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Need to build on Pak-Afghan goodwill

Afghan government and people see Pakistan’s role as critical and most of them strongly believe that their neighbour could do more to mitigate their hardship. With the foreign troops almost gone, the country is extremely anxious about its future. There is a strong perception in Afghanistan that Pakistan is not fully exerting itself to help Afghans overcome violence in Afghanistan. If the level of violence worsens during the ongoing fighting season, the bilateral relations could revert back to Karzai era. Handling of Afghan refugees by Pakistan and differences on Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) are other contentious points.
Previous two weeks saw a burst of activities. Former President Asif Zardari led his party delegation to Kabul, Commander United States Forces in Afghanistan General John F Campbell called on Army Chief, General Raheel Sharif, President Ashraf Ghani undertook his visit to India; a three-member Afghan delegation visited Islamabad to finalize the procedure for documentation of nearly 1.5 unregistered Afghan refugees living in Pakistan; and there was a semblance of contacts between the Kabul government and Taliban in Doha, facilitated by a Canadian entity Pugwash.
Delegation led by former president Zardari was part of outreach programme initiated by President Ashraf Ghani to reach out to Pakistan’s political leadership for consultation and for mobilizing their support for Afghan peace process. There is a bipartisan consensus among the political leadership of Pakistan for contributing towards peace and stability in Afghanistan; and point is home to all that apart from the Afghan people, it is the people of Pakistan who are to gain maximum benefits from a robust and sustainable peace in Afghanistan. Zardari Delegation met with the Afghan President and Chief Executive. Leadership discussed bilateral relations, regional situation and the need for enhanced economic cooperation. Terming terrorism as the common enemy of Pakistan and Afghanistan, Zaradri called for effective cooperation between the two neighbours. “The current environment requires new decisions. Pakistan, Afghanistan and the whole region face serious threats and these threats need new cooperation,” Dr Abdullah said. Zardari hailed the formation of unity government in Kabul. Welcoming the visit of the opposition leaders to Kabul, Pakistan’s foreign office spokesperson described the visit as a “good omen,” adding that the government encourages political contacts between the two countries since they promote bilateral ties.
Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif discussed Pak-Afghan border coordination and the overall security situation in the region with General Campbell. Border management is the mother of most of the issues regarding Pakistan-Afghanistan relations. Pakistan has since long been proposing installation of biometric system on formal crossing points between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Bigger side of the issue is informal crossing points. While official crossing points are two, the informal crossings are numerous. Easement rights make the issue still more complicated. While such rights are the entitlement of the people residing within eight kilometers of the Pak-Afghan border, ways and means are not available to ensure that such rights are not misused by other people.
Afghan President’s visit to India reaffirmed that the new Afghan government is seriously pursuing its policy of rebalancing with respect to its relations with India and Pakistan, and one sided anti-Pakistan rhetoric of Karzai era may be over, at least for the time being. Ghani has made rapprochement with Pakistan a key policy since being elected as Afghanistan’s president.
As regards helping the government and people of Afghanistan in overcoming their difficulties, part, Pakistan has made continuous efforts for facilitation of intra-Afghan peace process and smooth transit trade with Afghanistan. Effort is also being made for development of Web Based One Customs System which would help in bringing transparency in the system and enable the Afghan importers and Customs authorities in both countries to trace the cargo en-route to Afghanistan. “Pakistan wants to expect Afghanistan to be open as far as their access to Central Asia is concerned and it’s very natural for Afghanistan to expect from our Pakistani neighbours to open up,” Dr Abdullah said, while speaking to CNN-IBN. Afghanistan needs to appreciate Pakistan’s limitations with regard to extending such facilities to an out rightly hostile country who’s meddling in internal affairs of Pakistan is well known to the Afghan side. Keeping in view peculiar relations with India, Pakistan should not be expected to extend the Afghan transit trade beyond Pakistan-India borders on Wagah-Atari route; however, to facilitate Afghan people, Pakistan has permitted India to carry out trade via Karachi port.
And in Doha, two days of talks between Taliban representatives and Afghan politicians ended without any concrete development. It was the third time the Taliban have sat with the representatives of Afghan government, earlier meetings were held in in France and Japan. However, there have been no formal talks between the two sides; at least there is no such acknowledgement from either side. This time, officials from the US, China and Pakistan also attended the talks, with Pakistan officially announcing support for the peace talks. Qatar’s official news agency described the meeting as ‘reconciliation’ talks; while the Taliban termed them as ‘research talks’ in which each delegate participated in individual capacity and presented views. Pakistan has invested heavily in Afghan peace process and is keen to see forward movement in this activity. Nevertheless, there is huge gap between the points of view of the two sides. Afghan government as well as the Taliban continue to articulate their preconditions which should actually be the end objectives of the talks.
Lingering disagreement over the presence of US troops in the country was reinforced during these talks as well. Head of the eight-member Taliban delegation, Sher Muhammad Abbas Stanikzai, read out a written statement at the conference. The statement said that Afghanistan could not have an independent government in the presence of foreign forces. Taliban also said that Afghan government had asked them to stop fighting and obey the Afghan constitution, but this was a non-starter since US troops are still present in Afghanistan. Terming the UN sanctions on their leaders as “cruel”, the Taliban said such sanctions and decision were “hurdles in the way of the peace process.” A 20-member delegation from Afghan government, including members of the High Peace Council, attended the conference. A two-member team of Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan of Gulbaden Hekmatyar, the second largest resistance group after the Taliban, was also part of the Qatar talks.
Asked about any progress on Pakistan’s peace efforts in Afghanistan, Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry said: “We do not want to make comments in public but the people involved in the process are working hard and with responsibility…There is a need to push the reconciliation process between the Taliban and the Afghan administration.” For now, Afghan peace process seems to be moving in right direction, though at snails speed. A glaring discrepancy is absence of a credible guarantor to the final agreement. The process would pick up pace as and when Taliban are made stakeholders though power sharing. Pakistan supports peaceful, stable Afghanistan; Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif places great emphasis on strong, stable and cooperative ties with Afghanistan under his vision for a peaceful and prosperous neighborhood.
A number of Afghan analysts are of the view that cooperation between the two countries could make them an effective anchorage for a regional hub with significant politico-economic clout.At bilateral level, there is need for a joint institutional arrangement for efficient monitoring and management of on-going issues. For this a joint commission may be set, staffed by both sides. Such commission should have a secretariat to keep the developing situation under constant review. Such an approach would create a sense of confidence in the two countries about each other’s intentions, and prevent a slide down in bilateral relations.

