Prof. Dr. Zahid Anwar (Dean Faculty of Social Sciences and Director China Study Center, UoP). Distinguish Guests and Honorable participants today the webinar on “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in 2021: Opportunities and Challenges for Pakistan” is organized by China Study Center, University of Peshawar. We have invited distinguished scholars, experts on the region to speak on this theme. Ladies and gentlemen, Afghanistan is an important country, a country that connects South, Central East and West Asia. So far its political history is concerned since Sour Revolution in April 1978 politically it is instable. Sour revolution was followed by Soviet invasion in 1979 and then after Geneva Accord Soviet troops left Afghanistan. Despite the Soviet withdrawal Afghanistan remained politically instable. In 1990 there was a civil war that culminated in the NATO invasion of Afghanistan. But NATO occupation of Afghanistan did not restore peace. After NATO withdrawal now a Paradigm shift took place in Afghanistan. Due to political instability in Afghanistan the neighboring countries also suffered to a great extent. Pakistan has a long border with Afghanistan and the sufferings of Pakistan were far greater than other neighbors of Afghanistan. In the last 20 years due to political instability in Afghanistan, Pakistan lost it’s 80000 citizens and economic losses exceeded $150 billion. Now the new situation requires attention of experts so that to for proper understanding of the ground reality. In Afghanistan Taliban regained control and this time they are stronger than before. Ladies and gentlemen when in Afghanistan Taliban first got control of Kabul, I went there in December 1997. And again visited Afghanistan in July 2001 by road I traveled from Peshawar to Jalalabad to Kabul to Mazar e Sharif to Herat to Kandahar and then to Ghazni and saw many cities of Afghanistan. I visited Afghanistan as an academic researcher and interviewed Governors, Ministers and other high officials. Now Afghanistan is facing many challenges both internal and external. Humanitarian crisis is unfolding and a large number of educated Afghans have lift the country. Afghanistan is facing shortage of food, fuel and medicine. More than 72% of Afghans are living below the poverty line. The war and peace in Afghanistan is affecting the political environment of the whole region. To explore the impact of current developments in Afghanistan on Pakistan we have invited experts to share their views in this Webinar.
Brig (r) Mahmood Shah
Distinguish Audience it is my pleasure to talk about the situation in our neighborhood i.e., Afghanistan. We will discuss the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan 2021: Opportunities and Challenges for Pakistan. Everything that happens in Afghanistan has direct effects on Pakistan. Therefore, we have to be every time really studying Afghanistan very minutely and seeing whatever is happening there. The US withdrawal from Afghanistan is a huge event. It will have implications for the history to come. Studying it and whatever opportunity this present situation offer to Pakistan is very important. The problem in Afghanistan is basically a political problem it is not a military problem. And when the US came and invaded Afghanistan before invasion, we advised them that it is not a military problem, and you cannot solve anything by attacking Afghanistan, but they insisted, and they attacked. And after that they were able to capture the whole Afghanistan, we told them to sit now and apply political formulas in order to stabilize Afghanistan. They used to say that nation building is not our job I do not know how the whole situation was being interpreted as nation building by them. Whereas we said that it really needs a political solution that is all the stakeholders who were there on ground need to sit and then talk about Afghanistan and then help them in getting to rebuild Afghanistan. But somehow, they were not very attentive. And they continued their sort of things around in Afghanistan and they did not concentrate on the basic issue of Afghanistan. We have seen historically Afghanistan is a graveyard of empires and the very superpower of today had come to Afghanistan that included Britain, Russia and now this time the United States of America. We therefore were not taken by surprise when finally; US announced that they will withdraw from Afghanistan. We firmally believe that if they had not decided to withdraw from Afghanistan today and if they extend their stay for 5 or 10 more years, the final result would have been the same. And we told them there is no good weather and good day when to withdraw from Afghanistan. And they finally reached to this conclusion.
