Pakistan News Service

Saturday Feb 16, 2019, Jumada-al-thani 10, 1440 Hijri

Pakistan-Afghan Relations in Murky Waters

13 September, 2005

By Dr. Syed Farooq Hasnat

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In June and July the American troops and the Afghan government functionaries, came under a series of armed attacks, shattering the comparative calm in Afghanistan. These vicious and daring assaults indicate that the much awaited parliamentary elections in September will not be free from trouble, and that the menace of Taliban still exists, as a potential future challenge. Contrary to what was the forecast in the past, these assaults specify that the war against terrorism in Afghanistan is far from over. The latest resistance inflicted a number of causalities on the American troops, raising the total of dead to 150, since 2001. There are nearly 15,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, with an additional battalion poised for that war torn country.

The heavy reliance on the American forces indicate the lack of organized Afghan security structure, i.e., even after more than four years of the elimination of the Taliban administration and the Afghan army remains far from adequately trained. President Hamid Karzai largely depends on the U.S. commandos for his personnel security and his opponents taunt that he is just a Mayor of Kabul, as his authority does not extend beyond that city. Although Karzai is a Pashtun but his government is dominated by much detested and suspected Uzbeks and Tajiks, minorities. Afghanistan still remains ethnically subjected as well as a competitive society with blocks of authority in various ethnic regions of the country. The law and order in Afghanistan has always been far from satisfactory and the pace of development remains extremely slow. According to an opinion, "this remained an area where, unfortunately, the Karzai government and the International Security Assistance Force have failed to deliver, as security beyond Kabul is virtually non-existent." In particular, the Zabul Province and the adjoining areas of Kandahr and Uruzgan Provinces have become strong holds of the militants. It is estimated that in these areas, the Taliban are much organized with no shortage of men, weapons and finances. The situation in Afghanistan is described by some as, "one of barely managed chaos".

Before the attacks, it was estimated by the U.S. sources and the Afghan government that insurgency had faded away and that the Taliban had lost their clout in the country. The main reason given was that last October, Presidential elections took place without hindrance and that during the winter of 2004-5, there was little or no activity from the Taliban. However, since April of this year 45 U.S. military personnel were killed by the suspected Taliban, while hundreds of Afghan soldiers and civilians died in armed clashes. It was said that the Afghan militants were using the same tactics of attack as the Iraqi insurgents. These activities panicked the fragile Afghan government, as well it exposed its vulnerability. 

Accompanied by the hype in militancy, came a volley of direct and indirect blames on Pakistan. Included, in that rhetoric was the statement of Afghan-American U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalizad. He vehemently said that Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden were somewhere in Pakistan. He however, could not substantiate his allegations with details and evidence. His claim that the militants have infiltrated from Pakistan, in an organized manner, was termed as baseless and irresponsible by Pakistan. Ambassador Khalizad's charge was followed by statements by the Afghan government officials, the official controlled news media and President Karzai, himself. In Pakistan the reaction was sharp and forthcoming. Apart from a strong statement from government representative, terming these charges as irresponsible and without evidence, the un-official electronic and print media started to question the rationale of Pakistan's complete commitment towards war against terrorism, in this part of the world. One of the leading Pakistani daily remarked, "It's time Pakistan should rethink its policy of cooperating in the War on Terror and being rewarded only with slurs".

The present crisis was defused with the intervention of President Bush, who persuaded both the countries to focus more on war against terrorism, than finding faults with each other. These developments further confirmed that bilateral ties between the two neighboring countries have become a matter of triangular relations, aggravating with the spread of global terrorism - becoming more problematic, with every reversal. Pak-Afghan relations remain a matter of serious concern for the United States strategic planners, as long as militancy continues to dominate the region.

