After days of political turmoil, blame games and obscure solutions, Ashraf Ghani was finally sworn in as Afghanistan’s president. This is indeed a welcome development for a country that has witnessed more misery than peace. The presence of President Mamnoon Hussain, along with heads of nationalist political parties at the swearing-in ceremony, is a symbolic gesture of endorsement for the political transition. The Foreign Office in its ritualistic statement informed us that at a bilateral meeting between the two presidents, matters relating to the “political transition in Afghanistan, Pakistan-Afghanistan relations and regional cooperation were discussed”. The Chief Executive Officer of the country, Abdullah Abdullah, was also present at the meeting. All of this was happening while a suicide bomber killed four people in an attack on the airport in Kabul, a reminder that all is not well in that country.
Our relations with Kabul have not been the best over the years. A few days earlier, the outgoing president, Hamid Karzai, had blamed Pakistan and the US for the continued war in Afghanistan. President Ghani’s actual problems have only just begun. The rise of the Taliban in the past year will pose a huge challenge, as indicated recently with the massive attack in the strategically located province of Ghazni. The fear of growing Indian influence and the Bilateral Security Agreement, which will allow for some American presence in Afghanistan, are all factors that will need to be considered by the Afghan and Pakistani leaderships.
All stakeholders need to ensure that the Afghan soil does not become a playground for proxy wars. The presence of our president shows Pakistan’s willingness to back a new beginning in Afghanistan. There has been much debate about Pakistan’s changed foreign policy, with particular reference to Afghanistan. Now is the time to bring about ‘positive’ change and press for cooperation beyond mere statements. The mistrust needs to end now.
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