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Has Pakistan’s Policy towards Afghanistan Changed

Pakistan has adopted a proactive policy of taking all parties in confidence and is eager to bring peace in Afghanistan.

The peace process in Afghanistan is heading towards an interesting phase. The US has signed its deal with Taliban and now intra afghan talks are under way. Several regional and international stakeholders are looking forward to playing their role in ending the 18 years long war in Afghanistan. Like others, Pakistan has its significant role to play in the process, and it is looking well committed to play it.
Who was Pakistan supporting before?
In the past, Pakistan has never supported Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and other leaders like him in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s focus was always either Taliban or Gulbaddin Hekmatyar. On the contrary, most leaders from northern alliance were inclined towards India and Iran. For instance, at a time when Ahmad shah Masood along with Abdullah Abdullah captured Kabul, they strengthened its ties with India and Iran. At that time Pakistan backed Gulbaddin Hikmatyar and his ally Rashid Dustam for overthrowing Ahmad Shah Masood.
Similarly, if we look at the situation through the lenses of politics, Pakistan supported Hamid Karzai and Ashraf Ghani, in general elections respectively against Abdullah Abdullah. But recently a shift is witnessed in the approach of Pakistan towards Afghanistan, referring to when it invited Dr. Abdullah Abdullah. Dr. Abdullah Abdullah visited Pakistan after a long time, and was not only warmly welcomed, but he also met political and military leadership of the host country. Moreover, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar also came here to meet the official and discuss the very peace process. Earlier a high-level delegation of Taliban also visited Pakistan, which discussed peace process with Pakistan’s officials. There are several reasons for Pakistan’s changing approach of engaging other stakeholders along with Taliban in the peace process.

Policy shift by Pakistan
After the retreat of Taliban, India has used the soil of Afghanistan against Pakistan constantly. Instability in Afghanistan played an important role in bringing unrest and insurgency in previous FATA and KPK. This is why Pakistan has realized the sensitivity of situations and is trying to engage maximum people in the peace process. Through these efforts, Pakistan wants a clear and distinct solution to the decades long war in Afghanistan.
In this regard, Abdullah Abdullah visited Pakistan, and in the future it is expected that Pakistan would invite other stakeholders like Hamid Karzai and Rashid Dustam. The aims are to take all main actors on board for successful peace talks. Pakistan wants a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, because the prosperity of Pakistan is linked with stable Afghanistan to a great extent.

The real reason behind US-Taliban peace talks
Moreover, the deal of US and Taliban seems more of a political stunt by US rather than a sincere effort at peace. President Donald Trump did it because of the upcoming presidential elections in November. US probably doesn’t want complete peace in a country which is on the doorsteps of powers which have a rivalry with the US.
Central Asian states are of tremendous importance to China due to their mineral rich attributes, and the only short and effective path to these states is through Afghanistan. China and the US are already engaged in a trade war, therefore US probably wants a constant threat to China as well as Russia in the shape of Afghanistan.

Peace in Afghanistan will be beneficial for Pakistan
From Pakistan’s perspective, success of CPEC and economic prosperity of Pakistan is highly dependent on stability in Afghanistan. Therefore, Pakistan has adopted a proactive policy of taking all parties in confidence and is eager to bring peace in Afghanistan. The economic aims of CPEC can be fully effective only when Afghanistan is free of any violence, so that Pakistan and China can fully utilize it to fulfill their economic ambitions.
Unlike previous instances, Pakistan has changed its approach towards Afghanistan and Taliban. It is now taking all main stakeholders in confidence, not only because of its decreasing influence on Taliban but to ensure lasting peace in the country as well. The decreased influence on Taliban is due to a smart approach taken by Taliban. Taliban has become a global actor, it is engaging with various regional powers like Russia, China and Iran. Along with Pakistan, it must look out for their own states interests as well. Hence, Pakistan has realized the situation and is not only engaging Taliban but also taking other stakeholders in confidence as well to ensure peace in Afghanistan.

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