ISLAMABAD: “Pakistan is a victim of proxy terrorism, not extremist militancy,” said senior journalist and author Imtiaz Gul. Therefore, he urged greater vigilance and surveillance of the border regions of Afghanistan with Pakistan, which had experienced their fair share of militant violence in the past. Imtiaz Gul was speaking at a webinar on the future of peace in Afghanistan organized by the Institute of Regional Studies (IRS).
Gul asserted that Pakistan had been playing a constructive role in bringing peace to Afghanistan through actions such as bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table, facilitating a breakthrough deal between the Taliban and the US for the withdrawal of Nato troops, and making all efforts to make the intra-Afghan dialogue a success.
Gul stressed that internal Afghan conflicts had the potential to impact the entire region. He was of the opinion that Afghan stakeholders could not defeat each other militarily in the short run and, thus, needed to sit across the table to sort out their differences. This, he argued, would save the people of Afghanistan from unnecessary bloodshed and misery. He further stated that the US military involvement in Afghanistan had come to an end and that there was no possibility of further military intervention by the US or NATO forces in the country.
Emphasizing the socio-political changes in Afghanistan, Gul pointed out that the Taliban had claimed that they would safeguard human rights, including women rights and would avoid upsetting their regional supporters. He cautioned, however, that the Taliban were a conservative tribal force and expecting a sudden change in their behaviour and worldview wouldn’t be correct. He was of the view that the international community could also play its role in making sure that the Taliban came with a reformed governance approach.
Furthermore, he highlighted that Pakistan needed to go on an information offensive to offset the Afghan narrative regarding the Durand Line. He was of the opinion that the existing Afghan refugees in Pakistan were no longer an economic burden because they had integrated into the economy. However, he expressed his concern that further influx could be damaging to Pakistan’s economy. “The need of the hour is smart diplomacy, vision, and farsightedness,” he said.
Dr Naheed Goraya, Associate Professor at Centre for South Asian Studies (CSAS), underlined that peace could only be achieved through understanding and not war. She added that any forced settlement could lead to a protracted situation of conflict in Afghanistan. She also mentioned that Afghan society had changed in the past two decades since the Taliban held sway, which could affect the outcome of the peace talks as well as the future of Afghanistan. Further elaborating, Goraya said that the attainment of peace would be a long process and would require the political will of all stakeholders. “Pakistan can help as a facilitator but cannot impose anything on the Afghans,” she said.
Goraya also stressed on the importance of reconciliation along with the peace process and withdrawal of troops as vital elements for peace. “The next 5-10 years would be very difficult for Afghanistan, even with an optimistic outlook,” she said. She also mentioned the importance of neighbours of Afghanistan refraining from engaging in proxy wars. She further underscored the important role that Pakistan needed to play in being a partner in the socio-economic development of Afghanistan.
President IRS, Ambassador Nadeem Riyaz, stated that the situation in Afghanistan impacted the entire region, especially Pakistan The Ambassador further stated that even though it was a complicated situation which one found hard to predict, Afghans needed to be in the driving seat in determining their own future. He added that political stability in Afghanistan and the region would lead to economic prosperity, which was imperative for the future of South Asia.