Mohammed Umer Daudzai recently penned an article that got featured in the New York Times where he voiced serious concerns over Ashraf Ghani’s foreign policy with regards to Pakistan. A former interior minister of Afghanistan and having previously served as an ambassador to Iran and Pakistan, there is no denying the fact that the individual is certainly well placed to comment on the current state of affairs; however, at the same time one cannot help but notice the uncurbed paranoia that is prevalent throughout the piece.
In short, the ex-ambassador feels that the current Afghan government is placing all its eggs in one basket and is foolish to assume that there will be a shift in Pakistan’s foreign policy with regards to Afghanistan. Speaking from his personal experience of working with the Pakistan administration and taking us through Pakistan Army’s history of harboring militants, the author fails to take into account the radical change that has taken place in the state of affairs. Moreover, Mr. Daudzai made claims of Pakistan having its own ulterior motives and that its response has been largely tactical and self-serving. To solidify his argument, he further stated that the Pakistani government now wants to wash its hands of the terrorism problem by claiming that the TTP has a sanctuary along the Afghan border and that Pakistan plans on expelling Afghan refugees under the National Action Plan without any regard for the burden the Afghan government will have to face.
With all due respect, both of the above claims are perhaps a little uninformed. It is a fact that the TTP has its hideouts in Afghanistan just like the Afghan Taliban has found refuge in Pakistan. Both the governments are cognizant of this fact and have pledged to go after both the militant groups. Moreover, as far the repatriation of the Afghan refugees is concerned; the Pakistani government has recently shelved its year-end plan of sending the refugees across the border as it is an issue that requires a lot more time. As a matter of fact, earlier this month a delegation from Afghanistan visited Pakistan to discuss the issue of refugees and their repatriation where they decided to form a joint commission in order to chalk-out a game plan. Therefore, it seems like the Pakistan government is taking the Afghan administration into confidence with regards to whatever they decide on the persisting refugee crisis.
Moving on to the ex-ambassador’s concerns about the Pakistan Army continuing its use of militant groups as strategic assets, there is a need to realize that things have changed significantly with worsening internal security situation in Pakistan. If one has been following developments recently, with COAS Raheel Sharif leading from the front when it comes to tackling terrorism in the urban centres of the country (Karachi operation); there is undeniably a departure from the tactics the Pakistan Army deployed in the past. At last, Mr. Daud is skeptical about the possibility of ‘fruitful’ talks between the Afghan government and Taliban and feels that Ashraf Ghani should instead focus on consolidating the Afghan state by strengthening its institutions; nonetheless, he needs to bear in mind that the Afghan Taliban is still a force to reckon with and poses serious threats to the writ of the state, therefore, dialogue is the only way forward.