ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: Cognitive blurriness always helps to take the burden of a puny and inoperable relationship. This mistiness helped Pakistan for over 45 years to believe that it has wonderful and lasting relations with Afghanistan.
Slowly (and maybe surely) the state of Pakistan has acknowledged that it has mutated relations with “Afghan brothers” who always snub any genuine criticisms against them from Islamabad. The recent example is the statement of the Afghan Government Spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid who contemptibly responded to the statement of interim Prime Minister Anwaar Ul Haq Kakar in which he signposted linkages between terrorism against Pakistan and Afghan soil.
Recently, the Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar Ul Haq Kakar maintained there had been an increase in terror incidents in Pakistan since the interim Afghan government took over Kabul in 2021. Although Anwaar Ul Haq Kakar is still shy to share the reality that full-fledged economic terrorism has been launched against Pakistan since 2021, he just said that Pakistan had a hope that strict actions would be taken against Pakistan-opposing groups, especially the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan living in Afghan soil. He stated that however, there has been a 60% increase in terror incidents and a 500% rise in suicide attacks in Pakistan since the Afghan Taliban retook control of Afghanistan.
Kakar, who understands the sensitivity and complexity of Pak-Afghan relations, was extra-conscious in his talk and refrained from discussing the ground realities of the issue with journalists in detail. He just mentioned that since the Afghan Taliban established their government in Kabul, 2,267 innocent citizens lost their lives in terror attacks in Pakistan for which the TTP was responsible who has been conducting attacks on Pakistani using Afghan soil. He added that 15 Afghan citizens were also among the people involved in suicide attacks and till now, 64 Afghan citizens have been killed while fighting Pakistan’s law enforcement agencies during the counterterrorism campaign.
Instead of accepting the reality and fixing the issue, Zabihullah Mujahid rebutted Kakar’s statement and claimed that:
“We do not want to interfere in the internal affairs of any country or take action against anyone. We want peace in Pakistan like our own country, the Islamic Emirate does not allow anyone to use Afghan land against Pakistan. The establishment of peace in Pakistan is not the responsibility of the Islamic Emirate, solve your problems, and do not blame Afghanistan for your failure, the incidents of insecurity in Pakistan are not proof that Afghanistan is behind it”.
This is not the first time that the Afghan interim government refuted the reality that terrorism against Pakistan has a direct link with Afghan soil. Moreover, the Afghan interim government is also not ready to accept that Afghanistan for 45 years had been exploiting the Afghanistan Transit Trade Agreement (ATTA).
The Pakistan Business Council (PBC), a prime body of businessmen, traders, and industrialists, has been raising abuse of ATTA for long but the government in Pakistan in the past had never given any attention to their recommendations and losses being faced by them due to ATTA.
The PBC suggests denying transit access to industrial inputs for which no industrial capacity exists in Afghanistan and for those that capacity exists, allowing quantity in proportion to a verified track record of manufacturing. The council has also demanded several times that the ATTA should require all traders availing transit facilities to be registered for income and sales tax in Afghanistan and that Pakistan should assist the Afghan government in achieving a high level of tax documentation and accountability.
The PBC also proposes that all transit goods deposit Pakistan import duties and sales taxes upon entry into Pakistan and that the duty and taxes collected be refunded only to the Afghan government, thereby forcing traders to register there for tax. The PBC believes parity duties and taxes between Afghanistan and Pakistan should reduce the incentive to evade Pakistan taxes and that transit goods should be imported under letters of credit drawn on banks operating in Afghanistan or through remittance from Afghanistan through banking channels. The council thinks that Pakistan should continue to resist the inclusion of auto parts and cigarettes in the list of items admissible for transit and prevent the flow of Indian goods overland from Wagah to Afghanistan, especially on Indian trucks, due to security risks and the likelihood of diversion. The PBC circles claim that ATTA and black and grey forex markets are controlled by illegally residing Afghans and for the first time in history, action is being taken against them but this action must also include those Afghans who travel to and from Afghanistan daily and do business in Pakistan and take USD dollars to Afghanistan.
It is pertinent to mention that Pakistan gave a deadline of October 31, 2023, to all illegally residing foreigners to leave Pakistan. Since the deadline is over, a huge crackdown is expected but the government is facing criticism from civil society organizations for sending illegal Afghans back to their country.
In an article recently published in Express Tribune, the author writes that if someone sincerely reviews multi-dimensional issues being faced by Pakistan due to the presence of illegal foreigners, it is not difficult to find that every such individual has the capacity and skills to abuse the Pakistani system and play havoc with its reputation, economy, and society because Pakistan had been running on “norms” and “customs” instead of rules. The writer further says that the best example is the traffic of Afghans to and from Pakistan who had broad access due to the “Rahdari system” and they did not need travel documents, passports, or visas to enter Pakistan because it was the “norm and custom” of the Pak-Afghan border. Moreover, this practice cunningly was linked with “ethnicity issue” and the state of Pakistan was bound to “respect” this “ethnic sensitivity”.
An important factor that is hampering Pakistan’s economy and image globally is the use of fake Pakistani passports by Afghans. The issue of fake Pakistani passports obtained by Afghanis has now become a serious nuisance, particularly for Gulf countries and they can decide to launch a crackdown on checking the credibility of every Pakistani passport such a situation can jeopardize the livelihood of even bonafide Pakistanis.
The issue of fake Pakistani passports may not be very important for those who live in Pakistan but Pakistanis living abroad understand the gravity and sensitivity of the subject because whenever any Afghan having a fake Pakistani identity is found involved in illegal businesses, Pakistani diaspora has no justification to tell people that he or she is not Pakistani but an Afghan. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s state institutions in the past had never taken this grave matter seriously due to several “strategic reasons” including the mantra of “Afghan-Pakistan brotherhood”. This topic is linked with the 1980s Afghan Jihad and the state-infused concept of Muhajirin and Ansar. The 20th century has already gone with the wind and the last 45 years gave a harsh lesson to Pakistan that “Never Love a Stranger” and protect its sovereignty beyond the clichés of the Afghan brotherhood and Muhajirin and Ansar because such diction is not part of social norms of friends living other side of Pak-Afghan brothers. We are friends and we should respect the rules of a friendly neighborhood instead of presuming unfounded relationships.