The fourth tripartite


On the Afghan conundrum

The fourth Pak-Afghan-UK tripartite talks are beginning today with an aim to speed up the process of reconciliation in Afghanistan which is of prime concern for both Islamabad and Kabul. Hopes expressed at the last moot held in February this year failed to materialize. The suspension of the Doha talks in June once again caused bitterness between the two countries. Efforts to bring the two sides together began soon after the PML-N administration took over. President Karazi visited Islamabad at Sharif’s invitation to seek Pakistan’s support for the troubled reconciliation process. The finance ministers of the two countries held in-depth discussion to explore ways to jointly harness the common rivers and enhance bilateral trade and economic relations. Karzai however insisted on making security cooperation the first step towards better ties. For this he asked for the release of Mullah Baradar. He also called upon Pakistan to persuade the Afghan Taliban to hold talks with the Afghan High Peace Council.

The release of Mullh Baradar, which took another month, was welcomed by Kabul. This however failed to prove a game changer. No Talban commander was willing to meet the former number two in their hierarchy on the pretext that he was watched closely by his Pakistani handlers. Officials of the High Peace Council too found it difficult to have access to Mullah Baradar. As Karzai proceeded to London his spokesman asked Pakistan to facilitate talks between Mullah Baradar and the High Peace Council.

Pakistan needs to evolve a comprehensive understanding with Kabul based on joint hydel projects, improved road infrastructure and enhancement of trade. This would develop mutual interdependence and remove fears of Kabul acting against Pakistan’s interests and vice versa. This would also encourage Kabul to expel Pakistani militants operating in this country from the other side of the border. The faulty perception that Pakistan is in a position to force the Afghan Taliban to follow its advice has to be removed. Prime Minister Sharif would have to convince Karzai, who is a pretty hard customer, of Pakistan’s sincerity. Similarly the headstrong Afghan Taliban have to be persuaded that sharing of power is a better option than waging insurgency and prolonging the suffering on their own people. The key role in the exercise has to be played by the PM. It remains to be seen if Nawaz Sharif can devise an out of the box solution of the Afghan conundrum.