Pak-Afghan Relations: Understanding the Obstacles to Peace

Report by Sadaf Sajid & Amna Liaqat
Under the SEPLAA Young Leaders’ Club Peace Semester held from January-April 2016, the last session of the semester was conducted on ‘Regional Peace and peaceful relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan’ which focused primarily on terrorism and the mindset behind it. The blast in Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park Lahore was a very fresh reminder for the need to contain and find solutions for the menace of extremism in Pakistan. This was followed by a dialogue between SEPLAA Founder Mrs. Ammara Farooq Malik and SEPLAA YLC guest, Mr. Intizar Khadim, an experienced foreign policy expert from Afghanistan.
Giving his insight on the issue of global peace, Mr.Khadim stated that out of the  196 countries in the world, 50 countries are in war. According to him, this was mainly because the people of those countries did not recognize their responsibilities and he felt that that was what happened with Pakistan and Afghanistan as well. Reflecting on the region’s history, Mr.Khadim said that during the 1980s, 6 million refugees came to Pakistan who have now been living here for almost 30 years. There are 40 to 50,000 madrassas in Pakistan, which is like an army of children with their own agenda and mentalities.
On the topic of Taliban, he was of the view that many issues intertwine to cause instability in the region. “The issues that we face today are our own doing. We and our leaders have made mistakes in policy, strategy and implementation, the fruits of which we are reaping today,” he said.
According to Mr.Intizar, there are three major issues that prove a hindrance in the end to war in Afghanistan. Stating the first one as drugs, he said that,”In present day Afghanistan, 224,000 acres of land is cultivated for drugs.After using 7.8 billion dollars of international community  on drug control, today you can see where the drug cultivation is. Moreover, if one ounce of drugs price is only 1 dollar in Afghanistan, 1 dollar 15 cent in Iran, it is 40 dollars in London, 46 dollars in Amsterdam. With a profit margin so high, how can drugs be controlled?’ Reports say that drugs from Afghanistan annually derive 85 billion dollar to the world mafia while only 5 billion are spent on Afghan Security forces. So if drugs produce 85 billion dollars and only 5 million is spent on Afghan security forces, still 80 billion dollar is going to the pocket of international drug mafia. That is why peace is not in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
Moving on to the second reason why war is kept on in Afghanistan, he stated that corruption is a very reason to continue war for if there is war then the mafia and corrupt people can carry on their work in peace for there would be no law enforcement. “There is corruption everywhere,” he said, “In courts, in prosecution offices,municipalities, government offices, war works in their favor. So if we want to stop war, first thing we need to do is stop corruption.”
Speaking on another dimension of the Afghan issue, he was of the view that, ” The first problem in the Afghan war was that there was no clear enemy. Every Pashtoon that was living in Afghanistan and Pakistan was called enemy. Now there are 15 million Pashtoon living in Afghanistan and 30 million living in Pakistan. When a community makes up that much of a country’s population, it becomes difficult to fight with all of them. Also in the last 10 years, there have been 150,000 international forces located on the Southern border of Afghanistan and 150,000 Pakistani soldiers have been stationed in Balochistan, Fata, North and South Waziristan in order to cripple Pashtoon but for the last 30 years, we have been dealing with Pashtoon unsuccessfully and the war continues.”
Taking a question from the participants on youth perception of Pakistan in Afghanistan, he said, “The very big fear that I have in Afghanistan is the hatred, every Pakistani seems to be hating Afghani and vice versa. There is a huge amount of hatred in the heart and mind of the Afghan people not only because of the faulty policies of Pakistan but also because a number of regional countires like India propogate that whatever is happening in Afghanistan is because of the wrong policies of Pakistan. The youth believes as if Pakistan wants to dictate us, wants us to surrender to the Pakistani government.This hatred is increasing and if this trend of social perception between Afghani and Pakistani people keeps moving in this direction,after 5 years, it will be very hard for both governments to reconstruct the relation between the youngsters of both countries.”
Asked whether such a perception is justified, he said, ” Absolutely not! It is not fair to blame Pakistan for whatever wrong is happening in AfghanistanAfghanistan is the hub of anarchy with almost 52 nationalities existing here including the ones from NATO countries. But unfortunately it is the case that 95% of the time, any insurgency or incident is blamed on Pakistan.”
He talked about the role that media plays in spreading hate messages, saying,”Millions of dollars were invested by the UK and other countries in 2012-13 to spread hate messages against Basharul Assad and they succeeded. Thus the power of media should not be undermined. A number of countries are doing the same in Afghanistan, paying huge amounts to media channels and TV stations to propagate hate messages against Pakistan. These hostility message have a powerful impact especially on the youth and this needs to be countered immediately.”
Speaking on the occasion, Mrs. Malik said that Pakistanis see Afghanistan and its youth very differently, viewing it as a brother, Muslim country that it helped in its times of need and that is why Indian influence in Afghanistan is not taken well by Pakistan. Mr. Intizar admitted the services of Pakistan to Afghanistan and the support in trade and operations that Pakistan still extends to Afghanistan, however he said that annually 300 million dollar aid is given to Afghanistan by India and thus Indian influence in Afghanistan cannot be denied. He did believe that if blame game stops from both sides, Afghanistanand Pakistan, it can open doors to cordial relations.
Giving his 6 point solution to the issues in the region, he said that first and foremost, civil education should be made compulsory for all, peace being taught as a subject in schools, colleges and universities.Secondly, he was of the view that people to people diplomacy is extremely essential in eradicating any wrong perceptions people may have of each other as merely relying on government and military level discussions is not enough. He stressed on the need for forgiveness and flexibility on both sides, putting the past behind to start a new journey of friendship and mutual growth. To counter the menace of extremism and violence, he emphasized that corruption should be fought with iron hands so that justice prevails and everyone gets their due rights. He further went on to suggest working on job schemes to encourage healthy economic activity. Lastly he once again drew attention to the power of media and the need to use media positively to promote peace and harmony in the region.
Mr.Intizar’s insightful talk was an eye opener for the young leaders, who thought it gave them a better understanding of the dynamics of the region and also provided them with a vision to play their part in turning the tide towards better understanding and peaceful relations between the two countries.