A Guest Talk on Pak-Afghan Relations: Countering Misperceptions & Negative Narratives
January 11, 2017: A guest talk was held by two members of the Pak-Afghan Joint Committee on Track II bilateral dialogue at the Meeting Room, Aman-CED Building, IBA Main Campus. The theme of the discussion was 'Pak-Afghan relations: Countering Misperceptions and Negative Narratives'. The Speaker from the Pakistan side was former ambassador, Mian Sanaullah, and from the Afghan side, Mr. Khalid Pashtoon. Mr. Imtiaz Gul, Executive Director, Center for Research and Security Studies, and Mr. Qazi Humayun, former Pakistan ambassador to Pakistan were also present. Dr. Bilal Munshi, Assistant Professor, Social Sciences and Liberal Arts, IBA was the moderator for the discussion.
The session commenced with short introductions given by the students, followed by introductions from the guest speakers. Mr. Mian Sanaullah, having considerable experience at various diplomatic missions during his illustrious career, discussed how Pakistan and Afghanistan do not have strong political relations. The Afghan leadership believes that Pakistan is not a sincere friend. However, what is the truth? Nobody knows the answer to that question. Moreover, the future is uncertain with President-elect Donald Trump. The idea of peace returning to the region is not quite possible, according to Mr. Sanaullah. According to him, this essentially brings us to the point that each of us has a responsibility to remove mistrust so that we can understand each other's aspirations.
Following, this Mr. Pashtoon, a Member of the Afghan Parliament, started on a positive note by discussing the similarities between Afghans and Pakistanis. He talked about how he had spent a year in Karachi in 1981, since Pakistan had become a safe haven for Afghanis fleeing the Soviet invasion. Relations between the two countries were somewhat better. However, with the creation of the Taliban, the Afghan government turned cold towards Pakistan, blaming it for destabilizing the region. This was essentially where the blame game started. Mr. Khalid was of the opinion that Afghanistan expects more from Pakistan, and one only expects help from a friend. The role of India in Pak-Afghan relations was also discussed. India, being one of the largest economies in the region, has considerably helped Afghanistan economically, socially and militarily. According to Mr. Pashtoon, this was perhaps the main reason why ties between Afghanistan and India have become stronger over the years.
Mr. Qazi Humayun, continued on this note by talking about the international situation – how the world is no longer unipolar but rather multipolar. Moreover, India's part in this region has been enhanced, due to the hegemonic aspirations of the present government. He also clarified Pakistan's ethos towards the Taliban – that we are actively opposing them.
The floor was then opened for discussion whereby questions were raised by students and faculty members. Mr. Imtiaz Gul again clarified that Pakistan's ambivalent stance towards the Taliban ended in March 2007. A significant reason for this was the killing of Pakistani military generals and soldiers in North and South Waziristan by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. According to him, India is also involved in the dirty politics of the region. When former Ambassador, Tariq Aziz, was held in captivity by the Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud revealed to him how India had offered him help. A meeting of the top 12 security advisers was also held in India in 2009, which led to a report titled 'How to deal with an obstinate Pakistan?' A recommendation was given to conduct covert and overt operations in Baluchistan. The Indians felt that Baluchistan could be separated from Pakistan just like Bangladesh. Upon hearing this, the atmosphere in the room got more serious.
Questions regarding the Durand Line, which was created by the British, and the status of Afghan refugees were also raised. To the latter, Mr. Khalid Pashtoon replied that he tries to ignore this problem and advises his colleagues to do the same. He also said that a decision regarding the refugees is also being made but nothing has been revealed to the media yet. At this point, the discussion got quite heated, as Mr. Pashtoon was defensive of Afghan policies, while Mr. Imtiaz Gul was criticizing the Afghan government's actions. Mr. Sanaullah tried to cool down the talk by stating how the blame game always results in negativity and misunderstanding. He also said that in inter-state relations, there is no religion. If this were so then Bhutan and India, and Nepal and India would have strong ties. In the end, Mr. Pashtoon expressed hope that ties between the two counties would improve and there should be more projects like TAPI (Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India Pipeline) which will benefit this region.
The students then awarded shields to Mr. Khalid Pashtoon, Mr. Qazi Humayun and Mr. Sanaullah for sharing their knowledge and wisdom with the IBA Faculty and students. A group photograph was taken in the Aman-CED foyer, followed by refreshments for all the attendees.