‘Our leadership is in our own hands and is in Afghanistan, not in Quetta’ – Afghan Taliban
Taliban spokesperson has recently stated “We don’t have a special relationship with Pakistan. Our leadership is in our own hands. Our leadership is in Afghanistan, not in Quetta.”
After this statement from the Afghan Taliban, it is evident that Pakistan is not their patron. Such narratives are formed to malign the peace process in the region, mainly because a peaceful Afghanistan would mean a peaceful Pakistan.
Since the Taliban have categorically stated that they do not have any special relationship with Pakistan, there remains no reason to peddle this perception that Pakistan is backing them.
Gen (retd) David Petraeus, former Director of CIA and former commander of ISAF in Afghanistan, once debunked the claims of journalists that Pakistan supports Taliban (Discussion at RUSI, October 2016). People like Gen Petraeus, who have seen the on-ground situation in Afghanistan, testify to the lack of relations between the Taliban and Pakistan.
Foreign Minister Qureshi has categorically said that Pakistan has no interest in patronizing the Taliban. Instead, Pakistan wants to move together with Afghanistan to bring peace and economic prosperity to the region.
A stable Afghanistan in the larger interest of Pakistan, regional peace:
As much as Pakistan’s geo-political location is significant, it hasn’t been easy for the 74 years old state to cope with the challenges that have been posed through regional confrontations. The most troublesome situations Pakistan has dealt with usually came from its eastern and northwestern border which is Indian and Afghanistan respectively.
Now, Afghanistan has always been that troubled love story for Pakistan that it cannot leave no matter how much it does not want to be a part of. Overviewing the history and looking at the current situation in Afghanistan, US troop’s final withdrawal bound in September 2021, India’s uncalled for involvement in Kabul’s affairs, and Pakistan’s relation with the United States, Pakistan has to be much more aware and cautious in its policies towards regional peace.
If one looks through recent policy statements from the Pakistani side, the tilt has always been towards the Afghan Peace Process because that’s the only way forward for Pakistan. In a recent interview with Turkey’s News Agency Anadolu, Pakistani FM Shah Mehmood Qureshi talked about afghan Peace activity.
“The stakes are very high. If there’s progress, there can be peace, there can be stability, and the region collectively will benefit from the outcome of a peace process. And everybody would reap the dividends of peace. The stakes are high, simply for the reason that God forbid, if there is no agreement, if there is no political settlement, the fear of going back into the 90s, the fear of Afghanistan going into a civil war is looming over our heads”, he said.
Pakistan’s stumbled journey towards economic stability under the PTI-Led govt of PM Imran Khan has also pushed the country to take decisive turns in its foreign policy.
Qureshi further said in the same sitting with Anadolu that, “Pakistan’s geopolitical location is significant. And we feel Pakistan can take advantage of that situation for generating economic activity and this Economic Corridor that has been built between China and Pakistan, the hub of economic activity. We feel with the completion of this flagship project, Pakistan is providing a huge opportunity to landlocked countries like Afghanistan and the Central Asian republics”.
Besides, there are around 2.8 million documented and undocumented Afghan refugees living in Pakistan, making it the second-largest refugee population in the world after the Syrians in Turkey.
Pakistan’s fragile economy has been bearing this burden for decades now. A stable Afghanistan would also mean the return of these refugees to their native cities which would ease the circumstances for already economically shaken up Pakistan.
Written by: Mehwish Azam