Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, January 21st, 2018

Who Will Win?

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Who Will Win?

The Afghan-Pak relation has hit rock bottom following the decade-long ebb and flow. With the Taliban’s militancy, Pakistani officials persisted in peace talks and promised to nudge the Taliban to come to negotiating table. Afghan officials welcomed the decision and pursued it with great trust and interest. Despite this fact, the Taliban elements engineered far-reaching attacks from across the border and refused to hold talks. On the surface, peace talks seemed to be a piece of cake but changed into a complicated game with players around trying to win. Although Afghan government sacrificed heavily, the game continued endlessly. Kabul insisted on Islamabad to fulfill its promise.  
The continuation of the game took its toll on Afghanistan, mainly on the High Peace Council (HPC) which was established in 2010 to hold talks with the Taliban outfits. During Hamid Karzai’s administration, the struggles for peace talks did not bear the desired fruit and militancy did not cease in spite of the fact that he showed great tolerance towards the Taliban through calling them “discontented brothers” and released a number of the Taliban prisoners as peace offering.
Although Muhammad Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah formed a unity government following the election held in 2014, the game continued in which Afghanistan was already embroiled. Alike his predecessor, President Ghani urged Pakistani officials to broker the talks between Afghan government and the Taliban. Pakistan gave its word again to bring the Taliban to the peace table via using its “leverage”.
Subsequently, Pakistan hosted a talk, in late July 2015, between the Afghan government and Taliban representatives at the popular tourist resort of Murree. Senior officials from Pakistan, China and the United States also attended closed-door talks suggesting that the Murree process had the backing of all major international players. But Mullah Omar’s death, which was revealed just a day before a second meeting was supposed to take place, brought the peace talks to a standstill.
Consequently, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, the Taliban’s former aviation minister, was appointed as Omar’s successor. Mansour called peace talks as “enemy’s propaganda” and staged heavy attacks against the Afghan government. He also declared “spring offensive” which led to great civilian casualties in the country. 
On December 2015, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the United States formed the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) to maintain their efforts for peace talks and on January 18, 2016, the four nations held second round of talks in Kabul and called warring parties to stop violence and join negotiation. Similarly, the third meeting was held in Islamabad on February 6 and urged for direct talks between Afghan government and the Taliban and added that the roadmap to peace talks was agreed upon. The fourth one was again in Kabul, on February 23. In the fourth meeting, a join press statement was issued which stated that the first round of direct talks between the Afghan government and Taliban would take place by the first week of March in Islamabad.
But Mansour refused sitting around the peace table and declared “Omari Operation” to intensify attacks against Afghan and US forces.
Despite the Taliban’s frequent refusal for talks, the QCG held its fifth round meeting – not in March as it announced earlier – on May 18. Mansour was called on obstacle before peace talks and targeted by a US drone strike in Baluchistan – his death was confirmed on May 22. Pakistan condemned the attack with strong anger and remarked it as violation of its sovereignty while Afghanistan was in favor of his death and said that there was no good and bad Taliban. This incident led to mistrust among the four-nation group and would be the death knell for QCG. So, Mansour’s death, which was the game’s denouement, aroused tension not only between Islamabad and Washington but also Islamabad and Kabul.  
The appointment of Mansour’s successor, Haibatullah Akhundzada, orchestrate attacks in Afghanistan, has compounded the Afghan-Pak tension. Pakistan put pressure on Afghan refugees and its foreign policy chief Sartaj Aziz told a television channel that Afghan refugee camps had become “safe havens for terrorists.” Additionally, police in Peshawar reportedly increased raids on Afghan refugees and detained hundreds of them amid this worsening diplomatic relations. However, the UN refugee agency head urged Pakistanis not to blame Afghan refugees for terrorism in their country, warning that the roughly 2.5 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan risked becoming a “forgotten” crisis.
On the contrary, Afghan officials said that Pakistan was a safe haven for terrorist networks and held council freely for appointing their leaders and staged deadly attacks against Afghan nation. In his recent statement, President Ghani has said that he could provide the addresses of the Taliban leaders in Quetta city of Pakistan. In the interview with Geo News, he reiterated that Pakistan provided sanctuaries to terrorists and trained them. According to him, Afghan forces had bombed the chief of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Mullah Fazlullah, eleven times along with attacks on his close aides and asked, “Can you show me a single operation against the Haqqani network, against Mullah Omar, against Mullah Mansour? Mansour traveled on a Pakistani passport out of Karachi, does Fazlullah travel on an Afghan passport out of Kabul?”
The Taliban’s foul play in peace talks and Pakistan’s failure in fulfilling its promise left no motives for resuming talks. Now, bridging the gap between the two countries is next to impossible. Who is responsible for worsening the situation? It is the readers to pass judgment over the issue.

Hujjattullah Zia is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at zia_hujjat@yahoo.com

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