Peace with Afghanistan | Editorial

Pakistan’s ties with Afghanistan are largely overshadowed by years of antipathy that stems from accusations and lack of trust. In many ways, passive hostility has defined the relationship between Islamabad and Kabul since the US invasion in 2001. The conflict continues to serve as the primary cause of political instability, economic atrophy and lack of peace in Afghanistan. In addition to all these troubles, Kabul has also compromised its relationship with Islamabad particularly due to its ties with India. Perhaps some of our common issues have been exacerbated as a result of India’s influence and its dubious role in Kabul.
While our mutual mistrust might not go away overnight, there is hope that President Ashraf Ghani’s upcoming visit to Islamabad next week might offer a fresh opportunity to recalibrate the frosty relationship — that is indispensable because of our shared ethnic, linguistic and geographical connection. Since our democratic transition in 2008, successive governments in Islamabad have offered to mend fences with Kabul. And now in 2019, Pakistan has once again made a similar diplomatic overture to the Afghan government on the sidelines of the OIC summit in Saudi Arabia. This is our chance to closely work with the Afghan leadership to build bridges and promote peace in the region which is only possible if the two countries reciprocate equally.
While President Ghani’s visit does not promise a dramatic change in the relationship status, it provides a glimmer of hope that the two sides might be able to focus on finding a common ground on the process of reconciliation in Afghanistan. Decades of deep-seated animosity and distrust has only deprived Afghanistan of engaging constructively with Pakistan. Afghanistan needs to acknowledge that its peaceful future depends on conducive environment in the region, with Pakistan at its centre. Perhaps President Ghani’s upcoming visit offers a chance to rebuild trust and reduce the vulnerability of our troubled relationship.
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