Category Archives: Afghanistan

‘Afghanistan’s future will shape Pak-US relations in near term’

‘The Future of Pakistan-US Relations’ was the topic of a discussion organised by The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on Saturday. Delving into the subject, former Pakistan ambassador to the US and UK, and Permanent Representative to the UN in New York, Dr Maleeha Lodhi said that after the Cold War, after Russia’s leaving Afghanistan and now after the US pullout from Afghanistan, it is the third time for Pakistan and USA to be redefining of relations.

“Throughout these years there have been many highs and lows with benign disengagements in between. Our relations have been driven by world events and geopolitical storms. And even at times of close alliances, there has always been an elephant in the room such as India or Pakistan’s nuclear programme,” she said.

“Whenever Pakistan has sought US support during regional conflicts, it has been disappointed by Washington’s stance,” she added.

“The US has always seen Pakistan as a tactical player. The ties we had or have were principally a function of America’s war in Afghanistan. The US had an Afghanistan policy but not a Pakistan policy,” she pointed out. “Sometimes this convergence worked in mutual benefit testified by the joint struggle of both countries during the Russian war in Afghanistan,” she pointed out.

She said that now that the global environment is in a state of flux there is a predominant trend of competition rather than cooperation.

“The reality today is the standoff between USA and China. America has a policy of restraining China. And Pakistan wants to avoid this crossfire or confrontation. Its a tough act. Pakistan will not be a part of it as it wants future ties with both countries.

“Meanwhile, US interest is in insuring Afghanistan doesn’t again become a base for terrorist groups. It wants Pakistan’s help in this regard, to counter terrorism and this is what future relations between Pakistan and USA will be based on. So there will be cooperation in only some areas,” Ms Lodhi pointed out.

“Already the mood on Capitol Hill is very negative about Pakistan on account of the perception that Islamabad’s support for the Taliban over the years was a contributing factor to the US debacle there. The Biden administration has not said this but the view is prevalent in US policy circles. It has built up a toxic environment in Pakistan-US relationship,” she added.

“Afghanistan’s future will influence, even shape Pakistan-US relations in the near term. Another factor that will affect the relationship concerns the dynamics of the triangular US-Pakistan-India relationship. Islamabad recognises that India has a pivotal role in Washington’s Asia policy and is in fact America’s strategic priority. It is not the growing relationship between Washington and Delhi that concerns Islamabad but the security impact that their strategic cooperation may have on Pakistan, the augmentation of India’s defence and strategic capabilities obviously has implications for Pakistan’s security,” she pointed out.

“If a key element of US’s strategy to counter China is India, this also impacts its relations with Pakistan. The US has always supported India and hardened its posture towards Pakistan, almost encouraging India to be more aggressive towards our country,” she said.

Former Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN, Geneva, Zamir Akram, Dr Adil Najam and PIIA chairperson Dr Masuma Hasan also spoke.

Published in Dawn, 24 October 2021

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Experts think Taliban government will give peace to Afghans despite challenges

At a webinar on ‘Afghan Refugees in Pakistan: Past, Present and Future’, organised by the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on Tuesday, experts said Pakistan will not be receiving as many Afghan refugees as it did in the past and so we should be patient and accommodating in the interest of maintaining good relations with the Afghan people in current times. Pakistan has hosted one of the world’s largest refugee populations for over four decades. In successive waves, refugees from Afghanistan have sought shelter inside Pakistan which, over the years, has hosted millions of Afghan refugees. It is estimated that three million Afghan refugees still reside in Pakistan but according to the United Nations Refugee Agency, the UNHCR, only 1.4m are registered. 

Former ambassador of Pakistan to Afghanistan and former chief commissioner for Afghan refugees in Islamabad Rustam Shah Mohmand provided an analytical overview of Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

“The upheaval in Afghanistan resulted in the pouring in of thousands of refugees in Pakistan and Iran in the 1980s. At the time, there was much support for them. And the military regime in Pakistan also used it as an opportunity to legalise its rule,” Ambassador Mohmand said. 

‘We shouldn’t expect more than a few thousand refugees from Afghanistan unless there is civil war there’ 

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Filed under Afghanistan, Discussion, Events, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Politics, Refugees, UK, United States

Afghan Refugees in Pakistan: Webinar on 31 August 2021

The withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan and the return of the Taliban after two decades has left the world stunned and the UK rushed to airlift more than 4,000 UK nationals and Afghan citizens, while Joe Biden intends to stick to the 31 August deadline. These events show that the “war on terror” has been a complete failure. Furthermore, pumping a trillion dollars in the Afghan National Army (ANA) was a complete waste of money. It appears to have been wishful thinking that the ANA would fight against Islamic militancy and its soldiers either deserted or joined the Taliban and 20 years of western efforts to build a stable state in Afghanistan quickly faded away as puppet government of Ashraf Ghani disintegrated in a matter of days. 

