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Pak-Afghan dialogue in London significant
A trilateral cooperation to curb terrorism underlined
By Sankar Ray
Pakistan's firm stand in curbing terrorism inside Pakistan, imported from Afghanistan, was made known by the Pak Prime Minister's Adviser on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz on the very first day of the one-to-one meeting with Afghanistan's National Security Adviser, Hanif Atmar in London on March 15. Aziz made no bones of Islamabad's hard line against Talibans and complained that Afghan-based militants continued to mount attacks inside Pakistan. The initiative in this dialogue was taken by Sir Mark Lyall Grant who became the first British national security adviser in 2015. He knows Pakistan well. Between 2003 and 2006 he was the British high commissioner to Pakistan. The proposal for dialogue was made by the current British High Commissioner to Afghanistan Karen Pierce CMG. The British diplomacy edged out the Americans on this issue proving the yawning hyphenation between Islamabad and Washington. Since the shut-down of border crossings with Afghanistan by Pakistan on February 17 last, just after suicide bombing at a Sufi Shrine in Sehwan of Sindh province on February 16 killing more than 80 people and injuring about 250 as the bomb ripped through when a Dhamal, a Sufi chorus was being sung . Hundreds of protesters came out- enraged and inconsolable. They demanded justice.

The closure that caused heavy financial losses for traders of both countries - thousands of shipping containers having been stuck in Karachi- raised cries from human rights defenders although the decision reflected recognition of public indignation. Yet Islamabad showed a judicious gesture by reopening of the Torkham and Chaman crossings for 48 hours on March 7 to help stranded visitors in both countries return home. Pak foreign office in a press release stated it was "To provide an opportunity to those nationals of Afghanistan who had come to Pakistan on valid visas and wish to return to their country." The temporary opening helped people who had travelled for medical, work and business purposes, admitted Afghan ambassador to Pakistan, Omar Zakhilwal."Many people were running out of money and were in a miserable state on this side [Pakistan] of the border," he told Al Jazeera.

Islamabad's stern attitude was clear when Pak armed forces had shelled a militant training camp on the Afghan side of the Durand Line within a few hundred metres of the border - were from Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a Taliban base. However, the bilateral meeting in London is significant but as Aziz squarely blamed Afghan authorities for allowing the sanctuaries of terrorists in eastern Afghanistan. But Islamabad perceives them as haven for "Indian-backed" militant groups on Afghan soil. Scores of militants fled North Waziristan during Operation Zarb-i-Azb to eastern areas in Afghanistan. They Belong the Haqqani Network, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban mostly.

Pakistani journalist, Imdad Hussan, specialising in diplomatic and security matters is of the view that terrorism has to be combated trilaterally by Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. In an opinion piece in Express Tribune recently he stated that during the last 16 years terrorists "killed about 61,700 people in Pakistan. Military operations, particularly Zarb-e-Azb, have reduced violent incidents by over 65 per cent but the threat still looms. The newly launched operation Radd-ul-Fasaad is likely to further reduce terror-related violence in Pakistan but cannot eliminate it completely. Similarly, India has suffered the Mumbai attacks, assaults on its parliament and security forces, as well as the recent Uri incident. Afghanistan is also witnessing severe militancy with heavy civilian causalities; Islamic State and other terror outfits with global agendas are also active in the country." Hence, he thinks - implicitly suggesting that the blame game be stopped," The wave of terrorism Pakistan and the wider region is facing cannot alone be defeated through military operations. With its multi-national reach and goals, terrorism can only be truly eradicated if countries in the region - mainly Pakistan, Afghanistan and India - come together and cooperate".

Closure of border benefits none and so efforts are on towards a consensus. The border trade, mostly of perishable commodities, has already incurred a loss, estimated at anywhere between $40 million and $100 million. There are reports of backchannel communications among all parties in order to strike an agreement for a resolution on bilateral border vigilance norms. Hopefully everything will be smoothly over in a week's time, but Pakistan wants a solution, based on separation between trade and security issues.

Incidentally, Islamabad was caught on the wrong foot when Pakistan's former NSA Mahmud Ali Durrani sensationally disclosed at a conference on security issues that a Pakistani terror group had carried out the 26/11 Mumbai attack and cited it as a classic trans-border terror event. A retired general, Durrani had served in the ISI, too. So blame game on both the sides - India and Pakistan- will only hamper the peace efforts.

A non-resident Pakistani in Germany, expressed chagrin over 'irresponsible and showbiz erudition that pushes genuine peace Endeavour into a state of uneasiness and discomfort. He is right. A recent issue of India's prestigious Economic and Political Weekly carried an article by Karachi-based political economist and on the teaching staff of Columbia University in New York , S Akbar Zaidi He wrote," The 1979 invasion by the Soviet Union of Afghanistan gave rise to the regional phenomenon of the mujahedeen, the Muslim and Islamic fighters from Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Arab world, fighting against infidels in the name of Islamic jihad. These mujahideen were backed tooth and nail by the Ronald Reagan administration in the United States (US), supported and advised by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), with Saudi money and interests, and perhaps most importantly, by the Pakistani Army and its Inter Services Intelligence (ISI)."

This is untrue and ill- conceived. It is widely known that President Jimmy Carter's National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski told Paris-based Le Nouvel Observateur, Paris in its 15-21 January 1998 issue ," According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, December 24, 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention." President Reagan came to power much later. The interview was not carried in the American edition of the weekly.

A couple of academics at the Kings' College, London, known for their research in Pak-Afghan strategic issues, keeping abreast of trilateral conflicts, expressed hope that outcome of the bilateral parleys in London may be a turning point. "On this issue, the Pak Army top brass , ruling Pakistani Muslim League (Nawaj) leaders and major opposition parties have no difference.

—(IPA Service)

News Updated at : Monday, March 20, 2017
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