The ab­sence of Pak­istan and the Tal­iban at the Bonn Con­fer­ence has the po­ten­tial to crip­ple Afghanistan’s fu­ture.

Southasia - - Contents - By Daud Khat­tak

' They are a na­tion of tribes con­stantly at war with each other. They are very het­ero­ge­neous, with an ex­treme eth­no­cen­tric­ity which makes them not only hate or sus­pect for­eign­ers but Afghans liv­ing two val­leys away.’

This is the out­side view of Afghans who are suf­fer­ing the brunt of a war, more than three decades old, with no end still in sight.

The De­cem­ber 5 Bonn Con­fer­ence, gen­er­ally re­ferred to as Bonn Con­fer­ence-ii, now seems like a spoiled op­por­tu­nity which could oth­er­wise be used to de­vise a path lead­ing to peace in the war-bat­tered coun­try.

The first Bonn Con­fer­ence con­vened soon af­ter the over­throw of the Tal­iban regime. The Afghans, with the sup­port of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity, in­stalled Hamid Karzai as the in­terim head of the new gov­ern­ment. The re­moval of the pu­ri­tan­i­cal regime and the in­stal­la­tion of a new gov­ern­ment in­stilled fresh hopes among Afghans for fi­nally bring­ing peace and sta­bil­ity to one of the world’s most un­sta­ble but strate­gi­cally im­por­tant regions. How­ever, 10 years down the road all hopes evap­o­rated with the Tal­iban

re­gain­ing strength, ris­ing frus­tra­tion among Afghans re­gard­ing se­cu­rity and good gov­er­nance, bla­tant in­ter­fer­ence from neigh­bors and war-weari­ness among NATO al­lies.

Hence, Bonn II was seen as the forum to in­ject fresh hope par­tic­u­larly with the loom­ing with­drawal of US forces from a coun­try that still lacks a func­tion­ing gov­ern­ment and a re­li­able se­cu­rity ap­pa­ra­tus. How­ever, the par­tic­i­pants and the world at large wit­nessed the op­por­tu­nity lost as the two key stake­hold­ers, of­ten seen and re­ferred to as al­lies, Tal­iban and Pak­istan, re­fused to at­tend the con­fer­ence.

Days be­fore the gath­er­ing of in­ter­na­tional lead­ers in the Ger­man city to dis­cuss the fu­ture of Afghanistan, I sat with Afrasiab Khat­tak to get his views on peace and sta­bil­ity in the re­gion and the ex­pec­ta­tions from Bonn – II.

A Pash­tun in­tel­lec­tual and au­thor­ity on Afghanistan, Khat­tak high­lighted ‘se­ri­ous dis­con­nects’ be­tween Pak­istan and the United States and Afghanistan and Pak­istan be­fore urg­ing an ‘in­clu­sive’ ap­proach ‘in­side and around’ Afghanistan with three cir­cles of ne­go­ti­a­tions to find a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion to the im­broglio. The three cir­cles in­cluded: a) In­tra-Afghan di­a­logue b) Ne­go­ti­a­tions for re­gional con­sen­sus and c) Ne­go­ti­a­tions among in­ter­na­tional play­ers.

In the avail­able cir­cum­stances, this seems to be the most vi­able path lead­ing to sus­tain­able peace in the land­locked coun­try. But ‘mak­ing pres­ence felt by their ab­sence’ as aptly men­tioned by one me­dia out­let, Tal­iban and neigh­bor­ing Pak­istan left the sum­mit with lit­tle hope to inch for­ward to­wards a con­sen­sus on the road to peace. Though no quick fix was ex­pected from the in­ter­na­tional sum­mit, their par­tic­i­pa­tion could have con­veyed a good­will mes­sage for launch­ing the in­tra-af- ghan di­a­logue as well as de­vel­op­ing re­gional con­sen­sus on last­ing and durable peace in the coun­try.

Not­ing Pak­istan’s ab­sence at the Bonn Con­fer­ence, US Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton said: “We would, of course, have ben­e­fited from Pak­istan’s con­tri­bu­tion to this con­fer­ence.” A ma­jor­ity of the rep­re­sen­ta­tives span­ning 85 coun­tries and 16 in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions, also wished to see Tal­iban rep­re­sen­ta­tives in or­der to add mean­ing to their calls for peace and help their way out of the 10-year-old war with no end in sight.

To the dis­may of many oth­ers, par­tic­u­larly Afghans, days af­ter the con­fer­ence the Afghan gov­ern­ment re­called its am­bas­sador from Qatar to protest that Qatari Ameers were al­low­ing the Tal­iban to open an of­fice, ap­par­ently af­ter get­ting a nod from the US. Along­side, ties be­tween Pak­istan and the United States, the two key part­ners, took a nose dive with both coun­tries stick­ing to their guns over the Novem­ber 26 NATO raid at a time when se­ri­ous diplo­matic ef­forts are needed to cur­tail the Tal­iban vi­o­lence and sta­bi­lize the highly volatile re­gion.

Fu­ture sta­bil­ity in South and Cen­tral Asia hinges upon peace and sta­bil­ity in Afghanistan. Pak­istan be­ing the clos­est neigh­bor and ally of the Tal­iban is also bit­terly af­fected from the three-decades of war in its back­yard and wants peace. How­ever, Pak­istan wants guar­an­tees for safe­guard­ing its geo-strate­gic and eco­nomic in­ter­ests in shap­ing the fu­ture of Afghanistan be­fore join­ing a mean­ing­ful peace process and nudg­ing its Tal­iban al­lies to come for­ward.

Like­wise, South Asian gi­ant, In­dia along with Iran and paired with the Saudis, Chi­nese and even Rus­sians wants to be in­cluded be­fore draw­ing the peace roadmap. Hence, talks and a con­sen­sus among the re­gional play­ers is the need of the hour.

How­ever, as Afrasiab Khat­tak pointed out, in­tra-afghan di­a­logue is crit­i­cal to the process. War­lords, un­for­tu­nately, have gained more strength and eth­nic schism has fur­ther widened the multi-eth­nic Afghan so­ci­ety over the years. De­spite that, one pos­i­tive as­pect is the growth of civil so­ci­ety marked by new lead­er­ship com­pris­ing young in­tel­lec­tu­als, writ­ers and NGO ac­tivists that have emerged in the past 10 years. Tribal el­ders, elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives, for­mer war­lords and civil so­ci­ety lead­ers also need to have a say in the peace­mak­ing ef­forts.

Chal­lenges do ex­ist at ev­ery step and height­ened in­volve­ment on a lo­cal, re­gional and in­ter­na­tional level is im­per­a­tive. A sin­cere re­solve to avoid the loom­ing threat to re­gional sta­bil­ity is the sin­gle ma­jor stim­u­lus that could push all stake­hold­ers into a give and take so­lu­tion.

Lastly, sta­bil­ity in Afghanistan mostly de­pends on good gov­er­nance, eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and re­build­ing ef­forts that would re­main a dream with­out sus­tained sup­port from the Western world and Afghanistan’s neigh­bors. Much work re­mains to be done be­fore bring­ing some sort of or­der to a coun­try suf­fer­ing from naked ag­gres­sion and for­eign in­ter­fer­ence.

Ef­forts with­out sin­cere re­solve are lit­tle more than flog­ging a dead horse. The mil­lion-dol­lar ques­tion is: Does such a re­solve ex­ist? Only his­tory will be the judge.

Photo credit: J Scott Ap­ple­while. AFP

Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel with Afghan Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai in Bonn. For­mer CIA Islamabad sta­tion Chief, Howard Hart (Char­lie Wil­son’s War by Ge­orge Crile)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.