Now when US was in Afghanistan it definitely had other objectives than simply occupation of Afghanistan. Those objectives included keeping an eye on Russia, China, and Pakistan`s nuclear program. They thought that Russia is progressing; Pakistan has become a nuclear power and progressing. Unfortunately, the withdrawal process was not headed well. The decision was basically correct, but the management wasn’t and there were some problems in withdrawing. When US troops were in Afghanistan, its soil was used against Pakistan in various ways. They wanted to start a sort of insurgency in Baluchistan like BLA and other organizations. It coincided with the Americans dreams or their wish that CPEC should not succeed. A large number of CPEC projects were located in Baluchistan, therefore, the efforts by India against Pakistan were either assisted or ignored by the US where we all were an allies, but they were acting against an ally i.e., Pakistan. So, with the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan the threats from the Western border have also disappeared. And I think this is a great achievement which we were managing in anyway. Off course it is a great opportunity for Pakistan now that the threats from western border have been removed and we can concentrate on our eastern border and defensively we feel much better. Because we were prepared for two borders but now, we have to concentrate on one border. And the demand of Pakistan is that Afghanistan soil should not be used against Pakistan. Afghanistan`s soil was also used against China, therefore, there was a demand from Chinese also that Afghanistan`s soil should not be used against China. And these are two firm promises that the Taliban have made with the government of Pakistan and Government of China
Beside threats the second opportunity is increase of trade in the region. CPEC can be extended backward to Afghanistan and to Central Asian Republics. Now more countries can join the CPEC, and more trade will happen. This is the basic purpose of CPEC and Pakistan has offered a trade corridor to the regional countries which are landlocked and can use the Gwadar port which can increase trade in this region. Another opportunity is that peace will prevail in the region. The money spent on maintaining peace, the money spent on armed forces and security forces those will decrease. And I think everybody will be happy.
The purpose of India in Afghanistan is not maintenance of peace its purpose is its own agenda in the region and that agenda is negative. The amount of propaganda that India is doing against Pakistan or against Taliban in Afghanistan shows that how much they are hurt, and have invested in a wrong project. Everybody knows that Afghans cannot be forced into a culture which is not their own. We say it is a political problem. The culture of Afghans is that you cannot take out Islam from their way of life. It is embedded in their culture. The countries like Soviet Union tried and they brought communist ideology and for landing it in Afghanistan they used the term Afghan nationalism. The Soviets tried to impose communist system in Afghanistan in the name of Afghan nationalism. That was not possible and there was a huge response against the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan. And then again, the West wanted to have influence in Afghanistan and still they want to have but that is not the issue. You cannot tackle with the Afghan nationalism; you are sort of tackling with Islamic nature of Afghanistan. Afghanistan is basically a tribal society the court system is based on Islamic principles. You cannot take out Islam out of their blood. And those people who were talking about the women liberty and other so many things are not possible in Afghanistan. Even today they may try it they will damage the culture of Afghanistan further.
Two weeks ago, American CIA Director came to India, and they had a long meeting with the National Security advisor of India Ajit Kumar Doval. What all they discuss you could only imagine. You saw Pakistan called for a coordination conference of Soviet Intelligence chief, Tajikistan Intelligence chief and others to coordinate for regional peace particularly developments regarding Afghanistan..
The big challenge is constitution of inclusive government in Afghanistan. . The Taliban have announced they will have an inclusive government. That inclusive government means that you have to give representation to all ethnic groups of Afghanistan in the government. Afghanistan is a multi-ethnic state with the Pashtun as a dominating population that is about 50 % whereas Tajik are about 19%, Uzbek 11% and other minorities 1 %, 2% and 3 %. If all of them are given share in the government only then a stable government can be formed. Historically it always has been either the Pashtoon dominating the government or some others like Tajik have been ruling. In the last American occupation period, it was the Tajiks which is a minority dominated the government in the country. President Ashraf Ghani was there only by name Pashtun were in the government but all the decisions were taken by the Tajik minority. And it will strengthen peace in Afghanistan if Taliban include the minorities and they will lose nothing by having them in the government according to their share. Until that happen it will remain a challenge. The relation between Afghanistan and Tajikistan remains strained. Tajikistan is a state among the Central Asian Republics. Its population is about 9 million where is the population of Tajiks in Afghanistan is 10 million. There have more Tajiks in Afghanistan than in Tajikistan. The second thing is that they are ethnically neither Turkic nor Pashtun, whereas the Uzbeks are of Turkic origin. That is the differences between the two ethnicities. And they are the one who claims that they are the predecessors of Mughal in India. They were the one who have the capital in Bukhara and Samarkand. These places are now located in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan is claiming them so that is the issue between these two countries. With Afghanistan they have issues.
Now leadership of Taliban is very educated. If you cannot come with the required solution of the first challenge that you are facing then extremism will remain a question. All neighbors of Afghanistan and other stakeholders would like that Afghanistan constitute a broad based government. India will take an advantage of any misunderstanding or negative development in Afghanistan and Tajikistan relations. This challenge that I am talking about I mean inclusive government in Afghanistan can lead to peace and stability in the whole region.
