by Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan for The Saker blog
Afghanistan is a landlocked country located within South-Central Asia. Afghanistan is bordered by Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and China. With its population of 35 million approximately, having a GDP (nominal) of 22 billion US dollars in total, and per capita income of 600 Dollars only. Rich with minerals and natural resources, and well-known for its fruits and nuts, still suffering and laying among the least developed country of the world, ranked 177. Four decades of war have damaged the whole country and the whole nation is a victim of war imposed on them.
Its geopolitical location is vital for the whole Eurasian region, as it connects Central Asia, Iran, China, and Russia, with Pakistan, leading towards Warm Waters – the Arabian Sea or the Indian Ocean. All of the countries are suffering due to instability in Afghanistan and desires a long-lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Very unfortunate! Afghanistan is under war or war-like situation for the last 4 decades. Are Afghans are people of lesser God??? No sufficient food, No education, No health care, severe shortage of electricity, Shortage of fuel, are witnessed in Afghanistan. It seems the sufferings of Afghans are going to end. The world has realized that it is enough and now think in the restoration of peace and stability in Afghanistan. The common man has suffered for more than 4 decades, which started with the former USSR entry of Afghanistan on the 25th of December 1979 and then internal power struggle among various factions of Afghanistan and finally after 9-11 incident happened in the US, NATO and allied forces entered into Afghanistan. NATO allies have been fighting in Afghanistan for 18 long years, but are still without control anywhere in the country. Even now, the US Army cannot move freely and fearlessly outside of Bagram Airbase. Taliban forces still control major parts of the country. After spending trillion Dollars, killing thousands of innocent people, testing and dumping tons of explosives, finally, the US has understood that they cannot win in Afghanistan. As a matter of fact, the US economy cannot sustain anymore, such as heavy and expensive wars. That is why the US has also decided to withdraw its troops from Syria too.
In fact, Afghanistan was never totally ruled by foreign powers, although in the country’s history many misadventures happened. The people of Afghanistan always defeated invaders. It has been invaded by Alexander the Great, Mauryas, Muslim Arabs, Mongols, British, Soviets and since 2001, by the United States with NATO-allied countries. But it has proved itself unconquerable. Afghans are brave people and believe in freedom only.
All of the regional countries, including Central Asian States, Russia, Iran, China, and Pakistan were trying to bring Peace and Stability in Afghanistan. Several initiatives for peace in Afghanistan were taken in the past, but none as successful as they were not involved or owned by locals –Taliban and were opposed by the US and its allies. The US-backed elected Governments in Afghanistan, do not enjoy popularity among masses and may not represent the voice of common Afghan nationals.
Pakistan, being neighbors with a long common border, understands Afghanistan well. We share rivers, mountains and a common culture, language and ethnicity, and language. That is why we understand Afghanistan much better than anybody else. The role which Pakistan can play, no other nation can. There is no other country to substitute Pakistan in this regard. The US was trying to involve India in Afghan Issues, but due to the reason it does not have any land linkage, neither any cultural or ethnic commonalities with Afghan, cannot understand their society or issues and helpless in resolving their issues. The world may acknowledge Pakistan’s sacrifices and positive role in this region. Pakistan sincerely wishes for peace and stability in Afghanistan, and as we have suffered losses of around 75,000 lives and $250 billion due to unrest in Afghanistan. We will be the first nation to support peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Pakistan was a very close ally with the US-led West alliance, for almost seven decades. We were partners during the Cold War against “Communism Threat” and a frontline state against the USSR invasion of Afghanistan, a strong supporter and close ally during the war on terror. Pakistan was strongest ally with West out-side NATO. Pakistan can play a vital role in a sustainable solution to the Afghan conflict. Complete withdrawal and an Afghan-led solution is the only permanent way out. Pakistan can facilitate an honorable and safe passage for US withdrawal.
