PIPS Consultation-I on Afghan Peace & Reconciliation
Pak Institute for Peace Studies held an experts’ consultation on September 24, 2021, titled “Supporting the Afghan peace process: Pakistan’s position, interests, and policy options” in Islamabad. Participants noted that Pakistan should not oversimplify the Afghan situation and the threat posed by different militant groups across the border. They underscored the need for Pakistan to pursue its Afghan policy carefully in the wake of recent developments taking place in the land-locked country since the Taliban seized power in Kabul. Many also highlighted that there seems no end to “great game” in Afghanistan and Pakistan should be careful and adopt “regional approach” by taking on board regional countries including Russian, China, Iran and even Central Asian States to move forward on the issue of Afghanistan. The participants of the consultation included sitting and former lawmakers, academicians, ex-ambassadors, former military officers, senior journalists and office bearers of different religious-political parties besides others.
PIPS Consultations on Afghan Peace & Reconciliation
The Institute has devised a series of eight (8) quarterly consultations structured around various aspects of Afghan peace and reconciliation and their interface with Pakistan’s domestic and regional affairs. The purpose is to expand the knowledge base on Pakistan’s policy options for peace in Afghanistan and develop and advocate improved policy options and responses. The first such consultation was held on 24th of September in Islamabad. PIPS has established a preliminary network of around 15 credible resource persons, who will serve as core participants for these consultations and will be joined by more experts, analysts, and policymakers in each of the consultations. In all, network of resource persons comprises representatives of political parties, relevant state officials, religious circles, civil society/academia, retired senior military officials and defense analysts, media, trade/business community, Afghan refugees, and those living along the border, etc. Once a year, around 4 Afghan experts, officials, media persons and political leaders will also be invited to participate in the network’s meetings. The findings/policy recommendations of every quarterly consultative session will be printed and disseminated to the relevant stakeholders in form of comprehensive report.
Former Corps Commander Peshawar and ex-ambassador Lt General (retired) Muhammad Masood Aslam opening the debate said that stable and peaceful Afghanistan was in the interest of Pakistan. “Pakistan’s major objective should be that how peace in Afghanistan could be ensured and for this purpose, we would have to show patience and engagement towards entire world.”
Former Senator Afrasiab Khattak predicted that Afghanistan would face further destabilization adding that a new great game has started there. “Now it is the time for Pakistan to form a new Afghan policy based on bilateral framework.” He also urged that Pakistan should resolve Afghan refugees’ issue and should have a policy of regional integration as efforts are under way to sabotage China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project. He added that new Afghan policy should also cover such issues as well.
PTI Senator Zeeshan Khanzada argued that the Afghan issue has had a direct impact on Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s security and economy as they had suffered a lot in the past both in security and economic terms. “We want long-lasting peace in Afghanistan,” he said.
Chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology Qibla Ayaz stressed the need for religious and ulema diplomacy to engage Afghanistan and said that those religious scholars could be used who have influence over the Taliban. He said that local nationalist parties should also be taken on board who also have influence over other groups in the neighboring country.
Professor Zafar Nawaz Jaspal of the Quaid-i-Azam University said that India and religion were two realities in Pakistan and both held major significance in its domestic and foreign policies. “It is illogical if you think that there is no proxy in Afghanistan…war economy is there,” he said. He reminded that TTP and other militant groups were former allies of the Afghan Taliban. He said that best option for Pakistan was to strengthen the security of its borders.
Former Senator and PPP leader Farhatullah Babar said that Pakistan was facing threat of rise of “anti-Pakistan sentiment” in the neighbouring country. “The rise of Taliban in Afghanistan is enabling the rise of same mindset in Pakistan.” He said international powers could use Taliban against China and the situation would threaten the security of Pakistan as well. He opined that Pakistan should not recognize the Taliban and the people of the neighbouring country should not be left alone otherwise there would be spillover effect on it. He underscored the need that Pakistan should make a refugee law to settle the issue of Afghan refugees living in the country.
The chief of Jamaat-e-Islami in Balochistan Maulana Abdul Haq Hashmi remarked that Pakistan needed to be careful while drafting all policies regarding Afghanistan. He believed that Pakistan could help post-Taliban Afghanistan in multiple ways including through training and capacity- building programmes.
Rifatullah Orakzai, a journalist from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, viewed that there were chances of resistance and bloodshed in the neighbouring country if an inclusive government in real terms was not formed there. “Taliban’s victory is a success story for other militant groups present there,” he said adding that they could initiate armed struggle if not made part of any future government in Kabul. He warned that banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has increased its attacks in Pakistan since takeover of Kabul by Taliban on August 15 and Pakistan needed to handle the situation carefully.
Syed Irfan Ashraf, a teacher at the University of Peshawar, said that Pakistan was oversimplifying many things regarding Afghanistan including Afghan history, the identity of Pashtuns living there and the perception about the threat that originates from there.
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-S) leader Maulana Yousaf Shah in his remarks said that people of Afghanistan have welcomed Taliban as they were upset over the policies of the previous western-backed government. He said that Taliban should be allowed to choose the system of governance of their own choice while they have already made it clear that no one would be allowed to use their land against any other country.
Haroon Rashid, a senior journalist and an expert on Afghan affairs, warned the participants that there seemed no end to “great game” in Afghanistan and said that some militant groups present in the country could be used for a proxy war by other countries. He also said that the miseries of common man were missing in the whole debate on Afghan situation.
Former Foreign Secretary Inam-ul-Haq concluded the consultation by saying that Pakistan should avoid giving impression that the “triumph of Taliban was its own victory” as it has little options at this front including to deal with humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. “Pakistan should tell the world that neither we are interlocutors nor message carriers for Taliban.”
In the beginning, Director PIPS Muhammad Amir Rana in his welcome remarks said that the major concern arising out of Afghan situation was security and it was not only connected with terrorism but also with border security, and regional security as well. He said that Pakistan needed to pursue its geo-strategic interests that were political and economic in nature. “This has to be seen how Pakistan can play a constructive role in this regard,” he underlined.
Research Analyst PIPS Safdar Hussain presenting a summary of “key trends of responses from Pakistan on emerging Afghan situation” said that Pakistan should establish good relations with neighbours including China, Iran and even India to avoid any proxy war in Afghanistan.