The Pakistani delegation led by its Chief of Army Staff met the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul on 01 October 2017. Ghani called the meeting as a “new season of relationship” and discussed issues “including security in the region, bilateral relationship, peace and stability, anti-terror efforts, business and transit relationship, and mid- and long-term ties between Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
Will this become a “new season” for Pakistan and Afghanistan? Did Gen Qamar Bajwa visit Kabul with an objective to start a new relationship? Or the visit was under pressure from the US, especially before Islamabad attempts a course correction with the present American administration?
The immediate requirement for both sides would be to target the militant safe havens in respective countries and prevent any major attacks across the Durand Line. And the second requirement would be to stabilize the Line itself. While the first issue is straightforward, the second issue is sociological and political.
While both countries need to work together on the first issue, Pakistan will have to be more accommodative on the second issue. Currently, Pakistan has been using the second issue as a trump to pressurize Afghanistan on the first issue. Closure of border at will has not only been increasing the political distance between Islamabad and Kabul, but also the Pashtun population across the Durand Line.
It is Pakistan’s sovereign right to control its borders. But the Durand Line is no ordinary border. For Kabul, it is not a border at all, as they politically dispute it. For the people across both sides, it does not exist sociologically. Pakistan wants to impose a military solution to the above, by constructing a fence.
If the Durand is stabilized a “new season” will automatically evolve. And this needs a political approach. It is unfortunate, that the Parliament in Pakistan has abdicated this responsibility to the military. Until the two Parliaments connect with each other, Afghanistan and Pakistan would remain a repeat of the previous seasons.