Aiming for cordial ties

Apr 18, 2017
Pakistan may appear to be clutching at straws if it is to take Afghan envoy Dr Omar Zakhilwal’s broadest hint yet that a joint operation is possible against TTP leader Mullah Fazlullah — if the past is any indication. Such a prospect, as security and policy wonks would argue, is too good to be missed because if Kabul delivers on that pledge — even if Fazlullah somehow eludes capture — Islamabad could still come away with some major dividends from that engagement. The biggest gain perhaps would be in navigating a new course for better neighbourly relations — long soured by the menacing presence of Fazlullah and his fighters in the Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nuristan from where they have mounted routine attacks on border posts and key government installations on Pakistani soil. Kabul has shown little interest in expelling the TTP leader from its soil despite pledging to do so way back in the middle of December 2014 — in the aftermath of the Army Public School attack.
Another reason to be optimistic is that Afghanistan expects to mend its frayed ties with Pakistan before the year is out — a tantalising possibility that cannot be realised without some serious concessions being made on the diplomatic and political fronts. Dr Zakhilwal told a Pakistani media outlet in a recent interview that his country would never allow India to use its soil against Pakistan, ruling out the possibility of Kabul looking the other way in the event that India begins closer collaboration with the TTP. By calming some of the fears Islamabad has long harboured about this unholy alliance, Afghanistan will have prepared the grounds for a reset in ties. If such a breakthrough does occur, Islamabad and Kabul would have much to be grateful to back-channel talks.
Clearly, as indicated by the Afghan envoy, Kabul too has its demands. For instance, it wants Islamabad to take action against those militants who were said to be roaming freely in Pakistan after conducting heinous acts in Afghanistan. One good deed deserves another.
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Express Tribune, April 19, 2017

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