The second challenge if the world decides to stop humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. Afghanistan is a poor country with a lot of problems and a lot of poverty. I think Prof Zahid said 72% people living below poverty line in Afghanistan and 92% of people living on $2 a day. I think we should tell the world to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan so that Afghan people do not suffer in this process. Humanitarian aid will be another challenge Afghanistan will be facing.
Now at this point for the first-time world superpower has been turned away and there are speculations that this is the end of American superpower status that may be too early to say so. The new development gave an edge to the Islamic countries an edge in the world affairs. And we should not lose this edge by failing to rise to this situation. So, the propaganda against Islam must be eradicated. Finally, there are enormous possibilities of trade and region prosperity in this poor portion of the world. So therefore, we all should avail this opportunity and I think we can build on that. Inclusive government in Afghanistan will be a moderate government. The moderation will come when you have all sorts of people in the government. But if you are exclusive in one corner there are chances you can become extremist with your ideologies. And I think there is nothing wrong being a Muslim we have a system given by Prophet (PBUH) which is more than enough for this world. Islam is a religion of nature which answers all the questions. I think that would bring me to the end of my speech I am sure I am being able to convey my point of view. Thank you very much.
Mr. Khalid Taimur Akram. (Executive Director CGSS, Islamabad)
Thank you very much Sir and first of all I must say that Brig ® Mahmood Shah had brought very important points and historical perspective of the complete Afghan situation. It was thrilled to hear a speech I would not go in the details which Brig ® Mahmood Shah has already covered I would just start from February 2020 once this withdrawal agreement was signed between the Trump Government and Taliban and the events thereafter, and then I will talk about the challenges and opportunities for Pakistan. We had been seeing in last one year that there was a change in the US government and Trump government had gone in January 2021. We saw President Joe Biden coming in and there were many policies of President Trump which president Joe Biden did not agree with but yes the US establishment and the CIA and the state department were of the view to at least continue with this, that the American forces and NATO forces must withdraw from the Afghanistan as per the agreement and as per the plans. The first loophole which was created was with the change of the administration in the US. The new administration did not follow up as it was supposed to and at the end we saw a hasty withdrawal.
I have been talking to various International Media outlets in last couple of weeks and everybody ask one question that why did the Afghan army on which the US had invested so much why did it collapsed. Let me also tell the audience the reason of collapse of the Afghan army. Basically, any Army of the world the standing army is always made on some ideology, on something and the Afghan army which was supported by the United States since last 20 years the main incentive for the soldiers and officers for serving in the army was the US dollars and money. So that was why Afghan Army once saw that they were always dependent on the US Army and once they saw that their source of dependence is going to vanish soon so they either decided to run away or they decided to keep quiet, or they decided to set at their homes, and everything was collapsed in Afghanistan and finally we saw Ashraf Ghani ran away from Afghanistan. Let me also here share with you my personal experience of 15th and 16th July 2021, I was in Tashkent with Prime Minister Imran Khan, once the agreement of the Central and South Asia connectivity was being signed and over there the former President Ashraf Ghani in front of the foreign ministers of almost thirty eight countries started accusing Pakistan of sending 10000 terrorists to Afghanistan and those two days were quite uncomfortable for us because after every 10 to 15 minutes some Afghan delegate would get up and started blaming Pakistan and we could sense their anxiety. We could sense that President Ashraf Ghani and his team has started feeling that they no longer hold power in Afghanistan and their time is about to end. So, they started blaming Pakistan for everything but then the world saw that it was not Pakistan. It was the wrong policies of the West and it was the wrong policies of the USA, which ultimately ended up in the fall of Kabul and the way President Ashraf Ghani ran away everything was crystal clear in front of the world.