Pakistan maintains around 80,000 troops in the tribal and adjoining areas, with Afghanistan. The borders are completely sealed, with latest reconnaissance devices and the Taliban entering Afghanistan in an organized manner is inconceivable. The main weakness lies with the Afghan security apparatus itself. A glaring example is the escape of four Afghan prisoners from Bagram jail, a facility that is heavily guarded and is under the direct control of the American troops. The escape was not possible without the cooperation of the Afghan soldiers, on duty. Till now there has been no trace of the escapees, who were known for their hardened ideology and considered extremely dangerous. It is easier for the Afghan administration to blame Pakistan for their security lapses, as little efforts are made by Kabul administration to establish its control in areas that are beyond the city of Kabul. Apart from that the Pashtun population is kept alienated by the Tajik-Uzbak alliance in the government. All Taliban might be Pashtuns but all Pashtuns does not confer to the ideology of the Taliban. In the close knit tribal society of Afghanistan, it is difficult to make a clear distinction between the two. Sometimes it is deliberately done so, to keep the majority of the Pashtoons, who are more than fifty per cent of the Afghan population, away from the mainstream politics.
Since the 1980s, Afghanistan is coupled with Pakistan in a number of ways. The basis being that no matter what happens in Afghanistan it has direct fallout on the Pakistani society, whether as a result of regional compulsions or so chosen by the Pakistani establishment. The flurry of attacks on the Afghan government troops and the American military deployments during these months raised many new questions. These were not only in regard to Afghanistan's internal security but also relates to the fragile relations between the two neighboring countries. At least, as a part of a policy pronouncement, Kabul recognizes that its security is closely allied with that of Pakistan. On the eve of Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz's one day official visit to Kabul on July 24, these sentiments were reflected in Afghan Foreign Ministry statement saying that "friendly relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan were "in the national interest of both countries and an essential component to promote stability in the region". On several occasions, similar statements have also been made in the past. But, when pressures increases, the level of relations between the two countries come back to a naught.

The Afghan government continues to suspect Pakistan for being supportive of the militants in their country and in the present circumstances, there is little chance that Kabul could be convinced otherwise. The focal point of these relations remains around the conflict between Taliban and the Afghan security setup. Pakistan is dragged in the Afghan quandary, when it fails to manage the operations of Afghan related militant groups in its own society. Therefore, when it comes to Afghan militancy, the part of the problem comes from within Pakistan. Musharraf's government is seen by many as ineffective, as well indulging in dubious policies, whether sectarian or otherwise. The General's July 21 address to the nation vowed to eradicate militancy in Pakistan, but is regarded by observers as nothing more than his January 12, 2002 declaration to take charge of extremism and militancy in the country. The present "awakening" of Musharraf is attributed to July 7 London Bombings, in which the suicide bombers were alleged to have visited a Pakistani madrassa.

On its part, the Afghan society always presents itself in a package, carrying with itself a variety of dynamics and variables, which most of the time is difficult to manage by normal means. The past experience shows that the Afghans have yet to learn, solving their conflicts and accommodating the other point of view while running the government affairs. They have no experience in the modern concepts of legislative bodies, political parties or a structured judicial system. Whatever little they have, is confined to Kabul. In sum, there does not exist a political culture on whose foundations a modern society could be constructed. More so, with the brain drain since 1979, that went on unabated, the Afghan society lacks an indigenous expertise to manage their country. Experience has proved that a divided Afghanistan, devoid of any functional institutions, is incapable of reaching any political solution. As a reaction, the Kabul administration starts' looking for a scapegoat and Pakistan is invariably there to be singled out.

There is little hope that the forthcoming September parliamentary elections would provide a substantial betterment of the overall situation. Pakistan would continue to receive the fallout of the Afghan mismanagement, unless the government takes immediate strict measures to eradicate the Afghan linked militants. The noted aspect is that Pakistan has lost its creditability to perform any meaningful role in the divided and volatile Afghan society. Because of intense past interference in the Afghan factional conflict, Pakistan has conceded most of its neutral ground and is branded as an active partner in the existing militancy. In fact the Pakistani establishment is visualized as a major part of the problem. This view is also shared by some American officials, who regard Musharraf not doing enough to stop the recruitment of the Taliban cadres. After all, Ambassador Khalizad is nothing more than a mouthpiece of the Bush administration.

In the circumstances, it is required that Pakistan makes drastic adjustments in its Afghan related attitudes and put its own house in order. That would provide an opportunity to depart from its defective perceptions of the past and set the record straight. Pakistan has got another chance to amend its follies. It still has an opportunity to exit from the "Afghan muddle" that it had partly created for itself.


Reader Comments:

Understanding the Politics of the Region

I am regular reader of both Indian and Pakistani newspapers. I believe the Pakistani reporters are of the view that by criticizing anything and everything about the government they can maintain their independence. This is contrary to the perception of the reports across the border. The Indian reporters like their public have developed an atlas fixation. Their confidence in their country and their arrogance has disproportionately grown with the development of the economy of the country. Mr. Farooq Hasnat should understand the politics of the region. I am not defending the polices that various establishments in Pakistan had for Afghanistan. The government is edgy with the Indian and Afghanistan honeymoon and rightly so. Pakistan, with its meager resources and with a neighbor like India on its eastern borders cannot and should not help any Indian friendly government on its western borders.

