A Joint Struggle
If there is one thing that is certain about an uncertain situation, it is that terrorism cannot be defeated in the region until Pakistan and Afghanistan work together to counter it. The nature of the rugged, mountainous border between the two countries makes it possible for them to move back and forth across it despite Pakistan’s efforts to fence this frontier amid multiple skirmishes last year. We now have news that a formal agreement may have been reached for Kabul and Islamabad to jointly counter terrorism. Speaking to a news agency in Kabul, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has said that there had been a formal agreement whereby Pakistan and Afghanistan would cooperate against terrorists and that this cooperation could also help solve the issue of the Taliban. The Afghan government is currently locked in negotiations with the Afghan Taliban – which, it has been suggested, has the support of Pakistan. Pakistan could then be critical to the peace talks. If there is any substance to this news, the Afghan president indicated that a written agreement had been reached. He did not, however, provide any details.
The Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity, which was agreed in May, lays down a clause that suggests working groups would be established to facilitate cooperation against militancy between both countries. The agreement that Ghani referred to is possibly a part of this broader plan, which also focuses on the issue of Afghan refugees, and promises to deal with fugitives and avoid public targeting of each other. Islamabad has so far said nothing about any formal deal with Afghanistan on terrorism. We hope that it will come forward with more details soon. Given the hostility that has marred relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan for many months, this deal could be central to developing a more cooperative relationship on Pakistan’s western border and building on it to develop the joint action that is urgently needed if there is to be any success in dealing with the militancy and terrorism that affects the entire region. Pakistan and Afghanistan have both suffered economically and politically, and has incurred human losses as a result of terrorism. The number of people killed in these countries exceeds those who have died in the West by thousands. It, therefore, makes sense for both countries to put aside their misunderstandings refuse to allow any third party to exacerbate them, and instead work together to tackle and eventually eliminate a problem that presents an existential threat to both nations. Syed Saleem Ali,