Now coming over to the present Taliban movement Brig (r) Mehmood Shah was absolutely right that these Taliban are not Taliban of the 1990s. These Taliban have two tiers. The first tier is of the old people and the second tier is of those youngsters who are very well educated who can speak English, who know the world politics and social media and who guide their elders. We have seen that the Taliban movement in last 2-3 months was quite united because all the fractions were united on one thing that they have to free their land. We saw the Uzbek Taliban closing the Uzbek Afghan border. We saw the Tajik Taliban closing the Tajik Afghan border. We saw the Pashtun Taliban closing Pakistan Afghan border and ultimately the Fall of Kabul had happened. All the ethnic groups were fighting for one thing that was for freedom. The west is also propagating that Taliban have occupied Afghanistan they have not occupied Afghanistan actually they are Afghan, and they are living in their own land, and they got freedom from the occupation forces. So now what happens after the common enemy is gone so now it is the responsibility of Taliban to make a united Government in which all the ethnic groups should be given representation. Zahibullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesperson has repeatedly said that they are in the process of consultation and very soon they are going to include other ethnic minorities in the government.
Now coming over to the challenges and opportunities for Pakistan, fortunately or unfortunately Pakistan has again come into the world limelight and Pakistan again has been forced to adopt a role of moderator. The Foreign Ministry of our Government very successfully told the world that look we have got nothing to do with the affairs of Afghanistan. But yes since somebody has to moderate somebody has to make everybody set together so we are ready to do that. We have seen foreign minister calling a meeting of all the foreign ministers of the region countries we have seen repeated visits of the European foreign ministers to Islamabad. We have seen Pakistan helping many foreign countries in the evacuation of their citizens and we have seen that Pakistan is giving humanitarian aid to Afghanistan and lots of things are happening so the challenges as Brig ® Mahmood Shah rightly pointed out they start from political, and they end up at the humanitarian grounds. So, the political challenge right now is that the Taliban government should be recognized by the world which is not happening and the more delay it causes the more problem there will be in Afghanistan. Because right now Afghanistan has no currency right now all their foreign assets are sealed, right now, they are not taken as a legitimate government. Pakistan has been trying to tell the world that look now they are in power and we have to accept them and there are countries which are playing a very important role and we have recently seen the Qatar foreign minister visiting Afghanistan. Yesterday there was flight of PIA to Afghanistan, but this is not enough. The World must find out a way and the world must give the legitimate role to Taliban and it is very pre mature to say that Taliban will not abide by their promises So let’s give them a certain time let’s make them accountable and let them come up with a plan whatever the West or whatever the world wants from them and as per the United Nation Charter any group of people holding 85% or more land are the legitimate rulers of the country. So as per the United Nations charter either today or tomorrow we have to accept Taliban as the legitimate ruler but yes whatever political compulsions or whatever the political red lines are being drawn for them those are already conveyed to them that their land should not be used against any other country. Just recently we saw Anti Pakistan demonstration carried out by Indian agents in Afghanistan and we also saw that immediately Taliban took action against all those who carried out such kind of demonstration. So, in this political process since India is absolutely out of this political process, so it is likely that they may cause some kind of false flag operation within Afghanistan or outside Afghanistan and blame Taliban to tell the world that they are not legitimate people. The second is humanitarian issue. Right now, Afghanistan is facing severe crises of food, petrol, diesel, Medicine and other things. Although China, Pakistan, Qatar and some other Arab countries are providing them with these things, but this cannot continue for long, the Afghan economy must be allowed to regenerate, the Afghan banks should be allowed to work and international community must give them their due share of the trade not the aid.
Third challenge which Pakistan is also facing, and neighboring countries are also facing is the influx of refugees or any kind of influx of the terrorists from Afghanistan`s side towards neighboring countries to that the Afghan Taliban have remained very positive, and they have been ensuring their neighboring countries that they won’t allow any kind of terrorist to move from Afghanistan to the other countries. But yet Pakistan is also shown lot of concern on the jailbreak which happened during the early days of the Taliban takeover. Jail breaks in which news was there that members of TTP, ISIS and Daesh fled from the jail. Pakistan and other countries are worried about that, and this is a big challenge not only today but for days to come.
There is another challenge and it is Western expectation. The west is not ready to give any sort of breathing time to Taliban and the West is continuously pressuring on women rights and on human rights. Although Taliban has been given very solid statements on the human rights and we saw even the footage that the women are going to Universities but the west is not yet satisfied. Every day they are asking for more. So Taliban come up with some kind of answer for them and the Western expectations which are increasing with every passing day the West should also realize one thing that they have to give time to Taliban they have just come to power on 15th of August so let’s not put them under so much pressure let’s have some deadlines for them but at least legitimize their rules so that they can actually rule the country and they can show their worth that they are working and ruling the country and let’s not make them accountable every hour. Right now, what is happening that every hour the West is making them accountable for every hour which I think is wrong.
