The Pak-Afghan ties have always been rocky as the blame game, especially from Afghan side, has always been on. The audacious attack on the well-protected Afghan parliamentary building in Kabul on June 23 ensued in such a blame game against Pakistan that on the very next day of the attack, Afghanistan’s intelligence service spokesman Hassib Sediqqi blamed that an officer in Pakistani’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) helped the Haqqani network carry out the attack which killed two people and wounded more than 30 as lawmakers were meeting inside.
Pak-Afghan relations have always been a victim of mutual suspicion, distrust. Since Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai assumed charge as President of Afghanistan, he has introduced many abrupt changes to the Afghan foreign policy with regard to its neighbours, especially Pakistan. However, President Ghani is constantly under pressure of an anti-Pakistani lobby that has its presence in Afghan parliament too. Moreover, Afghan media also rattled him due to his peace overtures towards Pakistan.
Although President Ghani’s endeavours are laudable, yet it was due to this pressure that he blamed that Pakistan was in an undeclared war with Afghanistan. He also said that everyone must know that the instability in Afghanistan causes instability in the whole region.
Minutes after the elimination of parliament attackers, a video appeared in which Essa Khan, the Afghan soldier who killed them, proudly shouts: ‘Yes, I killed these slaves of Pakistan’. Essa’s claim underscores the discontent and suspicion in the minds of Afghan people about Pakistan.
The question which arises here is that how Essa Khan knew about these attackers that they were sent or supported by Pakistan? There was neither an investigation nor was there any Pakistani label on those attackers. Then how he could term them the ‘slaves of Pakistan’? It is because of this kind of suspicion that Pak-Afghan ties have always remained fragile.
Three days after the attack on Afghan Parliament, Afghanistan’s security agency National Directorate of Security (NDS) released a report claiming that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was involved in this attack. The report further said that the plan of the attack was made in Peshawar by the Haqqani network and it had support from an ISI official. Besides this, it also claimed that the explosive vehicle that struck the Afghan Parliament was prepared in Peshawar. The NDS officials said that they had been informed about this attack before June 10.
If they are telling the truth, then how could the explosive vehicle reach Kabul amidst intense security? This is the question that renders the report baseless and concocted only to blame Pakistan and to derail the process of rapprochement between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Not many days have lapsed since Pakistan’s ISI and Afghanistan’s NDS signed an intelligence-sharing memorandum of understanding (MoU) to check terrorism and extremism in both the countries, especially in the border areas. If the recent NDS report is based on facts, then they should provide those facts to the ISI. However, the NDS and Afghan officials prefer to play the blame game against Pakistan.
On the other hand, the Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility for this attack by saying that it was timed to coincide with the appearance in parliament of Afghanistan’s nominated defence minister Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai. It was also a part of the Taliban’s spring offensive because this was not the first one. According to Colonel Brian, the representative of the US coalition forces in Afghanistan, 5,000 soldiers have lost their lives during the last four months because of attacks by insurgent groups, especially the Taliban. This year, the Taliban’s attacks are more perilous and have escalated as compared to previous years. The Afghan security forces’ commanders have also recognised that this year the Taliban’s attacks are the most robust and tumultuous and are severest in the 13 years of turbulence that started in 2001.
A German army instructor, Colonel Woolf Gang Kohler says that the Taliban are more trained and more daring than the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). According to USA Today correspondent Jim Michel, the Taliban’s attacks are extremely well organised. The Taliban control 30 districts of eight provinces. The group’s advance in the country is alarming and a question for the Afghan administration and US coalition forces. In a speech at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, the special inspector general for Afghanistan’s reconstruction, John Sipco said: “Afghan national security forces are not able to control the Taliban.”
The Afghan army chief, Sher Muhammad Karimi, during an interview to USA Today said that the Afghan Taliban continue fighting in the entire country and that it will be very difficult to control this menace. This spring, the Taliban have shown their full strength and perilous posture by launching organised deadly attacks. On the other hand, the ANSF is also fighting zealously. The Taliban’s attacks show that they are using this offensive as a strategy to show their strength to the Afghan government. The Afghan government has offered the Taliban the governorship of six provinces, but they are demanding the complete withdrawal of the foreign forces first.
Both Pakistan and Afghanistan should be cautious about their ongoing reconciliatory process because third party forces would try to sabotage it. The current bilateral normalisation process between Pakistan and Afghanistan is an unprecedented development in their relations, which must be continued to resolve their respective concerns. Both sides should avoid proxy wars and casting blame upon each other, in order to make their bilateral relations friendly and cordial. This reconciliatory and cooperative process should be sustained because it will take time to resolve bilateral issues, for which mutual trust is a prerequisite. The leaders of both countries should refrain from such statements that may affect bilateral ties.
The writer is a researcher and freelance columnist based in Peshawar. He can be reached at: