The Afghan Peace Process and Pakistan’s Crucial Role

The Sunday Guardian ran a piece, blaming Pakistani generals for fighting a proxy war against Afghanistan since the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, has refused to support Pakistan's interests.

The Sunday Guardian ran a piece on March 17, 2024, blaming Pakistani generals for fighting a proxy war against Afghanistan since the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the country’s current government, has refused to support Pakistan’s interests. It accuses Pakistan of turning to the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) as a means of exerting pressure on the Afghan government after having run out of other options, such as armed organizations. Pakistan’s preparations, however, are alleged to have been thwarted by the General Directorate of Intelligence (GDI) of the Islamic Emirate, leading Pakistani generals to consider alternative options, including creating partnerships with Tajikistan to support the ISKP and groups hostile to the Afghan government. However, all of these accusations are refuted by the available data and the lengthy history of Pakistan’s attempts to help Afghanistan thrive.

When Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan in 1979, Pakistan was crucial in helping its neighbor who was in great need of assistance. Acknowledging the importance of resisting the Soviet invasion and safeguarding Afghanistan’s independence, Pakistan extended its invitation to millions of Afghan refugees escaping the violence. In addition, Pakistan played a critical role in providing the Mujahideen, or Afghan resistance forces, with vital logistical support as they heroically fought the Soviet occupation. This support came from a sense of sympathy with the Afghan people’s right to freedom and self-determination as well as from geopolitical considerations. Pakistan’s unwavering support during this turbulent time in Afghan history is evidence of the long-lasting ties between the two countries and highlights Pakistan’s dedication to regional peace and security.

Pakistan showed unmatched help by taking in millions of Afghan refugees who were fleeing violence and instability in their homeland, even in the face of economic hardships. Over three million refugees were welcomed by Pakistan throughout the protracted Afghan conflict, and it gave them access to food, shelter, healthcare, and education. Pakistan welcomed these immigrants into communities and allowed them to contribute to the socioeconomic fabric of the nation with compassion and dignity, in spite of its own economic limitations. In addition to demonstrating Pakistan’s dedication to humanitarian ideals, this act of hospitality highlighted the close historical and cultural ties that exist between the two countries. Pakistan’s ability to adapt and extend hospitality to Afghan refugees is evidence of the country’s compassion and unity in times of need.

The international community expressed a great deal of mistrust and hostility towards the Taliban’s ascension to power in Afghanistan when the Soviet Union withdrew its forces. Pakistan, on the other hand, stood out as one of the few nations that fully accepted and backed the government headed by the Taliban. Although the Taliban’s ideas and manner of governing were criticized by some, Pakistan accepted the new Afghan government as a legitimate authority and made an effort to build cordial ties with its leaders. Pakistan sought to influence events in Afghanistan and foster a favorable administration on its western border by supporting the Taliban leadership. Although this position was divisive internationally, it demonstrated Pakistan’s pragmatist attitude to regional politics and its desire for a stable and cooperative western neighbor.

Following the devastating events of 9/11, Pakistan found itself in a precarious position, leading the international coalition fighting terrorism. Pakistan was steadfast in its resolve to fight extremism and promote peace in the area, even in the face of severe losses in terms of human lives and financial resources. Pakistan, a vital ally in the War on Terror, enabled international operations to disrupt terrorist networks and establish security in Afghanistan. But this devotion came at a high price: Pakistan lost both military and civilians in a series of terrorist strikes on its territory. Despite these obstacles, Pakistan persisted, working closely with foreign partners to combat the threat of terrorism and using its military and intelligence resources to target militant groups operating inside its borders. Pakistan is unwavering in its pursuit of regional peace and security through its ongoing efforts, understanding the value of ongoing collaboration and communication in tackling the underlying causes of extremism and violence.

Over the course of the US military’s involvement in Afghanistan, Pakistan has continuously worked to enable peace negotiations between the US and the Taliban. Understanding that a negotiated settlement was necessary to end the conflict, Pakistan used its diplomatic channels to promote communication and peacemaking between the two sides. Even in the face of many obstacles and disappointments, including times when ties between Pakistan and the US were at their highest, Pakistan persisted in advocating for a diplomatic settlement to the Afghan dispute. These initiatives paid off in historic negotiations like the 2020 Doha Agreement, when Pakistan’s facilitation and mediation skills were crucial in persuading the Taliban to engage in talks with the United States. Pakistan has demonstrated its commitment to regional stability and security via its consistent attempts to promote dialogue and de-escalation, despite the fact that securing sustainable peace in Afghanistan remains elusive.

Pakistan is also well aware that substantial foreign financial assistance is needed for the economic viability and rehabilitation of Afghanistan following the conflict. Foreign Minister Qureshi, for example, urged outside countries to “deepen and sustain economic engagement with Afghanistan for its reconstruction and economic development” in a suggested four-point plan on the future course of the Afghan peace process.

Since no one can govern Afghanistan against the will of its people, Pakistan supports the peace process that is led and controlled by Afghans. Pakistan has made unmatched sacrifices for the stability of the region.

After the United States withdrew its forces from Afghanistan and the Taliban established a government, Pakistan had anticipated a stable and tranquil environment. Unfortunately, Pakistan has seen a 500% spike in suicide attacks and a 60% increase in terror occurrences since the formation of the interim Afghan government. 2,267 innocent civilians have died over the last two years, and the terrorists of the Taliban are to blame. They have been using Afghan soil to launch heinous attacks on Pakistan. Fifteen Afghan nationals were also participating in suicide assaults at this time. Apart from this, 64 Afghan nationals have died thus far in the counterterrorism campaign against Pakistani police enforcement.

Remarkably, the Taliban government started giving sanctuary and assistance to non-state actors on its land, which resulted in a worrisome rise in terrorist activity in Pakistan. The newfound shelter and support given to armed groups working against Pakistan’s interests signaled a dramatic shift in dynamics, notwithstanding Pakistan’s longstanding support for the Taliban and its efforts to mediate peace negotiations. This development seriously jeopardized Pakistan’s internal security in addition to straining relations with the Taliban. Dealing with a regime that broke its promises to regional peace and stability was made more difficult by the spike in terror acts that occurred inside Pakistan after the Taliban took power. Pakistan’s current difficult challenge is managing its relationship with the Taliban administration in a volatile and unpredictable climate while defending its own security interests.