Last point another challenges is the Indian agenda, we have seen in last 20 years that India had been using Afghanistan`s soil against Pakistan, although CPEC was launched in 2013 but even before that Afghanistan`s soil was extensively used against Pakistan and Pakistan remained apprehensive about that and Pakistan had been telling the Afghan government time and again to stop the Indian usage of Afghan soil and still although India has closed all its consulates and all their embassy staff had gone back but still they have their agents they have their people they have invested and they have invested a lot of money on their agents in Afghanistan and they would use those agents not only against Pakistan but within Afghanistan against Taliban. Also, they can be used to create a distrust between Afghan Taliban and the rest of the world.
Now coming over to the opportunities, on 16th July 2021 we saw a historic agreement signed between South Asia and Central Asia in which Pakistan was a major signatory and we became a strategic partner of Uzbekistan and Central-South Corridor concept was signed. This concept can only materialize if the Afghan situation gets stabilized which we can see that if it’s stabilized it will be very beneficial for the Central Asian countries and for Pakistan also. Just in May 2021 Pakistan Afghanistan and Uzbekistan signed the agreement for railway line which will start from Tashkent to Mazar e Shaarif to Kabul to Peshawar and subsequently it will link with Pakistan Railway upto Gwadar. So this is a very big opportunity for Pakistan it is a very big opportunity for Central Asia and for Afghanistan, also because Afghanistan`s trade will increase and it will get a lot of revenue in terms of the transit trade between Central Asia and Pakistan. Because Central Asia would get an access to the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean, and everything will pass through Afghanistan, and I am sure the Afghan trade would not only increase but Afghanistan will get a lot of money as transit trade fees and other regimes.
Lastly, I would just talk on one thing that Pakistan has been playing a very supportive and very positive role in last couple of weeks and we must not only acknowledge Pakistan’s efforts in this connection but we must tell the world that how responsible we have been acting and we must not let our enemies to portray Pakistan negatively. So, it becomes the duty of all the Scholars and all the people who interact with media to project what our country has been doing. Pakistan should be portrayed as a state of responsible which is playing a very constructive role in a very responsible way. Thank you very much.
Prof Dr Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy , Chairman, Department of IR, UOP)
Thank you so much for giving me opportunity to speak on a current subject that we are quite concerned about that is change of regime in Afghanistan. Pakistan was again and again stating and finally the world has seen that it is in fact political solution that Afghanistan deserves rather than a military solution. There are many mistakes and blunders that Dr Ashraf Ghani committed. Taliban need to learn from that. Dr Ashraf Ghani was relying more on extraterritorial States, United States, India, and Europe. He was least interested in the neighboring countries, Pakistan, Central Asian republics, China, Iran, and that is one of the biggest reasons of his fall. Let me say this again that United States does not have any appetite for coming back to Afghanistan and to fix it again. Taliban have learned lessons. Look they are having very good ties with Iran, they are having exchange of delegation with China, they are in contact with Pakistan, they are in contact with neighboring countries, and they don’t have any such contact with the world at large. They want to keep the neighboring countries happy at the moment. They are more focused towards neighboring powers including Russia. They are very pragmatic, very practical as compared to Dr Ashraf Ghani or Hamid Karzai regime in the past. Ladies and gentlemen, I must say let’s have a cool-headed analysis. We need to understand that Afghanistan is very easy to be occupied but very difficult to govern. This is not the era of absolute complete sovereignty. It is the time when we say that you are foreign policy is reflected by your domestic policy. You need to be very particular about your domestic policies. You need to be very careful about the needs of the people. You need to be very careful about individual liberty. Whatever happens in Afghanistan never stays in Afghanistan. It has always a spell over effect on its neighboring countries. And then Pakistan which is sharing 2340 km long boarder off course Pakistan has to face the spell over effect of Afghanistan. So therefore, Pakistan has to learn a lot from numerous falls of Kabul. Numerous time Kabul has fallen, and many regimes have come. Two points I have to say right now with this fall of Kabul. One is that we need to stop saying broad-based inclusive government which everyone is again and again saying, and I am opposing that. This should not happen. Taliban had been fighting with all other in Afghanistan for the last 20, 21 years. If all-inclusive government takes place, different groups will get close to each other groups, the groups will stain their hands in blood of each other. It is not that easy to have inclusive government. It is not that easy to accommodate each other. So, once it is difficult, they will get close to each other halfheartedly and this halfhearted approach will lash back. Those who are not Taliban they will get into the government, and they will really attack on their roots. They will really make them fail and it will really be a trouble for the Taliban.