Faisal Jafree, Georgia - 13 September, 2005

Afghans have always been a problem

Afghans are inherently an aggressive people who have always been hostile to Pakistan. I believe Pakistan has done enough in aiding the Afghans and should no longer pay any attention to them. I also believe the Musharraf government is very effective, unlike the useless governments of Bhutto and Sharif.

Aamir Ali, Pakistan - 13 September, 2005

brotherly relations only possible between Afghanistan and pakistan if the pakistani establishment and especially the ISI get this point straight in to their heads that Afghanistan is a seperate soveriegn nation and Afghanistan is not part of it's sphere of influence. Pakistan should compete with India in Afghanistan with rebuilding the much destroyed country due to Pakistan's unfair policies of supporting one side against the other after the collopsed of soviet backed government of Dr. Najeeb. India is building it's immage in Afghanistan by positively contributing to the reconstruction efforts by giving airplanes, buses, and building hospitals and recontructing educational institutions but on the other hand our brotherly muslim state of Pakistan can not stop the terrorists inflitrations from it's side of border. Pakistan's obligation as a muslim state was to try to find a compromise between two rival sides in the Afghan conflict in 1990s but instead our brotherly state of Pakistan fueled the fire by supporting one against other and now Pakistan is doing the same but unfortunately Pakistan will trap and engulf itself in that fire, if it doesn't stop and changes its attitude towards Afghanistan. I as an Afghan personally don't want to see our Pakistani brothers go through what we as Afghan are going due to the policies of its governments.

khushal, Afghanistan - 13 September, 2005

The paki nature

Reaing this article it just shows that even the so called intelectuals of pakistan or pakistani origin, are walking in the dark and very typical in expressing their views. Afghanistan as we all know historicaly, politicaly is 100 times ahea dof pakistan, but due to war Afghanistans other progress has been held back. now that afghanistan has won the war or wars, and is catching up for the steps they lost while busy in wars, young Pakistan and pakistanis are in fire, they are inf ire because they know that Afghanistan is on the verge of going way beyound where Afghanistan was before the wars. the spirit of Afghan people and their natural ebing, their natural intelect is as such that the unrealistic critisism will not even be noticed by them. they are ehading where they belong, which is on top, int he region, int he muslim world and in the world.

Samir Latifi, British Indian Ocean Territory - 13 September, 2005

the hard facts.

good thing about afghans is that they are a saleable commodity. Russian made them communists, the world under the influence of the US purchased them against the Russians, mujahideen used them to their advantage and then taleban made them fight against wach other, finally American again came in for the second puchase and is utilizing them to kill each other.what a country and nation.the most easy thing to get rid of your follies is to blame other for your mistakes. pakistan is an easy target as it helped the Afghans in their fight against the Russians and housed over 10 million Afghans during past 25 years.gave them shelter, food , jobs , education and health facilities. in return what it got was and is security problems, drugs, weapons , brothels, un-employment, burdened economy and trrorism state they are talking of Pakistans involvement in thier affairs, why not then, when Russians were here to kill them, occupy their land , and their women, then Pakistan was b brother now india and russia and iran are friends and brothers what not.
Afghans have great lust for money, Ahmed Shah Abdali invaded India repeatedly to sustain his govt.Amir Abdur Rehman used to get annual grant from British rulers in India.Today the world is giving them every thing in aid and afghan economy is running on drugs and aid. pakistan is no more in position in give aid and money as others are doing so ........ india today is friend of Afghans and at the time of russian invasion was on the side of Russian. iarn never allowed Afghan refugees beyond borders and kept them in camps away from thier ladies. they supported the anti Pashtoon faction through out the crisis period with weapons ammunition and money. Still they are not bleamed.
Afghans are a highly thankless nation and is friend to no body less money. that is a proven fact as british writers during 18th century called them as BE-EMAN and were right in their assessment.
An example of two Japanese killed in Kandahar, whose bodies were recovered from Daman distrist located 60 km inside Afghanistan, and the governor kandahar and the iterion ministry states that they were killed in Pakistan and bodies thrown in afghanistan. what a foolish way to blame Pkaistan.Its not easy to digest facts Afghanistan will remain in present state if they do not mend thier policies and try to live in 21st century. A reply to one comment, afghanistan is must below the progress made by pakistan a power they can not reckon with, afghans still do not know know how to dispose the waste, they had never seen running water in tabs, electricity was a dreamand they are comparing themself with Pakistan. thay have to understand how to live in todays wolrd and with in the commity of nations, or they will be no more on the map of the world

