ISLAMABAD    -   Pakistan’s relations with neighbouring Afghanistan are facing some new challenges over the last one year since Taliban took over Kabul and the former need to adopt a regional approach while framing any policy towards the landlocked country.

Furthermore, Pakistan should revisit its policy towards Afghanistan and treat the country as a sovereign state.

The experts expressed these views in a consultation on ‘Afghan peace and reconciliation: Pakistan’s interests and policy options’ organised by Islamabad-based Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) here.

The lawmakers, academicians, former diplomats, retired army officers, journalists and experts on security and Afghan affairs participated in the discussion.

The main themes of the consultation, which is 5th one in a series of discussions organised by PIPS on Afghan peace process, include ‘One year of Taliban rule: Emerging Afghan situation and its interface with the countries near and beyond’ and ‘A review of emerging Pak-Afghan relations.’

Seasoned politician and Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Defence Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed in his keynote address said that Pakistan needed to adopt a regional approach to frame any policy towards Afghanistan and treat the neighbouring country as a sovereign state. “Our biggest fallacy on Afghan policy is that we have been playing favourites.”

Senator Sayed deplored that even after over 40 years, the Afghan story was not over and there were new challenges in this regard. In the context of Pakistan, he said that the focus should be “who makes the policy and what policy should be made.” He also supported the suggestion that a working group should be formed on the Afghan issue.

Former National Security Adviser Lt Gen (Retd) Nasser Khan Janjua in his remarks endorsed the view of other experts that policy review is required for Afghanistan.

He stressed that Afghan issue was still unsettled in the larger context and Pakistan should treat the Afghan people with honour and respect.

He said that they should keep in mind that banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was a defeated phenomenon. “We want closure of war,” he said, adding that Pakistan should see Afghanistan in the larger context that both have a common future.

Political analyst and expert on Afghan affairs ex-Senator Afrasiab Khattak said that Pakistan needed to revisit and rectify its policy towards Afghanistan. “Afghanistan is facing the threat of disintegration and Pakistan will have to face the consequences of this worst-case scenario,” he said and added, “We should see our Afghan policy critically.”

Senator Anwarul Haq Kakar shed light on the issue of Afghan refugees living in Pakistan for decades and said that there was a need to rationalise this matter. He proposed that they should be given permanent resident cards of Pakistan to connect them with the formal economy and tax net.

Defence and strategic affairs analyst Maj Gen (Retd) Inamul Haque disagreed with another participant that there was strong anti-Pakistan sentiment among Taliban ranks and added that such a sentiment was only limited to few people.” He said that Pakistan enjoyed respect among the rank and file of Taliban and common citizens of the neighbouring country. He also rejected the notion that Pakistan’s policy for Afghanistan was flawed and added that there was a problem in its implementation.

Former Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the interim government of Taliban was reluctant to take action against the banned TTP. “This is the reality of the last one year that Tehreek-e-Taliban Afghanistan has become a supporter of TTP,” he said. He said that the recent killing of Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a drone strike in Afghanistan showed that militant groups were still growing there.

Former Ambassador Muhammad Ayaz Wazir also endorsed the view that Pakistan should revisit its policy towards Afghanistan and address reservations of the Afghan people. He said that Pakistan should avoid interfering into the internal affairs of Afghanistan.

Chief of Jamaat-e-Islami Balochistan Maulana Abdul Haq Hashmi said that it was unfortunate that there was no discussion in Pakistan at the academic and political level on the ideology of Taliban, which was contrary to what they had accepted during negotiations with the US.

Professor Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal of the Quaid-e-Azam University talked about Pakistan’s border issues with Afghanistan and proposed that they should get rid of the illegal border economy to bring stability on the borders.