ISLAMABAD - Speakers at a consultation on Friday urged that both Pakistan and Afghanistan should start fresh negotiations to break the ongoing deadlock on the issue of hideouts of banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the latter and cross-border terrorism.
They said that Pakistan lacked continuity in its policies towards Afghanistan and added that Islamabad should form some “realistic and holistic” policy for the neighbouring country, which must be brought into public domain to make it more productive.
Academics, politicians, journalists, religious scholars, and experts on Afghan affairs, etc., from Pakistan and Afghanistan expressed these views at a consultation on “Afghan peace and reconciliation: Pakistan’s interests and policy options.”
The consultation was the 9th one in a series of discussions organised by Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), an Islamabad- based research and advocacy think tank, on the Afghan peace process. The main themes of the consultation included “Rising terrorism threat from TTP, IS-K (Islamic State Khorasan) and other groups” and “The TTP as a major irritant in Pak-Afghan ties.”
The discussants said that Pakistan should avoid talking to the interim government of Taliban in a “tough tone” as negotiations were the only way forward. They added that the role of ulema was crucial in this regard. They further said that Pakistan’s initiative of fencing the Pak-Afghan border could not fully succeed in stopping cross-border terrorism from Afghanistan and it should enhance its capacity to prevent such violence.
Senior journalist Haroon Rashid taking part in the discussion said that the issue of TTP was the basic impediment in bilateral relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan. “There is a deadlock on the matter, which will persist as long as both sides don’t find a solution to the problem,” he said. He underlined that Pakistan would have to work on some strategy to weaken the TTP.
Mufti Muhammad Qasim Haqqani, central leader of Jamiat Ulema- e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) in Chaman (Balochistan), suggested that a delegation of local religious scholars and Pashtun leadership should meet with Afghan Taliban in Kabul to discuss with them all issues between the two countries, including that of TTP militants. “Separate conferences of ulema of Pakistan and Afghanistan should be held in Kabul and Islamabad to debate and resolve issues between both the countries,” he also said.
Afghan-based journalist and educationist Muzhgan Feraji talked about rights of education and employment being denied to women in Afghanistan by the Taliban regime in Kabul. “If women have the right to education and employment in Islamic countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, then why cannot they get these rights in Afghanistan,” she questioned.
Afghan women rights activists Zohra Wahedi Akhtari deplored that the lives of women and girls were miserable under the present government in Afghanistan and added that they had become victims of the Taliban regime. “Taliban have closed all doors of development for Afghan women,” she said.
“First of all, there is a need to understand the ideological basis of the Afghan Taliban and the TTP,” said Ameer Jamaat-e-Islami Balochistan Maulana Abdul Haq Hashmi. He added that both did not accept the modern democratic system and they needed to discuss and address this issue as well.
Afghanistan-based journalist Sami Yousafzai argued that Islamabad should not be harsh on Kabul over the issue of the presence of TTP militants in Afghanistan. He said that Pakistan must avoid giving hard-hitting statements against the Taliban regime as the latter had the leverage to create problems for the former.
Central Secretary General Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Sami (JUI-S) Maulana Yousuf Shah speaking on his turn said that Pakistan and Afghanistan should sit together and talk to each other to settle their issues. “The governments of both sides should show their seriousness as responsibility falls on them.”
Associate Professor of defence and strategic studies at the University of Quaid-e-Azam in Islamabad Dr Salma Malik urged that Pakistan needed to form some realistic and holistic policy towards Afghanistan. She added that Islamabad should make the Taliban understand to provide at least online facilities of education to Afghan women.
Political analyst and expert on regional affairs Afrasiab Khattak in his concluding remarks said that Pakistan should review its policy towards Afghanistan as the existing one was flawed as well as the root cause of all problems.
Earlier, Director PIPS Muhammad Amir Rana in his introductory remarks said that the purpose of the discussion was to review Pakistan’s options to deal with the Afghan Taliban in terms of countering the TTP threat and Pakistan’s existing policy towards Afghanistan.