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Pakistan, other regional stakeholders must help develop Afghanistan’s capacity: Speakers

  • Urge new Afghan govt not let its land to be used for proxy terrorism
  • Say economic chaos is a breeding ground for nurturing terrorism
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By Hamid Khan Wazir

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: Afghanistan’s economic connectivity and infrastructure development must continue in the larger regional interest. Pakistan and other regional stakeholders must cooperate with Afghanistan to develop capacity key to economic connectivity and integration.

Economic turmoil is a breeding ground for extremism and terrorism. These remarks were made by the experts/ track 1.5/2 actors key to the Pakistan-Afghanistan relationship during a roundtable held by the Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) here on Friday to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, pitfalls ahead for Afghanistan, insulating Afghanistan from the external geopolitical factors and challenges for Pakistan.

These experts included Members of the National Assembly Nafeesa Khattak, Shandana Gulzar, and Yaqoob Sheikh, former Ambassadors Ayaz Wazir, Gen (retd) Asif Durrani, former IG police Dr. Shoaib Suddle, former Minister of State and Chairman BOI Haroon Sharif, and senior anchorperson Rehman Azhar, among others.

The following is a shortlist of additional recommendations they proposed for the Pakistani government to aptly tackle the Afghanistan situation next door.

Pakistan should be prepared for the challenges of transitionary period, until an inclusive government is formed in Afghanistan. Pakistan should have a clear refugee policy and devise a plan for humanitarian assistance packages, in case the optimistic scenario does not pan out. It should also onboard other regional actors while playing its role for a political settlement in Afghanistan. In the interest of security relationships and cooperation with Pakistan, the new Afghan government should not let its land to be used for proxy terrorism.

The group concluded with the point that at this stage, Pakistan’s policy should focus on Afghan people and economic interests. Only by the commitment to human rights, inclusivity, and a dramatic shift to good governance can the Taliban be accepted by the world.

Speaking on the occasion, Former Ambassador Ayaz Wazir noted that all eyes are on the rapidly developing situation in Afghanistan where a political settlement is expected. The beginning of this new generation of Taliban seems more peaceful and is hoped to proceed with the principles of diplomacy and reconciliation. If the Taliban do not deviate from these principles, chances are they would succeed; and they have no other choice but to comply with these fundamental principles key to peace and stability in Afghanistan.

If the Taliban are able to make an all-inclusive government, Pakistan should waste no time to accept them, so as other countries in the region and beyond. Peaceful Afghanistan is in the interest of the entire region, therefore all the regional actors including Pakistan, China, Russia, and Iran, should take positive steps in the regional interest. MNA Yaqoob Sheikh said that it will be extremely important for the new regime to solve the economic and other critical challenges facing Afghanistan. There are expectations from the Taliban to be progressive and deliver to the public needs. The economic connectivity projects in Afghanistan need to be continued and even further strengthened. There is a dire need to put in place the infrastructure key to trade and transit trade, and take economic measures that can ensure public access to basic needs.

The Former Minister of State and former Chairman BOI, Haroon Sharif noted that it is hard to make predictions about what is going to happen in Afghanistan in the months to come. However, we should be prepared for the challenges of the transitionary period such a dip in trade, etc. The first and foremost challenge for the new regime will be addressing the economic and financial management challenges.

The capability in Afghanistan is going to be a key factor to its regional connectivity. This is where Pakistan and other regional powers can help; planning and development of infrastructure, and capacity to ameliorate the challenges jeopardizing the investments.

Former Defense Secretary, Lt. Gen. (retd) Asif Yasin Malik said that Pakistan should help Afghanistan in this crises situation and wait for the new inclusive government expected. Pakistan should also have a clear policy on Afghan refugees without any ambiguity on any possible scenario, and be prepared for any disaster in Afghanistan; devising a plan for humanitarian assistance package –including food or medical assistance – to win the hearts and minds of Afghans in need.

Economic chaos is a breeding ground for nurturing terrorism, therefore the need to address Afghanistan’s economic challenges should be prioritized.

MNA Nafeesa Khattak said that the Taliban are doing a good job at restoring the public trust in them but it’s an uphill task. Though Pakistan has an important role in the political settlement in Afghanistan, however, it should also onboard other regional stakeholders in the process. Pakistan is well experienced in disaster management and should share its crises management expertise with Afghanistan.

Senior Journalist Rehman Azhar noted that Pakistan had not been scapegoated for the situation in Afghanistan, thus far, but it can happen and we should remain prepared. For the security relationship and cooperation with Pakistan, it will be extremely important that the new government does not allow the Afghan land to be used against Pakistan.

Former Ambassador Asif Durrani said that there needs to be an inclusive government in Afghanistan for its humanitarian assistance to continue. We should not be the spokesperson of the Taliban and wait and see how they present themselves before the world. Pressure on Pakistan is likely to come, however, we should prepare ourselves for terrorism and other challenges as a matter of rationality and national interest. If the Taliban succeed to bring peace in Afghanistan, then hopefully everyone will cooperate with them.

MNA Shandana Gulzar said that in these testing times for Afghanistan, what we need to focus on is the people of Afghanistan and peace and stability in the country. Both people and policymakers should carefully make statements about relations with Afghanistan and be cognizant of the sensitivities. At this time, our policy should be focused Afghan people and our economic interests.

There are so many facets of the issues, but patience and common sense should guide us.

Former IG Police, and former Federal Tax Ombudsman, Dr. Shoaib Suddle said that the Taliban’s commitment to human rights, women’s rights, and minority groups in Afghanistan will be crucial to their acceptance by the world. That commitment should not be rhetorical and be equally reflected in their actions. The issues of contention between two countries mutually agreed and solved should not be reignited in the interest of two countries and peoples. Pakistan should have its contingency planned in place if something goes wrong in Afghanistan, and make efforts to gather other countries of the region for some workable plan and solution to the problem. Right now, the priority should be peace and stability in Afghanistan.

To tackle the issue of capital flight from Afghanistan, Executive Director CRSS Imtiaz Gul proposed the idea of a reconstruction fund jointly developed by the regional stakeholders.

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