Second thing Taliban are ideological group they feel unrest and inconsistent with other people because the other group is not ideologically so I believe it will be the failure of the government if all inclusive government takes place. Everyone is condemning and criticizing this interim government that Taliban had declared. I am till now absolutely fine with this argument that there should not be a broad-based government. If it takes place, it will be temporary, it will be very brief, and Taliban will be the ultimate sufferer.
My second point that I want to bring over here is about the Afghan army. What are Taliban going to do with Afghan army that is no more there on the scene? We must accept whatever the weak army it was, but it was an army, it was trained, it had the title of national army once upon a time. The total documented number is one hundred seventy thousand people. Americans say that they were thirty thousand, but actually they were one hundred and seventy thousand people. If these one hundred seventy thousand people are disbanded and if Taliban disown them, they will be the one who will get together somewhere and will get together and then they will attack the Taliban government in future. See after six months, after a year, two years but they will be the one because we know that they are the trained people. We need to learn from history and as Lenin said that I learnt from history that we do not learn from history. This thing had happened in 1857, war of independence when Gora Sahib occupied India and they disbanded Mughal Army and the Mughal army got together under Jhansi Ki Rani Laxmi bai under general Bakht Khan It was Mughal army which really attack on the Gora Sahib army. Gora Sahib says it was mutiny and we say it was war of independence in 1857.
Secondly the USA came to Iraq they defeated Saddam Hussein and that Saddam Hussein army they disbanded and the same army after a year got together in shape Zainab Brigade, in shape of army under Muqtada al-Sadr and they really taught America a lesson. So, in terms of the process my very strong recommendation to the present regime will be not to disband Afghan Army. Just remove their one attachment with America put another badge on their shoulders like Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and incorporate them. Give them an ideological training they had physical training. Just an ideological and missionary training is needed. And then they will be the guardians of the country. Off course army is not only run on training not only on ideology but every soldier has to run his own kitchen as well. And for that matter 170,000 people go unemployed in the twinkling of an eye they will definitely be bearing some backlash. Taliban need to reduce as much tension and challenges to their authority as possible. And that is possible when they will not disband the former Afghan national army rather, embrace them. I believe that the way Pakistan is proceeding and supporting Muslim brothers in Afghanistan is the need of the time we know that the government has changed there, you know that Americans have left. On humanitarian grounds if Afghanistan is left and is not recognized and is not supported, we probably will see a humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan, before it happens I believe International community has to wake up early and it needs to support them. Thank You so much.
Dr Raza Rehman Khan Qazi (Independent Academician)
Thank you very much respected Professor Zahid Anwar, keynote speaker Brig (r) Mahmood Shah and other honorable speakers and participants. Thanks for giving me this opportunity to share my thoughts on regarding the development in Afghanistan. On August 15 changes occurred in Afghanistan. Now Taliban are controlling the entire Afghanistan. This situation has created a lot of opportunities for Pakistan and there are also some challenges so I would start with the opportunities. Pakistan has always been getting affected from the events and the issues that have taken place in Afghanistan. A stable Afghanistan is very much in the interest of stable Pakistan. So this has been an official narrative of Pakistan but this has been a very important reality regarding Pakistan Afghanistan relationship. This is a very important opportunity for Pakistan. Pakistan would no longer face the dilemma of war on two fronts. We know that Pakistan is a country that unfortunately has on its Eastern side India that has been arch rival and that has been on the lookout for any opportunity to unmake Pakistan and on the other hand there is Afghanistan where governments most of the time were not so friendly towards Pakistan. The Taliban have already declared Pakistan as their second home. Their families have been living in Pakistan since they migrated to Pakistan in the 1980s as refugees. They got their education in Pakistan. Now the Taliban has very openly said that Afghan soil will not be used against any third country. This is a very positive development. Once a broad-based government or even a Taliban dominated government in Afghanistan is established there would be a lot of economic opportunities and these economic opportunities would increase manifold. Now according to different estimates at present moment the bilateral trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan has come down to almost $500 million but the potential for their trade according to different estimates is around $15 billion and it has huge potential so once Taliban are in power there would be a lot of opportunities for Pakistani Businessmen and traders to capitalize upon the economic opportunities just provided by the new development in Afghanistan. There would be a lot of increase in bilateral trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
