Is Pakistan a Good Neighbor?

by: Dr. G. Rauf Roashan

Afghanistan is located between two governments on its east and west that claim they are her friends. Actually they are not. While the people in Pakistan and Iran have been friends of the Afghan people and have extended their help to millions of refugees from Afghanistan, the governments in these two countries have had and have ill intentions for it. This article tries to explain a few points regarding the government of Pakistan and its involvement in the affairs of Afghanistan.  Another article would at a later time discuss the same for the government of Iran.

Afghan President Karzai says so, but he really does not mean it. Are Pakistani politicians, well wishers of Afghanistan? They themselves always say so, but know they are not. Does the history of the past thirty years stand witness to good neighborly conduct by the government of Pakistan? Some may say yes, but even they do not believe it.

What are some reasons for Pakistani interests in Afghanistan? The answer is easy but extensive. The haphazard patrician of the subcontinent in 1947 under the direct influence of Britain could be the point of origin. Britain had earlier managed to carve out strategically important parts of Afghanistan west of Indus and in the mountain folds of north-east Afghanistan as well as the plains of Baluchistan giving them to the British government of India. This was to create a double layer of a buffer between the Russian expansion to the south and British desire to maintain hold on India.  It had used all its military and political power and intrigues to draw the infamous and mostly imaginary Durand line as a border splitting the Pashtoon lands in its heart. For Pakistan that was a new baby country born to the sub-continent of India, by the British political obstetricians, it was important to benefit from the  legendary Pashtoon and Baluch valor in the then West Pakistani half of the country to protect it from probable threats from India. But that is history. A history that manifested itself in three wars between India and Pakistan, a history that resulted in both countries going nuclear, a history that escalated their rivalry and a history that has still to find a means for a solution. In the meantime, Soviet invasion of Afghanistan followed by its occupation of the country provided a chance for direct and indirect intervention of Pakistani government in the affairs of Afghanistan. It has ever since its short lifespan as an independent country wanted a government in Afghanistan to be subservient to the Pakistani interests. The so-called Mujahideen government followed by the government of Taliban, are good examples of Pakistani schemes. But with the direct intervention of the United States and its war on terror that began against Taliban who had provided safe haven for Al-Qaeda and would not submit its leader to be tried for his involvement in the attacks against the United States, Pakistani plans had to be redrawn. They allowed Al-Qaeda and Taliban to relocate their center of activities from Afghanistan to Pakistan. The Pakistani military spy agency, ISI, led by Pakistani generals, was put in charge of the Afghan affairs in keeping the country engaged in war. This was so easy for Pakistan who would allow extremist militants to enter Afghanistan for committing acts of violence and suicidal attacks in addition to allowing the Al-Qaeda trained extremists to cross the border and fight the Afghan government and its international supporters as members of Taliban.

Pakistani government has also repeatedly violated the legitimate right of Afghanistan’s transit through Pakistan and use of the port of Karachi for transportation of its merchandize.  Afghanistan, as a landlocked country, has the right to use these facilities of the neighboring country Pakistan as agreed upon in international charters.
What is puzzling to many is the fact that while, the United States as well as Afghanistan are fully aware of this, the United States has continued to reward Pakistan as an ally in its war on terror with about two billion Dollars a year for the past ten years or so. The most recent visit by the US Senator John Kerry to the region was an eye opener, because he observed first hand the situation in the region and commented on it accordingly. Pakistan including its former president Musharraf had repeatedly denied the existence of Osama in Pakistan and now the world at large knows that all this time he was hiding under the nose of the Pakistani military. It seems an impossibility that the very active Pakistani ISI
would have not known about the whereabouts of this international terrorist.
Under these conditions last month the visit by Pakistani prime minister to Afghanistan and his talks with president Karzai of Afghanistan produced a document that was insulting to Afghanistan’s prestige in that it asked for ridiculously phrased demands like monopoly over exploitation of Afghan mineral resources by Pakistan and entrusting Pakistan with the military training needs of Afghanistan, and involving Pakistan in her foreign relations and foreign policies and so on suggesting that Afghanistan should consult Pakistan before making its international decisions.
It is obvious therefore that Pakistani government, contrary to the wishes of its people, is not a friend of Afghanistan and that Afghan politicians as well as Afghanistan’s international allies should recognize this fact. It is time Pakistani intentions in Afghanistan be scrutinized thoroughly and Afghanistan be helped accordingly to overcome its many problems free of the mingling of Pakistani politicians. It is also appropriate for the Afghan government to  recognize the intricacies of the situation, realize that it is a sovereign nation and that it need not play in the hands of unfriendly governments. 5/29/11