A few months back, Dr. Ikram Azam, reminded me of the book “Pakistan – The Heart of Asia”, by late Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan. The author gave his vision of Pakistan of the future, its geo-strategic importance and the linkages it could create with immediate neighbors and beyond, for peace and prosperity for all. His dream appears to be coming true, with the development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the Gas Pipeline from Iran and TAPI from Turkmenistan, to provide the strategic linkages to the four of its immediate neighbors, the great civilizations of the world – the Indian civilization, Persian, Central Asian and the Chinese civilizations. Pakistan itself is the cradle of one of the oldest Indus Civilization. Pakistan thus forms the “Global Civilization Hub”. It is a privilege, no other country enjoys and therefore, a much greater responsibility lies on its shoulders to play the historic role, “to seize the moment to remain on course with the movement of history, sweeping the region.”
Peace in our region depends on two issues – Afghanistan and Kashmir, but Kashmir issue has been relegated and only Afghanistan problem came under discussion, which has become more complex because of interests and machinations of internal and external forces. America induced Pakistan, India and Afghan to meet at Islamabad to find solution to Afghan problem, supporting the American purpose. The leaders met, but the broad smile on their faces, looked so artificial. They supported the American plan “demanding from Taliban, power sharing, with Ashraf Ghana under his democratic constitution.” But these conditions have long been rejected by the Taliban, and also by Mullah Mansur recently: “No body has the right to tell us, what to do and for whom.” Taliban made their demand known more than a decade back and have not wavered a bit: “Occupation forces must leave one and all, for us to decide our future in a free environment, to form a unity government under the Islamic Law as per our traditions.”
Taliban also rejected the Heart of Asia Conference, responding with two strong suicide attacks into the red zones of Kandahar and Kabul. “The situation therefore is in a state of drift and into Taliban hands”, who have superior fighting power, foot mobility, space and the initiative, yet there are rumors of split amongst the Taliban ranks and that Daēsh is gaining control over some provinces in the East, because of loose command and control. Whereas, Taliban have no such problem. During the current winter season, they may attempt to further restrict the space for the government forces, followed by gradual reduction of the strong holds, using explosive loaded vehicles, suicide bombers, followed by the assaulting troops, as the main tactical concept. The purpose would be “to create the effect of strategic siege by launching a series of such attacks.” Thus the year 2016 may be decisive. Seeing the “writing on the wall” those, who shared power with Karzai and Ashraf Ghani, are in a state of panic, leaving the country in droves, seeking asylum in Europe and else where, as well as those amongst them, who have built villas in Europe, Dubai and the Far East, and hold fat bank balances, have their air tickets ready, to leave as the situation worsens.
However, there is also a workable option for peace in Afghanistan, which Mullah Umar spelled-out some twelve years back in 2003, in reply to my suggestion to avoid war:
n “We have decided to fight to win our freedom. Win we will, Insha Allah. When we are free, we will decide our future acceptable to all Afghans.
n We will not allow ourselves to be betrayed by America or Pakistan, as they did after Soviet retreat in 1989-90. We will find peace with Northern Alliance for a stable Afghanistan, seeking friendship and cooperation with all.
n Pakistan is a coalition partner of our enemy in their war against us, yet Pakistan is important for us because our national security interests are inter-linked and we have a common destiny.
n We have to face a grim struggle ahead, and we will persevere, because Allah has ordained: Ultimately, your enemies will turn their back on you and run.”
Taliban are committed to these policy guidelines and will respond positively to any such initiative in this regard. Such an initiative was discussed at the intra-Afghan dialogue held at Paris, in 2012, where the Taliban, the Northern Alliance and Karzai supporters met and agreed on the basic principles of a broad based government, “under the Islamic Law, as per Afghan traditions.” But unfortunately talks were suspended. Whereas, these talks are the only solution to bring to an end the ongoing conflict, causing so much of death and destruction. Such an initiative will also be in harmony with the Chinese and Russian “logic of conflict in tomorrows’ world, for a life at peace, thus shaping a new geo-economic global order, with its new geo-strategic landscape. And in that landscape, Pakistan would form the heart of economic global order. This is a historic moment to seize, for the countries of the region and for the good of the humanity, particularly the world of Islam, which has suffered immensely during the last four decades.
Unless a peaceful solution to Kashmir problem was found, India will find itself left-out, because Pakistan will never agree to give a safe passage to India to Afghanistan and beyond. India must realize that, once the foreign freedom fighters are free from Afghanistan, they may head for Kashmir, as they did in Yemen in 1990 and supported President Abdullah Saleh to win the war and unite north and south Yemen. India must also realize that all the neighboring countries have a stake in Afghanistan war of liberation, as well as Russia and China. Their main concern now is the repatriation of thousands of jehadis from Russia, China and the Central Asian States, presently fighting side by side with the Taliban. Repatriation is possible, only with the support of the Taliban. Similarly, thousands of Pakistani tribesmen living in Afghanistan could return to Pakistan if amnesty was granted. It would be a hard decision to make, to ensure peace not only on Pak-Afghan borders, but all countries, bordering Afghanistan and beyond.
n The writer is a former COAS, Pakistan.