Economic development is key to Afghanistan’s stability

Muhammad Ayaz Wazir

While looking back at history, we need to remember that Afghanistan has hardly had peace except in the era of King Zahir Shah.  This period of ease started from 1933 and lasted upto 1973. However, after these forty years of peace, the people of Afghanistan were forced to resist and fight against the super powers one after another. But unfortunately, they had to fight among themselves too due to various internal and external factors.

After driving the Soviets out from Afghanistan in February 1989, various Mujahideen (Freedom Fighters) groups engaged themselves in infightings which paved the way for Taliban to take over the country. The scenario changed further after 9/11, and eventually, United States (US) invaded Afghanistan. 

I can recall how a foreign diplomat from ten years ago, who approached me to discuss the situation in Afghanistan after I retired. By then, the deployment of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan had reached around 1,50,000. I suggested to the diplomat that the solution lies in conducting peace talks with Taliban.  But the diplomat reacted while informing me and said that whatever I had suggested was almost inacceptable. 

It is clear that the US was not ready to listen to the name of Taliban, let alone talking to them. Then the time came when Taliban were willing to talk to them (US but making it clear that they (Taliban) were not ready to talk to the Afghan government. To them, it was just a puppet regime of the US where they considered the later as the real power for a meaningful engagement. However, the US refused to talk to Taliban and now it’s nothing but history.

 Now, after almost a decade after that incident, talks initiated between Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban. The process spanned over ten months and at a juncture when the agreement was ready, draft initialed by both sides, and the final agreement was to be signed, it was called off abruptly. President Trump not only announced the termination of the peace talks but also declared the process as dead.

We all are aware Pakistan’s role in making those talks a success. It was not only recognized by everyone, but also received due appreciation by the whole world. Pakistan contributed positively to advance the process as it was also in its own best interest. In fact, restoring peace in Afghanistan is in the interest of Pakistan, more than anyone else as if peace returns to Afghanistan, major projects such as TAPI and CASA-1000, can actually be realized. Pakistan believes that these projects could be immediately started along with other economic activities soon after peace in Afghanistan is restored.

However, it has been highly unfortunate for all the stakeholders that this peace process was terminated, and nobody could predict that what would come next. There are several fundamental questions such as would the process be reinitiated? If yes, would it happen? Afghanistan was now going through the election process where preliminary results were expected to take about 2 to 3 weeks.  Regardless of whether Dr. Ashraf Ghani, Abdullah Abdullah, Gulbudin Hekmatyar or anyone else would emerge as the victor, the results would be crucial for Afghanistan’s future.

The results would be important for the fact that the winner was expected to assume the presidential office with a much bigger authority than Ashraf Ghani had previously. It was so as Dr. Ghani had a limited period to govern and was ruling the country under the time given by the Supreme Court. Therefore, the new government after getting formed would be able to claim as a true representative of Afghan people.

Reinitiating talks with Taliban in the current situation are vital to restore peace in Afghanistan.  Pakistan is also keen to see stability in Afghanistan, especially keeping in view the situation on the Indian border due to the issue of Jammu and Kashmir.  Unfortunately, the world’s powers presently seem more interested in protecting their own economic interests rather showing any concern on the human rights violation of Kashmiri people and the same applies on restoring peace in Afghanistan. 

China has recently, entered into an agreement with Iran i.e. $290 billion investment in 25 years. However, without peace in Afghanistan, the real era of economic development in the region cannot be achieved. Europe would never find it easier to explore Euro-Asia economic cooperation till the gateway (Afghanistan) remains closed. 

Therefore, better sense must prevail at every level and there should be a focus on returning peace in Afghanistan. The dividends of peace would not only remain limited to our region but the whole world might benefit from it. The US role here however would play a key role in ascertaining the future of stability in Afghanistan. 

The writer is a career diplomat and served the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Pakistan Missions abroad at Vienna, Maputo, Dubai, Riyadh, Mazar-e-Sharif, London, Manchester and Doha.

Source: Matrix Media

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