THE TALIBAN RETURNS

Taliban are likely to return to power corridors in Afghanistan following conclusion of ongoing intra-Afghan peace dialogue in Doha, however international community should make enough financial commitments to ensure long-term stability in the country, top diplomats and experts said at a webinar.

The intra-Afghan negotiations, which started on Saturday, are the second, critical part to a peace agreement signed by the United States with the Taliban in February in Doha.

Experts believed that the intra-Afghan negotiations are facing multiple challenges as many spoilers and some external powers, which are benefiting from the war and instability in Afghanistan, may also create hurdles in the peace process.

Syed Abrar Hussain, former ambassador of Pakistan to Afghanistan; Asif Durrani, ex-ambassador of Pakistan to the UAE; Muhammad Ayaz Wazir, former ambassador of Pakistan; and former foreign secretary of Pakistan Shamshad Ahmed Khan, shared their views on the possible outcome of intra-Afghan peace dialogue.

They said that the drug lords and war lords are also playing the role of spoilers as “peace in Afghanistan means they would have to wind up their businesses”.

The Centre for Peace and Security Research organised the webinar titled ‘Afghan peace process: Prospects and pitfalls and likely impact on Pakistan.

Professor Rana Eijaz Ahmad of University of the Punjab was the moderator.

“This intra-Afghan dialogue would be about sharing the power in the future, now, here lies the catch, and it is that Taliban are the dominating party. They physically control 50% of the country and they contest another 20% of the country’s territory…In that scenario expecting Taliban to be the junior partner, any political scientist is going to disagree,” said Asif Durrani.

He said the pitfall would start from the issue of the sharing of power.

“It would be upon the sagacity of the Afghan leadership that how they grapple with this gigantic question and how they address that,” he said.

Shamshad Ahmed Khan added that Taliban would try to strike a good deal on a system to form the government in the country.

“But given the fact that Taliban, who have a majority, they would have a predominantly role in any political dispensation in future Afghanistan,” he said.

Peace deal impact on Pakistan

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Top diplomats unanimously agreed on the fact that peace is as vital for Pakistan as it is for Afghanistan because the four decades’ instability has directly impacted Pakistan — socially, politically and economically. Any failure in dialogues may cause civil war and chaos in Afghanistan that will see the huge influx of refugees increasing the pressures on Pakistan’s fragile economy. However, they said, there are great hopes that the negotiations will bring a peace and stability not only in Afghanistan but in the entire region as the US is brokering a deal and the United Nations will also be playing a supporting role in the entire process.

“There is a symbiotic relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan… In terms of socially, culturally and economically it is almost a part of Pakistan. Every day about 50,000-60,000 Afghans travel to Pakistan for various reasons. Almost 80% of Afghanistan’s trade transits through Pakistan. Pakistan hosts almost 3 million Afghan refugees and about 30,000 Afghan students are studying in Pakistani education institutions,” said Durrani.

“Peace in Afghanistan will bring bigger prospects for Pakistan. We will see expansion in our trade with Afghanistan. Afghanistan is one of the five major trading partners of Pakistan,” said Ayaz Wazir.

China, Russia and CPEC

Experts at the webinar said that an intra-Afghan peace deal will expedite all regional development initiatives, including China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is considered as a game-changer in Pakistan and the entire region.

“The CPEC can be extended to Afghanistan and from there it could go to central Asian states and Russia. Its linkages to Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) could further broaden it to the West,” said Durrani.

“The CPEC in its essence has its various dimensions it’s basically linking China’s western part with Gawadar and other sea lanes and its road link to West Asia and beyond. So, Afghanistan’s situation will be helpful for CPEC, but on the other hand the CPEC can also be helpful in bringing a peace in Afghanistan. China and Pakistan represent the only equation within the region, which can jointly convert the Pakistan-Afghanistan border into an economic gateway to Central Asia. I think Chinese have already realise it that is why they have already joined this [peace] process,” said Khan.

Limiting India role

Top diplomats said that in case of failure in the peace negotiations, not only the Afghanistan will go into a civil war but the entire region will be destabilise. Chaos in Afghanistan will provide an opportunity for India to involve in Afghanistan that could further inflame India-Pakistan controversy in Kashmir.

However, they said that India has basically no relevance to the Afghan peace process other than a spoiler’s role.

“Only because Afghanistan has a historic links with India that doesn’t mean that it has to play a role of Afghanistan’s neighbour, which shares a border with Afghanistan. Once we have peace in Afghanistan, India will have no opportunity in Afghanistan to interfere,” said Khan.

The experts believed that the intra-Afghan dialogue will end with a positive settlement, which will bring peace and stability in the region. They also said that India is and will remain irrelevant in the region’s political situation.

“It is China and Pakistan which will be playing transformative role in Afghanistan. In future, the United States, China and Russia will have to continue to support this process by generating investments in Afghanistan,” Khan concluded.

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