Afghanistan lands into another crisis
Afghanistan, Pakistan’s Western neighbor that has been facing various crises for the past four decades, has landed into a new crisis – this time because of the presidential election whose results have become controversial since an important leader – Abdullah Abdullah - who was aspiring to lead the landlocked country during the next five years has refused to accept the victory of the incumbent Ashraf Ghani for a second term.
The Election Commission of Afghanistan on Wednesday declared the success of Ashraf Ghani with 50.64 percent votes in the September 28 poll, an outcome rejected by the chief executive in the outgoing dispensation. He plans to set up a parallel government, a development that will further disunite the already fragmented state. The new situation will also hurt the country’s interests at a time when the US will be holding talks with the Taliban and the new Afghan government to discuss withdrawal or reduction in the numbers of its troops.
If the re-elected president and Abdullah Abdullah failed to settle their differences, the pullout of the US troops from the war-ravaged country could be delayed, as a result of which uncertainty in the region would persist.
The US had invaded Afghanistan after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre, for which the then Kabul government, led by the Taliban leader Mullah Omar, was held responsible. That government was recognized only by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The war to throw out the US troops has been going on since then. Successive Afghan governments ‘elected’ since then have been supporting the presence of US troops for their own stability and long life.
Because of the ongoing war countless people on both the warring sides have been killed during the intervening period.
Before the US invasion, Afghanistan also tasted Soviet invasion on December 24, 1979. The Soviet Union, also a super power at the time, tried to take over the impoverished country under the pretext of upholding the Soviet-Afghan Friendship Treaty of 1978.
It was actually part of a plan to reach the warm waters, a cause of alarm for Pakistan.
Many governments in Afghanistan fell during the Soviet troops’ presence in their country. However, it was Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev who decided to pull out troops from the country. Many rounds of proximity talks between Afghanistan and Pakistan were held under the UN auspices to work out details. It was during the Junejo government in 1988 when then Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Zain Noorani signed the agreement. The last Soviet soldier crossed back the border on February 15, 1989.
During the Soviet and US occupation of Afghanistan some four million Afghan refugees came to Pakistan. Despite difficult situation at home Pakistan has been hosting them for four decades, a gesture appreciated even by UN Secretary General during his just concluded visit to Islamabad.
What everybody doesn’t know is that Pakistan paid a very heavy price for this hospitality. It was because of the Afghan refugees that Kalashnikov and heroin culture got roots in Pakistan.
Still, relations between the two neighbours remain strained. Despite the fact that even Hamid Karzai has been living in Pakistan for a long time before getting an opportunity to rule Afghanistan, ties between the two countries did not improve.
Superfluous to point out that even today Afghanistan has much better relations with India than with Pakistan, which is regrettable.
Barring some miracle, there is little possibility of any improvement in Pak-Afghan relations during the second term of President Ashraf Ghani.
During his incumbency the US will be holding talks with the Taliban for the pullout of its troops. The two sides were close to reaching an agreement in September last year when President Trump suddenly pulled out of the process.
Whatever the outcome of the new round of talks, the Afghan government will also have to face the Taliban.