By Mehar F Hussain
July 5, 2013
Two serious allegations have been made against Pakistan by the Afghan Army Chief General Sher Mohammed Karimi. The first was that Pakistan was not serious about peace and therefore causing the war in Afghanistan to continue when it could be put to an end in weeks. And second, Pakistan apparently "controls" the Taliban and unleashed the terrorist group onto Afghanistan by shutting down madrasas.
These allegations cannot be taken lightly. As US troops wind down their campaign in war-torn and war-weary Afghanistan, it is imperative that Pakistan and Afghanistan work together to deal with its consequences in a constructive manner. Earlier in the week, President Asif Ali Zardari had met with British Prime Minister David Cameron and it was during this meeting that Zardari spoke of a renewed pledge on Pakistan's part to promote dialogue with Afghanistan as well as make efforts for peace in the region.
So what caused General Karimi to make such allegations? For months now, relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have been under strain. As Pakistan grapples with its internal terror problems that threaten to destroy the little stability in the country, Afghanistan and its woes probably do not rank very high on its list of priorities. That is bound to go down badly with a country that has been left shattered and broken after years of fighting - in fact, some say that the Iraq war led to the Afghan war being forgotten, leaving Afghanistan suspicious of Pakistan and what it says.
The roots of the distrust between Pakistan and Afghanistan lie in the Soviet-Afghan war when Pakistan teamed with the US to fight against the Russians. Once the US forces pulled out without providing any form of constructive support to post-war Afghanistan, there was a negative spill-over effect in Pakistan in the form of drug trafficking, illegal migration and introduction of gun culture. All this found room to grow in Pakistan, a country which provided support to militant groups.
Now relations between the two countries have soured to a point where recriminations and exchange of strong words are common, leading to a strong trust deficit. So much so that even Afghan President Hamid Karzai has spoken about Pakistan's lack of sincerity and double standards when it comes to working for peace in Afghanistan. This lack of sincerity is evident from the fact that the Taliban did indeed get support from the Pakistan military.
In fact Pakistan was a firm supporter of the Taliban regime which lasted until 2001. And now President Zardari is holding meetings for the purpose of establishing peace in that same country. At the same time, the allegations made by General Karimi including claims that the drone attacks in Pakistan are conducted with the support of its government, do little to help the situation.
Pakistan Is At Tipping Point
When it comes to battling terrorists at home. Having supported the Afghan Taliban, Pakistan has seen the rise of its own home-grown Taliban which literally wants to remove anything and anyone that does not agree with their world view. Recently a number of attacks took place against the Shias in Hazara and Quetta. With so much blood being shed Pakistan is suffering heavily. So even if Pakistan is complicit in the drone attacks, it seems that this is the only way to cleanse the country of its home-grown terrorists- notwithstanding the horrific collateral damage the attacks have inflicted on its innocent citizens. General Karimi alleges that such drone attacks are only being carried out against the Pakistani Taliban and not against the vicious Afghan insurgent groups ensconced in hidden pockets in Pakistan, making Pakistan's claims about wanting peace in Afghanistan ring hollow.
While Afghan security is important, it is imperative that Pakistan puts its own house in order, especially since it will need to provide support to Afghanistan in fighting insurgents once the US forces pull out. For, if the Afghanistan based insurgents are not defeated then it seems unlikely that this region will ever see peace again.
Mehar F Hussain is a Pakistani journalist based in Lahore