it has a fair point about our pro-Taliban Afghan policy. Now that the US is leaving Afghanistan, it is high time that Pakistan to bring forth a shift in its Afghanistan policy. Sustainable peace in Pakistan, especially Balochistan and ex-fata region, is unlikely to achieve without Pakistan contributing to peace in Afghanistan.