, Pakistan - 14 September, 2005

who's at wrong

dear readers,
i as a refuge lived in peshawar for 25years and now i am back to my country with a hope to contribute in its rebuilding and restructuring but i dont think i will be able to stay here for long and will have to go back to a country which accomodated more then 3 million afghans for over 2 dacades.becasue i dont see any future in this country even after elections and because i see same faces on all the posters who killed,raped,burnt people alive and they will be the one who will run the government again....why should we blame others who infact saved us from russians ...point to ponder

yama nizami, Afghanistan - 14 September, 2005

who's at wrong

Afghanistan has always been a stage for world politices where world players would come and perfom their way.i would like to make one very short and sweet statement and that we should mark this day and time becasue i can see same blood after the elections being a very important component of this world drama,although i came to serve the nation but invain

yama nizami, Afghanistan - 15 September, 2005

I appreciate the writer who has reflected her ideas so truthfully and we must believe that they are true. If you look at Afghan media, majority supported by funds fromIndian, that how they are opening writing against Pakistan. We should rebut in a true manner as the writer has done in this article.

Robin, Pakistan - 16 September, 2005

What if......

Imagine if Jewish settlers in the Gaza Strip destroyed two dozen mosques. There would be mass rallies in front of Israeli embassies around the world, and in America organizations like CAIR and MPAC would issue righteous condemnations calling on the American government to restrain Israel. However, as we've seen today, when Palestinians streaming into liberated Gaza set fire to synagogues there is deafening silence from most Muslims and certainly from the leadership of the American Muslim community.

Herein lies the sorry state of Islamic affairs. Muslims like to brag that when the Caliph Umar ibn Khatab entered the City of Jerusalem, he exhibited respect for Jews and Christians by refusing to pray in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, because he was afraid that Muslims would take it over. Indeed, to this day, a Muslim family is entrusted with the key to the church. In contrast, this Islamic spirit has ceased to exist 1,400 years later. The Palestinian authority is incapable (or unwilling) to provide security for the abandoned synagogues, the Palestinian people lack the adhab to refrain from destroying a temple dedicated to the worship of Allah, and Muslims in America are indifferent to this destruction because it is occurring to Jewish property.

Of course, as the New York Times reported today, this was a set up orchestrated by the Israeli government. Originally the synagogues were to be bulldozed with the rest of the illegal settlements constructed by Israeli settlers during their withdrawal from the 38-year occupation of Palestinian land. However, prominent rabbis argued that Jews can't destroy synagogues, and Ariel Sharon "was left with two bad choices: tearing them down, or leaving them standing with the knowledge that they might be desecrated."

Yeah, right. More likely Sharon rejoiced at the opportunity. He knew that the Palestinian Authority would not act to prevent the destruction. As a consequence, pictures and headlines would be flashed around the world showing Palestinian Muslims destroying synagogues. Once again the familiar narrative would be reinforced: Palestinian Muslims are barbarians, and Israeli Jews are justified in their brutal methods, otherwise civilization would fall.

The wholesale destruction of the Jewish synagogues is yet another indication that Palestinians of all stripes, whether Fatah secularists or Islamic Hamas types, do not have the political maturity to construct a civil society. However, it is also a sign that Muslims in America lack the conviction of their religion to condemn sacrilege when it is committed by Muslims against others.

Azam, Trinidad And Tobago - 16 September, 2005

my brother samir latifi

i neither defend pakistan nor afghanistan but i will always say one thing that 90%afghan are not in a mood to come back to their country for the reason that it does not give them freedom,security and social life on top of every thing ,i was also highly motivated before coming back to my mother land to assist the governement to stand on its feet but to my surprize things are not as we see in media ,i humbly request all afghans to just sit alone some time and think what have we done for our next door neighbour in history,how we treated them on world forums,on refugees issue and on other support.
i would like to ask my brothers,whom you think has saved our mothers and sisters when they were close to humiliation and suicide.please understand the world politices and trends, my brother its always easy to fight from out side but its very painful when you come back and fight inside, which is awful experience.please lets understand this time atleast why afghanistan is again centre of all world attentions,if we dont get it this time then we lost it for ever..........

yama nizami, Afghanistan - 26 September, 2005





SAMIR LATIFI, British Indian Ocean Territory - 09 November, 2005

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