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Editorial: Being at peace with Pakistan

The snippets of information emanating from the intra-Afghan talks in Doha indicate that snail-paced progress is being made in the talks which are aimed at paving the way for more substantive negotiations. Both sides reported that contact groups of negotiating teams in Doha held yet another meeting on Sunday evening to discuss issues related to working principles. Negotiations on working out an agenda are said to commence after an agreement is reached on these issues and until then, such meetings (happening for two weeks now) will continue to take place. This is while the Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) is in Islamabad for an official three-day visit at the head of a high-level delegation, primarily aimed at exchanging views on the Afghan peace process and turning the bilateral strained relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan into amicable. It’s true that the visit provides a unique opportunity for leaders of the two countries to put end to the atmosphere of distrust and strengthen Afghanistan-Pakistan bilateral relations. It’s also a chance for Pakistan to show its sincere intentions regarding peace-seeking in Afghanistan and translate its lip service to tangible practices. Both countries are deeply attached given the shared history, culture and values, and thus they enjoy a grave influence on one another. For cementing the Afghanistan-Pakistan relations, goodwill overtures need to be shown by Pakistan. Chairman Abdullah needs to convince the country to take steps against terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan as they pose a grave threat to Afghanistan. Their support to the Taliban is common knowledge now and so there is no need to waste time on making the country accept this fact. However, Abdullah should persuade the Pakistani authorities that as they take credit for bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table, they should also pressurize them to agree to a truce. Pakistan’s actions against terrorism and goodwill gestures with regards to resolving some bilateral issues – including but not limited to trade relations, cross-line firing, and fencing along the Durand Line, among others – would help both the countries embark on a path towards amity and favorable ties. Pakistan’s consent and proven actions would improve troubled relations. Since its Abdullah’s first foray to Pakistan in the last decade, and in his capacity as Chairman of the HCNR, Pakistan needs to provide assurances that could facilitate such visits’ continuation into the future as well. Moreover, Abdullah needs to ask Pakistan to provide a proper implementation mechanism for the commitments they make and follow up on the ones they have made in the past. It’s because there have always been symbolic remarks and friendly language used in the past but action on those remarks has been lacking so far. Although many say the intra-Afghan talks are an opportunity for peace in Afghanistan, coming to peaceful terms with Pakistan is also an aspect that carries no lesser importance. If peace is to prevail in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s role in either its building or sabotaging is far-reaching.

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