Prime Minister, Imran Khan, a longtime critic of the Afghan war, is in the driving seat in Pakistan. In his maiden speech after winning the election on July 26, he expressed his wish to resolve Afghan issues. His stance, though very unpopular a few years ago, is extremely popular now, domestically as well as internationally, especially coincides with the currently emerged Americans approach. The US government knows that Pakistan under Khan’s leadership can woo the Taliban into accepting some kind of long-term ceasefire.
Pakistan wants to help with the Afghan peace process; peace in Afghanistan would be the best thing that could happen to Pakistan in decades, but certainly not at Pakistan’s expense. The US has asked Pakistan to bring the Taliban back to the table. How can Pakistan do this when the US had previously intentionally derailed the peace process? Recently U-turns by President Trump is even a major obstacle as a credibility issue. Yet, Pakistan did a lot to bring the Taliban on the negotiating table. But the peace process needs sincerity and persistence.
The US has to wake up to the realities in Pakistan. It cannot expect on one hand to harm Pakistan’s core interests and on the other hand strengthening its ties with India, especially after the Indian accession of Kashmir on the 5th of August 2019.
Criticizing Pakistan only, while ignoring Israel and India, who are engaged in genocide and worst atrocities against muslin and other minorities in their countries. On one hand, the US objects to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and resists Pakistan’s economic takeoff. And not extending any support to Pakistan to overcome its economic crisis.
The Taliban have been very clear in their demands from the very beginning, and that is a complete withdrawal of the US and its allied forces from Afghanistan. However, the US cannot sustain economic pressure and have to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan just like Syria. There are people in the US who think that after spending trillions of dollars, and still no achievement on the ground, is a blunder. Taxpayer are asking the government for accountability of heavy expenditures and wastage of their tax collected money. We hope, in the wider interest of humanity, the US may show flexibility and seriously consider the Afghan Peace Process. It will be good for Afghanistan, the region and over-all for the whole world.
Instability in Afghanistan makes many of its people flee into Pakistan, which has hosted up to 5 million Afghan refugees at peak times. No other country has accepted such a huge number of refugees, while Pakistan, a country with meager resources and a weak economy has accommodated them for such long 4 decades.
Pakistan was in the past a very tolerant and peace-loving, balanced society, but during the 1980s war in Afghanistan, Pakistan suffered extremism, intolerance, terrorism, gun culture, and drug culture. For four decades, the war in Afghanistan pushed Pakistan to give the highest priority to its defense and ignore other sectors such as education, health, science and technology, and innovation, as well as the social sector and developmental sectors. As a result, the nation was pushed backward.
In the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s Pakistan’s economy was performing very well – it was one of the most rapidly developing countries in South Asia. Singapore, South Korea, and Malaysia wanted to learn from Pakistan and its development model. The Pakistani passport was well respected in the world, with many countries offering us visas on arrival.
But since December 25, 1979, with the situation in Afghanistan has impacted Pakistan severely. Terrorism reached extreme levels and bombings, suicidal attacks and insecurity were witnessed everywhere.
After a school attack on December 16, 2016, in Peshawar, Pakistan formulated a National Action Plan (NAP). With the implementation of this program, Pakistan has achieved significant improvement in the country’s overall security landscape in recent years.
However, while Pakistan is successfully fighting the terrorists on its soil, it also expects the US, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Afghan forces to do the same in Afghanistan.
Several Peace initiatives are witnessed recently, either it is Doha talks, Moscow Format, Beijing or Islamabad talks, Talban’s are serious and moving forward with a hope to restore peace in Afghanistan permanently. Talban’s are the actual pillar of Power in Afghanistan, who holds major part of the country in their control and enjoys popularity inside Afghanistan. The US administrations has also realized their power and believes talking with them directly. A peaceful and developed Afghanistan is vital for the whole Eurasian region. It will promote trade and economic activities and change the whole pattern of trade around the world. Beneficiary will be not only Afghanistan only, but the whole Eurasian region.
Author: Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan, Sinologist, ex-Diplomate, Academician, Researcher, Peace-activist, Geo-analyst, Non-Resident Fellow of CCG (Center for China and Globalization), Islamabad, Pakistan. E-mail: email@example.com)