With more interaction between Pakistan and Afghanistan the process of assimilation and acculturation will take place. A Large number of educated and skilled Afghan young men and women during the regime change have left Afghanistan; they have gone to the western countries or other countries now there is a vacuum. Pakistani educated and skilled persons can fill that vacuum. Even during the last 20 years many Pakistani skilled and educated people have gone to Afghanistan and have contributed in the reconstruction and rebuilding of Afghanistan. Now what is the biggest economic opportunity for Pakistan is the extension of the CPEC when the Chinese came up with the idea of the BRI and as a part of the BRI the CPEC so way back in 2013 the Chinese foreign ministry announced that it will be glad if Afghanistan become part of that But you know that Indian lobby has been very active in Afghanistan and it has been resisting all efforts from Pakistan and China to make Afghanistan part of CPEC initiative. Now Taliban are showing the readiness and willingness to become part of the CPEC and this would be a great opportunity for Pakistani Businessmen and traders and also for China. It is a big effort by the Chinese state to integrate 60 countries, Eurasian countries as a part of BRI and it is only through CPEC extension to Afghanistan that the full potential of the CPEC can be realized. Another important opportunity is Central and South Asia connectivity. Afghanistan geographically has been a pivot of the Central and South Asian regions This has been the only missing link between the South Asia and Central Asia and their economic linkages and ultimate economic integration. During the last three/ four decades there have been efforts from different regional countries to integrate South and Central Asia economically, but all these efforts have been in vain because there has been instability and war in Afghanistan. There is a great opportunity and Pakistan could capitalize upon that opportunity by linking South Asia and Central Asia.
Taliban can stabilize Afghanistan and the USA by signing an agreement in Doha with Taliban indirectly recognized it. But for political reasons they are not openly declaring it. Taliban are behaving very diplomatically, and they are really behaving like a state actor. I think for Pakistan it could be a big challenge to convince the Taliban to give up support to the TTP. Taliban has vocally declared when Mullah Brother went to his last visit to China that they would not support any terrorist group to use Afghan soil against China, Pakistan or any other country. Now there is a challenge how to convince the Taliban to recognize the Durand line as permanent border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. I think this potential Talibanization on a low level may emerge in Pakistan. The influx of refugees from Afghanistan would be also a problem, already there are some 6,000 more refuges that has come since August 15th to Pakistan. So, if the situation gets more problematic in Afghanistan there would be more refugees in Pakistan. With that I came to the end of speech. Thank you very much.
Dr Manzoor Afridi (Chairman Department of IR and Politics, IIUI)
Ladies and gentlemen, Assalam-u-Alikum, Good Afternoon, I am thankful to Prof. Dr Zahid Anwar, Director China Study Center, University of Peshawar for inviting me to speak in this important webinar on Afghanistan.
I am glad to see Brig ® Mahmood Shah, Dr Raza Khan, Prof Soherwordi and Khalid Taimor and all other participants. It’s really difficult usually for the last speaker to talk on the topic because all the main points have been delivered by the worthy speakers but let me try to have my opinion on this important topic Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan 2021: Challenges and opportunities for Pakistan. Well, there are a lot of opportunities for Pakistan When Taliban again got power in Afghanistan and they formed a government, but on the other side yes there are challenges as well.
If we talk about the opportunities the first is the recognition of Taliban government. If we see back in 1990s when there was a Taliban government from 1996 to 2001 for 5 years so it was only recognized by Pakistan, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia but now this time Pakistan is not alone or Pakistan is not in the list of few countries to recognize it. We can say that now the whole burden is not on the shoulders of Pakistan to recognize that. Yes, it can be a challenge, but I would rather say it is an opportunity for Pakistan that now we are having wait and see policy. We see the reaction of the neighboring countries of Afghanistan especially China, Russia, Central Asian republics, Iran and Turkey and also the extra regional powers in the Middle East and other areas of the planet and all the major powers of the world like the US, France, Germany, UK and other important players. So, this time Pakistan is not alone there are many countries that are having this wait and see policy. The worthy speakers talked on the China Pakistan Economic Corridor and also the inclusion of Afghanistan in it. If we see that during the Ashraf Ghani era even, he repeatedly said that Afghanistan would join the CPEC but it was not made possible because of his allegations he leveled against Pakistan and because of the many other issues between the two countries but now the situation has changed. The Taliban has got power in Afghanistan and they are willing to join this China Pakistan Economic Corridor.
