Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi paid a visit to Afghanistan, a northwestern neighbor of Pakistan, in a bid to ease the longstanding tension between the neighboring countries. After his Afghan visit, Islamabad has called upon the Taliban to accept the Afghan government invitation for dialogues.
According to a statement released by the Pakistani PM office, both Afghanistan and Pakistan have urged the Afghan Taliban to join a peace process. The Afghan government recently invited the Taliban ‘without preconditions’ to join a direct dialogue with the government.
Pakistani PM office said in a statement after Mr. Abbasi’s visit to Afghanistan: “Both leaders called on the Taliban to respond positively to the peace offer and join the peace process without further delay.” The statement added: “They agreed that there was no military solution to the ongoing Afghan conflict and that the political solution was the best way forward.”
In a recent bid to encourage the Taliban for dialogues, the Afghan President Mr. Ghani offered to recognize the group as a political party. Mr. Ghani said his government will announce a ceasefire with the Taliban and exchange prisoners to begin the process of negotiations.
“We are making this offer without preconditions in order to lead to a peace agreement,” President Ghani said in the opening ceremony of Kabul Process. “The Taliban are expected to give input to the peace-making process, the goal of which is to draw the Taliban, as an organization, to peace talks,” Mr. Ghani added. The Taliban, however, have not responded to these reiterated calls for dialogues yet.
In his visit to Afghanistan, the Pakistani Prime Minister Mr. Abbasi and the Afghan President Mr. Ghani have agreed to finalize the so-called “Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS)” with the following recommendations:
- Pakistan to support the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation,
- The two countries to undertake effective actions against fugitives and the irreconcilable elements posing security threats to either of the two countries,
- Both countries commit to denying use of their respective territories by any country, network, group or individuals for anti-state activities against either country,
- To put in place a joint supervision, coordination and confirmation mechanism through Liaison Officers (LOs) for the realization of the agreed actions,
- The two countries commit to avoid territorial and aerial violations of each other’s territory,
- The two countries to avoid public blame games and instead, use APAPPS cooperation mechanisms to respond to mutual issues of contention and concerns, and
- Establish Working Groups and necessary cooperation mechanisms as per APAPPS for full implementation of the APAPPS and the above mutually reinforcing principles.
A rather circumspect Afghan statement focused on these APAPPS recommendations instead of detailing anything about the peace proposal to Taliban. APAPPS aims to ease the tensed bilateral affairs between the two countries with a very long history of stressed diplomatic relations.
In 2011, the former Afghan President Karzai labeled Pakistan as a ‘twin brother’ of Afghanistan. Although these two countries have maintained a tensed relationship ever since the beginning in 1947 when Afghanistan turned out to be the only country to vote against Pakistan’s entry into the United Nations and the subsequent frenemy, Mr. Karzai knew Afghanistan cannot do without Pakistan.
Afghanistan is a war-torn country in South Asia. The country has been going through deadly wars since 2001 following the September 11 attack. After the Taliban were ousted, Pakistan and Afghanistan maintained a unique relationship. Pakistan turned out to be a country that supported the Taliban government in Afghanistan and also supported the NATO invasion to oust them.
After a few years of fights against terrorism, the Afghan-Pakistani diplomatic relations gradually became bitter with both the governments accusing each other of harboring extremists to infest unrest in the respective countries. The diplomatic rift between the countries was fueled by a struggling Pakistan-U.S. relation over the last few years.
The rift between Pakistan and the U.S. could be dated back to 2008. When the then Afghan President Karzai became frustrated with extremists using Durand Line to execute terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, he warned to launch an attack against the terrorists who are hiding in western Pakistan. Pakistan hit back and warned against violations of its borders. Mr. Gilani, then Prime Minister of Pakistan, said Durand Line was too long to police. As a result, the U.S. had to rely on drone attacks instead. With this, the Pakistan-U.S. relations was negatively affected.
Beside mutual tensions between Kabul and Islamabad, New Delhi’s growing interest in Afghanistan is another disconcertion for Pakistan. And Afghanistan understands the gravity of Pakistani disconcertion over Kabul-New Delhi relations. It reflects in a speech of the former President Karzai after signing a strategic partnership deal with India: “Pakistan is our twin brother, India is a great friend. The agreement we signed with our friend will not affect our brother.”