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Photo Source: Dawn

Pakistan Reader# 504, 10 January 2023

Future of Pakistan’s Afghan policy: three takeaways



Why does Pakistan need a refurbished Afghan perspective?

Bhoomika Sesharaj

On 8 January, Dawn published an editorial titled New Afghan Policy authored by Muhammad Amir Rana which spoke about the imperativeness and the necessity of a renewed  Afghan policy. Rana stated that Pakistan’s Afghan strategy has mainly remained “strategic-centric” and needs a “radical transformation.” On 22 December 2022, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari voiced concerns over the Taliban’s ban on university education for women and said that the “easiest path” to achieve some semblance of political stability in the country is to “create the political space necessary” for those within the regime “who actually believe” that they would “deliver” on human rights issues. 

Rana’s emphasis on a renewed Afghan framework comes as the ban on university education for girls in Afghanistan could potentially allow women to complete their degrees in Pakistan and would allow the country to initiate a broader and constructive engagement with Afghanistan, especially on civilian and military lines. This brief looks at three takeaways from Rana’s perspective on a new Afghan policy:

1. Pakistan’s security challenges.
Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, Pakistan’s security framework has been riddled with uncertainty and challenges that are unearthing instability and lack of policies which could tackle the issue. For a renewed approach, Pakistan must seek the cooperation of state institutions and develop bureaucratic resources to further their engagement in the region. According to Rana, Pakistan needs a “delicate” approach towards Afghanistan based on a mutual understanding of each other’s political integrity and disallowing any hostility or appeasement that could aggravate Pakistan’s security arrangements. The recent attacks of the TTP in Pakistan have increased the country’s security engagements with the country, with the Afghan Taliban being a close ally of the TTP. This comes as the National Security Committee cited that the country would deal “directly” with the Taliban regarding the TTP and border security issues. 

2. The need for increasing diplomatic cooperation.
Rana remarked that Pakistan and Afghanistan must base their cooperation on five components: border security, counterterrorism, economic cooperation, joint transnational engagements, and people-to-people contacts. He said that these components need to “amalgamate” with each other and review their policy on a timely basis. Rana said that a bilateral engagement “formula”  called Afghanistan - Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS) was agreed upon between the two countries in 2018, with the initiative's “primary” focus being “effective action” against “fugitives and irreconcilable elements” which posed security threats to either of the countries. Pakistan and Afghanistan agreed that the two of them would “avoid violations” and protect each other’s territorial integrity. 

Since the Taliban’s takeover, APAPPS has more or less ceased to exist, with the initiative looking to revamp the agreement on similar lines to the Doha agreement between the Taliban and the US. The APAPPS needs to be revitalised in a way that could transition the bilateral and transnational economic engagement between the two, and rework a pipeline dream of the Pakistani establishment based on rational lines. 

3. The importance of connectivity between Afghanistan and Pakistan. 
Rana’s five components emphasised on the promotion of cultural, religious and historical ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan. He said that the component should be developed on a framework of “confidence-building measures” and “practical cooperation” between the citizens of the two countries. The Taliban’s ban on university education could empower female Afghan students to seek education at Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan universities and allow public universities in bordering regions to structure their education sector more precisely and effectively. The people-to-people component could also improve Pakistan’s international positioning, with the reconstruction of the universities invoking trade and investment in the areas along the borders. 

Lastly, Rana’s view of a new Afghan policy involves formal diplomatic, political and strategic approaches which would interest the political spectrum across borders, and seeks a broader consultation among political parties, civil society and institutions in both countries.

References
Muhammad Amir Rana, “A new Afghan policy,” Dawn, 8 January 2023
Muhammad Amir Rana, “Realignment of security policy,” Dawn, 1 January 2023
Muhammad Amir Rana, “The Taliban mindset,” Dawn, 15 May 2022
Pakistan ‘disappointed’ by Taliban ban on university education for girls but still wants engagement,” Dawn, 21 December 2022

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