WEB DESK: A delegation of senior Pashtun leaders of Pakistan on a peace mission to Kabul has returned quite satisfied.
The delegation – a jirga in Pashtun parlance – led by ANP chief Asfanydar Wali Khan included people like Mehmood Khan Achakzai and Afrasyab Khattak, who are known for taking impartial positions on Pak-Afghan relations, often times incompatible with official policy. Also, the ANP has had a long-standing special relationship with Afghanistan.
The party opposed both the Afghan jihad through the ’80s and the Taliban war against Kabul, and stood firmly against the Pakistani Taliban, paying a heavy price in lives lost. All this must have helped the delegation members gain the confidence of their Afghan interlocutors.
They held frank discussions not only with President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah but also opinion leaders from different walks of life, helping remove the mistrust exacerbating tensions between the two countries. The Afghans told the visitors that aside from resolving the conflict with the Taliban, they are keen to benefit from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, and to see greater investment flows from Pakistan as well as trade expansion. Same is the desire on this side of the border.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar recently expressed the resolve to work ‘single mindedly’ to meet $5 billion trade volume target by 2017. Yet suspicions stand in the way. It is not difficult to figure out the exchange between the visitors and their hosts considering that Afghans have a long list of complaints against the Pakistani establishment; and of course, Pakistan has its own grouse with the Kabul government for letting the TTP use its territory to launch terror attacks into Pakistan, including last December’s horrific atrocity at the Army Pubic School in Peshawar that claimed the lives of 132 innocent children and nine members of the school staff.
Pakistan has its concerns too about Indian influence in Kabul. President Ghani’s initial overtures towards Pakistan, unfortunately, did not go very far largely due to lack of trust. The issues causing a chasm between the two countries are both serious and complicated, and yet they cannot be left unresolved.
In a press release about the visit, the ANP has said that the trip to Kabul was an icebreaking move, and would bring leadership of the two countries to the negotiating table. And that the Afghan leadership had hinted at resuming talks with Islamabad. In fact, the US is also pushing the two countries to work together to end the conflict with the Taliban. Reports also indicate the Taliban leadership is ready to return to the negotiations that broke off amidst news of Mullah Omer’s demise.
According to the press release, the Pashtun leaders would be willing to play their role in formal peace talks in the future. They can surely help remove any glitches when the formal peace talks begin between the two governments. Hopefully, the Pak-Afghan peace dialogue will take place sometime soon.