Ashraf Ghani, the president of Afghanistan has repeatedly slammed Pakistan for harboring terrorist groups. Pointing to Sartaj Aziz, advisor to the prime minister of Pakistan on foreign affairs, Ashraf Ghani asked Pakistan to utilize the amount of a $500 million pledge in aid to tackle extremism inside their own country, while speaking at the sixth ministerial conference of the Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process in the northern Indian city of Amritsar.
Besides, while addressing youth in Kabul, Ghani affirmed, “We want dignified relations with our neighbors, not charity.”
Afghanistan and Pakistan have been constantly at loggerheads since the birth of the later in 1947. However, on the eve of his inauguration, Afghan president Ashraf Ghani maintained that his country is in an undeclared war from the neighboring Pakistan through the last decades and insisted on bringing it to its logical end.
Therefore, he went to Pakistan and met Pakistani leaders both civilians and military figures, but in vain.
Ghani elaborated to Pakistani officials in Islamabad and Rawalpindi that Afghanistan can be a helpful neighbor in addressing regional and mutual threats if Islamabad proves to cooperate in bringing peace in war-shattered country. This opened a new chapter of optimism for a harmonious neighborly coexistence. As of Afghanistan’s goodwill to normalize relations with Pakistan, Ghani allowed a group of Afghan National Army cadets to attend 14-month military training in Pakistan Military Academy as it was bulked previously by President Hamid Karzai.
Additionally, Ghani suspended much-delayed request of Indian weaponry that was initiated by his predecessor. By this, Ghani has halted a more than decade-long improvement in Afghan-Indo ties. Ghani’s provocative measures towards Pakistan welcomed by world’s major powers including China, an all-weather friend of Pakistan, US and the EU, but it had a serious backfire inside the country. His approaching policy to Pakistan caused that his political opponents labeled him as a traitor who tries to sell out the country to Pakistan. However, President Ashraf Ghani insisted that his country is engaged in an undeclared war with Pakistan and this needs to be resolved by hook or by crook.
Things changed rapidly in favor of his political opponents in Afghanistan. As a flashpoint in a flip flop relation, Kabul witnessed deathly attacks that caused more than 50 deaths and 300 injured in August 2015 and the relation with Pakistan became disillusioned and resentful as Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks – except the one took place in Shah Shahid area in the south of Kabul city. The incidents sabotaged the efforts before it burgeoned.
Ghani accused Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism inside his country and took steps to resume ties with India. An already waiting India, welcomed him and in addition to accepting the military assistance wish list to some extent as at the first step gifted four Mi-25 combat helicopters to Afghan Air Force, India promised $1 billion in aid to the Afghan government and more humanitarian assistance during Ashraf Ghani’s trip to Delhi in September 2016. The face winning phase of his relation with Pakistan came to an end and accusation phase has surfaced.
Encouraged and persuaded by the United States, China and Pakistan, Ghani attended the fifth Heart of Asia conference in Islamabad on Dec 09th, 2015 in dismal, though a bonhomie for resuscitated relations between the two countries emerged and shortened the schism between Kabul and Islamabad as Pakistan promised to drag Taliban on negotiation table as did in Murree on July 7th, 2015. But the facts proved quite different as president Ghani termed in Amritsar at sixth Heart of Asia conference, “Last year, Afghanistan suffered the highest number of civilian causalities and military-related deaths in the world. This is unacceptable. It can be avoided.”
In fact, military generals in Rawalpindi has a subversive perception toward Afghanistan. Afghan officials and some western diplomats claim that Pakistani military apparatus provide sanctuaries for Taliban and other terrorist outlets in their country and they are trained, mobilized and dispatched by them into Afghanistan as recently, Ashraf Ghani quoted Mullah Rahmatullah Kakazada, one of the high ranked figures in the Taliban movement who recently said; if they did not have sanctuary in Pakistan, they would not last a month.
Nevertheless, appointing Qamar Javed Bajwa who was not a potential candidate, as the Chief of Army Staff by Nawaz Sharif Pakistan’s PM, it is hoped that the schism between military apparatus and civil government of Pakistan shortened, so a general consensus should be made on fight against extremism and terrorism inside and outside Pakistan whole handedly.
On the other hand, the time is ripe to drag the Afghan Taliban to negotiation table otherwise the opportunity will be missed by Pakistan as the insurgent group is seeking new friends such as Russia and Iran who can better bargain on them with the Afghan government and The United States for their own purposes. Therefore, it belongs to Pakistan to bargain on Taliban and play its significant role in Afghan Peace Process or she should continue lurking aimlessly in the abyss of war diplomacy which the result might be international isolation.
Last but not least, keeping in mind the core and strategic challenges of Pakistan such as their dire need for energy, water, transit and of course “international isolation”, Ashraf Ghani calls for a long lasting Cobden-Chevalier Treaty type agreement between the two nations, so together to achieve common goals.
*Nassir Ahmad Taraki lives in Kabul. He is a university lecturer and writes on current affairs. He can be followed on twitter @NassirTaraki