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Era of false flag operations

Era of false flag operations

We are living in an interesting era of false flag operations, especially in military and media domains. India’s high drama about Uri attack is fizzling away; and fabricated coverage of the incident by Indian media stands exposed. In the post Uri setting, de-escalation may just be around the corner. The two countries are now talking to each other rather than talking at each other. While Pakistan’s national leadership was striving to put-up a unified stance to handle the situation arising out of India’s false flag attack on its own military base, an out of the blue, exclusive news story by Cyril Almeida published by a leading Pakistani newspaper on 6 Oct 2016, captioned: “Act against militants or face international isolation, civilians tell military” came down upon national canvas like a thunderbolt. It raised many eyebrows. Story even if correct was ill-timed to embarrass military leadership. It was also a sure recipe for lowering the morale of nation in general and combatant troops deployed at the Line of Control (LoC) in particular. No wonders, it was lifted, out of proportion by the Indian media.Now, back to Pakistan-India canvas. There is a broad based consensus amongst the strategic community of Pakistan that people of India and Pakistan will have to wait for improvement in bilateral relations till BJP throws-up a sensible Prime Minister. Now this has been acknowledged by Pakistan at official level as well. Advisor to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz has stated that “there is no hope of improvement in relations between Pakistan and India during the premiership of Modi”. Sartaj Aziz also hoped that if the independence movement in occupied Kashmir continues and international pressure continues then India would become ready to resolve the Kashmir dispute. He said India cannot succeed to divert the world attention from the Kashmir issue through the Uri-like self-staged incidents. In the regional context, soon after the end of Modi’s brief honeymoon with SAARC leaders, it became clear that Modi is for a solo journey and his vision for SAARC is focused on using this platform for furthering Indian strategic objectives at the cost of other members. And if SAARC didn’t fit into this role, it had no place in Modi’s regional calculus. India likes to have all SAARC summits in New Delhi, and whenever these are planned elsewhere, it first tries to disrupt the event, and when there is no plausible reason to do so, it attends with a pinch of salt. Hopefully, SAARC summit shall also take place soon in Islamabad. There is need to put behind the strategy of false flag operations, at all levels, in all domains, these tactical fixes often create strategic dilemmas which are difficult to address.

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  1. hope our so called ledreas(mush,zardari,nawaz,altaf,fazl,qazi ) would have played mind games with foreign forces willing to destroy us BUT they opt to play games with the future of our country and nation for their personal agenda and lust of power and now country is facing fight within(we don’t need enemies now we have plenty within our own).our army feels proud in conquering our own land,institutions and killing people and declares victory over nothing instead of defending the homeland.i m not saying to straight away fight a war but to stand for the pride and freedom of our nation(and if things go worse then instead of surrender fight is a better option).we need to have short and long term strategies for that which i dont know how u can expect from a traitor like musharraf.who betrayed the oath,who compromised the sovereignty of nation, who himself propagates that the biggest problem we have is extremism(y he doesnt say roti coz us ki khud ki roti aur power iss war against terrorism say judi hai) and how can u forget the role of his most trusted shaukat aziz in the economic disaster of our country.

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