Another Important point is China`s enthusiasm, China is of the opinion that Afghanistan should join the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. If Afghanistan join and of course will join, it will not be limited to Afghanistan but rather it would be extended to the Central Asian republics. Already Pakistan is on the way to have this motorway not only reach to Kabul but also to Dushanbe, Tajikistan, and other Central Asian Republics. So, if we are keeping in mind the huge reserves of the hydrocarbon of the Central Asian Republics and other minerals in Afghanistan. So the extension of CPEC is really significant and if Afghanistan joins it will not be only beneficial for China and Pakistan but also for the whole region for Central Asia and South Asia.
After Taliban have got control of Afghanistan, many experts have highlighted that there are more chances for political and military stability in Afghanistan. So Afghanistan connects both the important regions of South and Central Asia. If Afghanistan joins the CPEC, not only the CPEC but such other corridors like Lapis Lazuli about the regional integration process can also be materialized.
Another opportunity is the border security. For the last 20 years Pakistan was struggling to have a safe border on its Western front Taliban and Pakistan`s government can develop consensus that how to make this Durand line between the two countries more stable and more secure. By achieving this of course Pakistan can concentrate on its eastern border with India.
Another opportunity is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. I think that this is also very much important because Pakistan is now a permanent member of Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Afghanistan is an observer in this SCO. China and Russia are the founding members of SCO. All of them are on the same page so far the issue of Afghanistan is concerned. This SCO can be further strengthened in economic and defense sectors because there is a specialized agency within SCO which is called Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS). There is already collaboration among Central Asian republics Pakistan China and Russia. But now this collaboration can be further strengthened in future. This Shanghai Cooperation Organization can be stronger due to Taliban`s coming into power and having more stability in Afghanistan.
Another opportunity for Pakistan is that now Taliban are a bit reformed. From their announcement now it is clear that now these Taliban are not the Taliban of the 1990s. They have allowed female education; they’ve also allowed women working in different fields and they have also allowed the media personnel to have their own projection. If they are in this situation definitely it can create more opportunities for Pakistan.
Another point is that the trade extension to Central Asian republics. One of the Scholars commented that the trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan can be increased to 15 billion dollars. So it is very much welcoming and of course it’s possible because for much of its trade, Afghanistan is dependent on Pakistan. So, if we extend this motorway, the CPEC to Central Asian republics then of course there is trade extension and Pakistan is already working on this Special Economic Zones under the CPEC. Pakistan’s economy can be connected regionally and globally.
In the last 20 years there was very much involvement of India in Afghanistan`s affairs and Pakistan always agitated over it to the Afghan government and also to United States of America. But now with the coming into power of Taliban and even before that when there was a deal signed between the Afghan Taliban and the US administration then the Indian role has decrease. Now if you see India is very much disturbed over this development and now the Indian role has decreased. Off course, Pakistan doesn’t want to have any kind of Indian illegal involvement in Afghanistan. And now I think just one hour before I read here in a newspaper that Torkham border is now open for the pedestrians. It is also welcoming development that now pedestrians can cross the Torkham border freely. It is the today’s development and it shows consensus between Pakistan and Afghanistan and the most important thing that is the border security that can be strengthened.
So far challenges are concerned the first challenge that Taliban have to implement their announcements, declaration, commitments and their reforms agenda. Yes, they are mostly restricted or limited to the announcements and in some sectors little bit of course they have brought reforms, but the world is watching, and the world is waiting for more reforms. Pakistan is also waiting for implementation of these Reforms` announcements by the Taliban. Second is that the reaction and assistance of international community. The world is watching and waiting the Taliban`s behavior, the world has not recognized the Taliban Government yet. Pakistan is waiting for what kind of reaction international community in coming days will show towards Taliban. The International community and all the major powers, United Nations, International Donor Agencies will provide assistance to the Taliban government or not. If they fail to provide assistance then it can create problems.
It is necessary to have all-inclusive Government in Afghanistan and International community will also uphold their own commitment that what they were demanding from Taliban. There should be an inclusive government in Afghanistan.
By external interference there is likelihood of civil war which will create problems for Pakistan. Another thing that is important is the crackdown on the wanted organizations by Afghanistan. The violent organizations like the ISIS, if Taliban could not control these organizations then it can create a challenge for Pakistan. Thank you ladies and gentlemen. A large number of experts, scholars, faculty, students, journalists, diplomats and practitioners participated in the webinar