Afghan brethren

27 Mar 2017

After the end of Soviet War in April 1988, the United Nations got Geneva Agreement signed between Pakistan and Afghanistan, according to which the two countries would adopt the policy of non-interference and would work together to solve their mutual issues. Russia and America played the role of guarantors for the agreement. The decades of 1980s and 90s marked the end of cold war. Russia and America were two biggest world powers in those times. They would fight against each other through different frontiers. In the Vietnam War, Russia supported Vietnam while the USA avenged this act by supporting Afghanistan. If America’s Stinger missiles, dollars and advanced weapons had not been present in the Afghan war, Russia wouldn’t have been defeated. There are opposing views regarding whether or not Pakistan should have adopted the policy of non-interference in this conflict .However, it is evident today that the tug of war between two super powers, America and Russia, was termed as Jihad for specifically adding religious fanatic element to the conflict. During Benazir Bhutto’s first government, Pakistan clearly aided, if not created, Taliban movement in Afghanistan. Was it the violation of Geneva agreement? During those times, Pakistan and Arab backers of Taliban failed to realize that, in the long run, Taliban ideology was detrimental to the regional and world peace as a whole. Probably, a highly motivated fighting force was needed to implement the doctrine of “Strategic Depth”; therefore the downside of religious extremism was ignored. The barbaric ideology, falsely associated with Islam, ruined the social fabric of Afghanistan. With their powerful backers, Taliban overnight conquered and consequently gained most of the country. Afghanistan was taken back to Stone Age. Moreover, the Taliban made Afghanistan a safe haven for the terrorists. It all kept happening in our neighboring country but we didn’t even bat an eyelash.

In December 1999, an Indian airplane going from Kathmandu to Delhi was hi-jacked and consequently landed at Qandahar in Afghanistan. The hijackers demanded the release of Masood Azhar and three other militant leaders. The demand was accepted by the Indian Government. Soon after his release, Masood Azhar was seen triumphantly parading in the streets of Pakistan. This event paved way for the incident that would change the world for ever. Osama Bin Laden orchestrated Attack on America in 2001, all the while sitting in Afghanistan. America, accompanied by its allies, retaliated.  They attacked and inhabited Afghanistan, in pursuit of Osama Bin Laden. However, Osama was killed by American Special Forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan on 2nd of May, 2011.

Now, ironically, Pakistan is blaming Afghanistan for failing to curb cross border terrorism.

What have we learned from the past mistakes? Isn’t it our policy failure that despite not being connected geographically, India and Afghanistan are still closer to each other than we are to Afghanistan? The same myopic policies by Pakistan’s establishment were evident in the misadventures including mishandling of East Pakistan situation after 1970 election and Kargil Fiasco, and still they don’t seem to have learnt from their past mistakes. Still some elements of the security establishment are adamant about the doctrine of strategic depth; they vehemently express their views in “off the record “conversations. The reason behind all of this lies in their own self-delusion and their ignorance towards the facts.

The west, including Russia, China and Iran find it totally unacceptable that Afghanistan is inundated with religious fanatics. They’ll never allow 9/11 to happen again. Moreover, the only reliable friend we have in this region is China and since one of their own provinces Xinjiang is suffering from religious extremism too, they wouldn’t want their neighboring countries to harbor religious extremists, at any cost. In order to save our friendship and the region in general, Pakistan needs to review its foreign policy. It is the need of the hour that, China, Pakistan, Iran and the central Asian countries build a joint force of their own to fight the religious extremism in the region. Moreover, regarding Afghan policy, we need to pick a side; either the Taliban or the Afghan government. We cannot condone certain militant groups working against the interest of our neighboring governments and expect congenial treatment. This dual policy is going to paint a bleak picture for our country’s future. We need to send back Afghan refugees but that will be possible only if Afghanistan manifests complete peace. We need to treat the Pakistan-opposing Taliban and Afghan government-opposing Taliban in the same way. Both of these factions are equally harmful for the peace of our country and the region as a whole. It is about time that our security establishment lets go of obsolete doctrine of strategic depth and stop turning blind eye to certain religious militant outfits. Otherwise, this war will go on forever.

Published in “Pakistan Today” on 27 March 2017

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