Terrorism hit Pakistan has not been able to infuse much reality in its policy and narrative towards its western neighbour Afghanistan. And proclaiming that Pakistan’s Indian centric foreign policy has brought it to global isolation would be like repeating the run of mill criticism of its policy for the umpteenth time.
We have been calling Afghans Indian agents, and accusing Afghanistan of facilitating terror from their soil, on all diplomatic channels. The outcome of such narrative has not been helping our cause, and in reality our Afghan policy without a long serious appraisal has some serious political and economic implications awaiting us. The global power politics has moved beyond the Cold War paradigm and we have failed to catch up with it. Trump administration in Washington has hardly any sympathetic voices left towards Pakistan and the recent inclusion of Pakistan in the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) grey list is one such instance of it.
Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, however, blamed Pakistan inclusion in the grey list on Indian diplomacy. The reliance on China support and their vote against us must have left our policymakers surprised too. It leaves one with no doubt that China is finally getting more assertive on Pakistan’s‘good and bad Taliban’ policy and is no longer willing to accept Pakistan proxies in Afghanistan.
Our policy choices must question itself that despite losing more than 70,000 people on its soil, mostly ethnic Pashtun residing on the western side of its geography, how we end up losing our debate on the terrorism on the international platforms.
Not only does Pakistan risk global isolation and economic implication for the country this time, the recent popular uprising of ethnic Pashtun long march against state policies stems directly from our failed Afghanistan policy as well.
Pakistan’s fears of strong Afghan government closely aligned with India, and potentially helping encircle Pakistan, has led policymakers to use Pashtuns lands in fighting the proxy wars and has resulted in alienating the ethnic Pashtuns.
The Pashtun lands which were used as a buffer and launching pads into 80s jihad, and then later ‘good and bad Taliban’ post 9/11, has seen countless military operations, drone attacks and excessive militarization. Not only does the Pakistani state use the geography and people,it also continues to resist all Pashtun voices which called for a policy change and behaviour of the state towards them.
The dilemma for Pakistani policymakers: are they ready to deal with the local resentment of its policy towards its western neighbours? The Pakhtun long march now popularly called ‘PakhtunSpring’ indicates that the ethnic Pakhtuns are no longer going to accept its area being used as a launching pad for Pakistan strategic objectives in Afghanistan.
Will Pakistan suppress this outcry from the tribal belt youth, which has now the support of all ethnic Pashtuns residing in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and all over Pakistan, as we saw solidarity rallies all over the country for the Pashtun long march?
We might want to overlook the global implication of our Afghan policy, and it is clear that in post 9/11 our foreign policymakers refuse to abandon its strategic depth policy, but are we ready to overlook the wave of Pashtun resentment which borders around on the premises of are we Pakistani? If yes, what is our relationship with the state of Pakistan? And if this war of terror was to be fought on our land, considering that we were never party to it nor are we terrorists, give us peace on our land and on our borders.
If Islamabad does not meaningfully change its policy towards Afghanistan, the government of Pakistan will notice a sharp difference in the tone of this peaceful uprising of Pashtuns. Pakistan policymakers previously successfully used religion (jihad) against Pashtun nationalism in formatting its Afghan policy. The religious and patriotic slogans of Pakistan civilian and military power might not work on an area this time around,considering the atrocities, displacements and militarization. The pent-up resentment of the people for decades might not remain so peaceful, since the last few decades have tested their patience.
Both Pakistani civilian and military leaderships need to put their heads together and desperately engage in a new policy towards Afghanistan.Only then can they get out of the quagmire globally and locally.
One analyst suggested in Pakistani print media that our policymakers should not take pressure from outside forces when it comes to Afghan policy.Then these analysts need to take in stock how local unrest among its people and the risk of global isolation will define and take Pakistani interest going forward. Pakistan needs to infuse reality in its foreign policy.