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COAS visit to Afghanistan—Not a rummage but a solution-oriented effort

The recent visit of Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa has garnered much attention from all stakeholders of Afghanistan in the context of development in Afghan peace process. The critics have phrased this visit to be a game changer in reshaping the destiny of the region despite disdain from some rogue elements who want to sabotage the whole process for personal gains. However, this time the voice of peace is echoing strapping than ever before due to the long-standing disorder hovering over Afghanistan from many decades. This is indeed high time to turn Afghanistan an abyss of peace denying forces—it is now or never. Pakistan is hosting millions of Afghan refugees since four decades due to the prevailing situation in their country and it wants honorable and early return of these refugees. A whole generation of Afghanistan has grown up in refugee camps and it is their fundamental right to return to their native land and take part in the development of their country. Masroor Ahmad

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By Masroor Ahmad

The recent visit of Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa has garnered much attention from all stakeholders of Afghanistan in the context of development in Afghan peace process. The critics have phrased this visit to be a game changer in reshaping the destiny of the region despite disdain from some rogue elements who want to sabotage the whole process for personal gains. However, this time the voice of peace is echoing strapping than ever before due to the long-standing disorder hovering over Afghanistan from many decades. This is indeed high time to turn Afghanistan an abyss of peace denying forces—it is now or never. Pakistan is hosting millions of Afghan refugees since four decades due to the prevailing situation in their country and it wants honorable and early return of these refugees. A whole generation of Afghanistan has grown up in refugee camps and it is their fundamental right to return to their native land and take part in the development of their country.
COAS General Bajwa is pursuing the peace agenda that has been endorsed by other key stakeholders of the Afghan crisis—it is not a rummage but a solution-oriented effort which will surely yield good result for a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan in the days to come. It has been unraveled that he held an exclusive one on one meeting with Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani followed by delegations level discussions. COAS also had meetings with Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and Commander Resolute Support Mission (RSM) General John Nicholson. General Bajwa congratulated Afghanistan authorities on recent peace initiatives especially in respect of the holy month of Ramadan/ Eid and wished that these steps gain more of permanence ultimately leading towards an enduring peace. The composite negotiations with Afghan leadership encompassed wide range of issues especially the ongoing efforts for reconciliation in Afghanistan, measures needed to check rise of ISIS and the issue of terrorists taking benefit of the porous border to indulge in terrorism, smuggling and drug trafficking, being often networked together. COAS again replicated that it is the regions and not countries that develop for which peace and development remain quintessential. This is the first visit to Kabul by a high-ranking Pakistani official since Ghani’s second term in office began. It comes ahead of the imminent intra-Afghan talks.

Pakistan has attained relative peace and stability and now it is focusing towards socio-economic development as a route towards enduring peace and stability. Recently formed Afghanistan Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Stability (APAPPS) is a great leap to bring more cooperation and coordination between the two countries, which will help clear the vapors of mistrust between both the brotherly countries. Afghanistan President hailed the peace efforts made by Pakistan and thanked COAS for his visit. The president shared contours of his vision about regional development, efforts to extend ongoing temporary ceasefire and steps related to creating conditions for reconciliation.
Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah has also realized the ground reality that peace can not be won in Afghanistan by cornering Pakistan and relatively there is little opposition against the peace. Whereas, both sides agreed that while results of the bilateral initiatives are extremely important but even more important is the continuity of the processes to achieve the end state objectives—peaceful and stable Afghanistan. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the dialogue will likely happen virtually but recent developments suggest all parties are working towards stabilising the conflict. Pakistan respects all ethnicities and wants them to be part of Afghan national Government and the peace process.

Pakistani delegation must have laid emphasis on Afghan Govt. for the release of 5000 Taliban prisoners as the release of the prisoners is part of a confidence-building measure to pave the way for the opening of direct talks between the government and the Taliban. President Ashraf Ghani already has pardoned thousands of Taliban prisoners in a key preliminary step to intra-Afghan talks between a government delegation and the representatives from Taliban. Ghani’s move to release the 5,000 inmates will surely mark the beginning of negotiations to end the 19 years of war that have pitted Taliban against the government in Afghanistan. Tehrik-i-Taliban Afghanistan (TTA) has emerged as a major stakeholder and needs to be absorbed in Afghanistan. The release of Taliban prisoners will pave way for peace in the region by solemnizing Taliban leadership which already has vowed to reduce violent activities. The most notable sticking point for the US negotiation team under Zalmay Khalilzad is that the black turbans (Taliban) recognize the legitimately elected government of Ashraf Ghani and hold talks with them too. It must be remembered that a prisoner swap arrangement was part of a U.S. troop withdrawal agreement between the United States and the Taliban peace agreement. Trump should be given credit for not opening new war zones for US rather he has shown great tolerance not only to end up existing war engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq but also in the matter of Iran and North Korea.
After the American withdrawal, which is imminent, a weak Afghan government desperately clinging on to power in Kabul and a few provincial capitals, and an intense civil war is not in favour of Pakistan. Geographically, Afghanistan is a land locked country having no coastline and Pakistan provides a viable route to Afghanistan for trade with the rest of the world. Afghan leadership is well aware that Pakistan is major way out for the Economic issues of Afghanistan.
The Government of Pakistan, Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON), and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in collaboration with Pakistan Post, have begun the first disbursements of emergency cash assistance to the most vulnerable refugee families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Pakistan is already assistance during Covid 19 pandemic to Afghanistan by providing needful medical equipments etc.
Due to grave economic concerns, Pakistan needs to stabilize borders on both sides (East and West) and this is not only the way out for Pakistan but for the whole region. India should come forward to be the part of peace process if it really wants any prospects in Afghanistan. Currently India is reaping what it sowed in Afghanistan but for the regional peace and prosperity it will have accept the developing status quo on the soil of Afghanistan. In fact all neighbouring and regional countries need to work for a peaceful resolution of the Afghanistan issue. Both India and Pakistan are interested in maintaining their own political, economic and security presence in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s stance being the being the neighbouring country of Afghanistan is understandable but Indian presence in Afghanistan is well rated as cold blood for Pakistan—its negativity to strangle Pakistan both from east and west sides. Although the prospects for trilateral cooperation should be considered with some degree of skepticism, the potential benefits of participating in trilateral cooperation are significant for both countries. Pakistan wants to promote a healthy race in the region through people-to-people relation to contact to increase cooperation in education, health, trade and tourism etc and this trance can only be wallowed through rational and pragmatic approach in the place of negativity. Hence, Afghan saga seems to experience quietude amidst the much-needed visit of Pakistan’s COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa to Afghanistan.

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