The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) is organising a webinar on Afghan Refugees in Pakistan: Past, Present, and Future on Tuesday, 31 August 2021 at 3:00 p.m. (PST). Joining link and details are below. Pakistan has hosted one of the world’s largest refugee populations for over four decades. In successive waves, refugees from Afghanistan have sought shelter inside Pakistan which, over the years, has hosted millions of Afghan refugees. It is estimated that 3 million Afghan refugees still reside in Pakistan but according to the UNHCR, only 1.4 million are registered and the humanitarian assistance provided by Pakistan for over four decades has made a significant impact on its economy and social life and on its strained resources.

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Filed under Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, Citizenship, Discussion, Europe, Events, ISIS, Islam, Pakistan, PIIA, Refugees, Taliban, UK, United States

‘The current Afghan state is finished’

News article: webinar on the topic ‘Afghanistan at the Crossroads’ 

Anatol Lieven, senior research fellow, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, Washington, was the first of the three main speakers. He said he was a journalist with the Mujahideen in the late 1980s and then briefly on the government side. He has visited Afghanistan intermittently since then, so his association with the country goes back 34 years. In his view what is happening seems to be in accordance with certain basic patterns of modern Afghan history; above all, the failure to establish a modern state, whether by Afghans themselves or outside forces. Mr Lieven said: “It is my sense that the current Afghan state is finished. It may last for longer than some people expect, but according to independent analysts 197 district centres have fallen to the Taliban since May.

Much will depend upon whether the US will continue airstrikes to defend the main cities, but I don’t think that will be enough. If patterns of Afghan history are anything to go by, the collapse of the state, when it comes, may come very quickly and unexpectedly. The reason is, as we saw in 1992, Afghan society is [in] a kind of process of constant conversation and negotiation. In the late 1980s it was common knowledge that there were endless negotiations between themselves and local state garrisons.”He said, on the other hand, we will see in certain areas that certain ethno-religious minority groups, notably the Hazaras and the Panjshiris, will not surrender to the Taliban. Therefore, the subsequent history of Afghanistan will be determined by the following questions:

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Afghanistan will need to ensure Afghan land is not used against Pakistan

Afghan women want guarantees from international community that peace will mean democracy, protection of their rights

Pakistan’s troubled relationship with Afghanistan is a source of great concern the world over. Global and regional dimensions of the Afghan conflict were discussed by the esteemed panel of speakers and experts on regional studies and Afghanistan during a webinar organised by the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs here on Saturday. Giving his perspective about the Doha peace talks, political and security analyst Rahimullah Yousafzai said that the reduction in violence by the Taliban was a good thing. Giving credit to Russia for its efforts in bringing peace to Afghanistan even though it was the country that initially triggered the conflict by invading Afghanistan more than four decades ago, he said that the US role in bringing peace to Afghanistan is also required.

“But US President Joe Biden would like to delay recall of all their forces from Afghanistan. He still intends to keep an antiterrorism force there because the Taliban and USA still don’t see eye to eye,” he said. Al Qaeda, he pointed out, is struggling now. “They have not launched any attack on the US from Afghan soil after 9/11,” he said.

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Kashmir Conflict: No End In Sight

The historic Kashmir dispute is an extremely complex problem; policy recommendations and their subsequent implementation might take a considerable period of time to reap constructive results and there is no end in sight to the ongoing human rights violations of the Kashmiri people. 

UN Security Council Resolution 47 (1948) recommended three steps to resolve the Kashmir problem, i.e. (i) Pakistan had to withdraw its nationals that entered Kashmir to fight, (ii) India had to progressively reduce its military forces to the minimum level required for law and order, and (iii) India had to appoint a plebiscite administrator nominated by the United Nations who would conduct a free and impartial plebiscite. Pakistan adhered to its part of the bargain but India has consistently refused to live up to the obligations it agreed to and it has instead created a grave human rights tragedy by its violent and merciless actions against Kashmiri civilians. Article 1(1) of the UN Charter is very clear that the purpose of the UN is “to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace.” Significantly, by virtue of resolution 47 (1948), as the mightiest nation in the world, the USA was given a key role to play by the president of the Security Council, Mahmoud Fawzi Bey of Egypt.

Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived at the White House for his long-awaited meeting with President Donald Trump on Monday, 22 July 2019. The meeting was of immense importance, precisely because it was Imran Khan’s “first one-on-one meeting with US President Donald Trump.” Hence, it was an incredible opportunity to renew diplomatic ties. Even though, the meeting was quite an important development in international politics, nevertheless, it might be worthwhile to look into the contemporary relevance of the meeting, especially with regard to the recent events in Kashmir. Perhaps one of the integral issues discussed during the meeting was that of Kashmir. During the meeting, President Trump offered “to mediate the Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan.” He also said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him if he (President Trump) could be an arbitrator in the Kashmir issue. Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Discussion, Human Rights, India, Kashmir, Pakistan, PIIA, Politics, Trump, United States

Women and US-Taliban Peace Talks

Women of Afghanistan are still hopeful about a better future … 

On the surface, our world leaders protrude an aura of optimism when asked about the US-Taliban peace Talks. They talk about a world where the viral spread of terrorism by the hands of such militant groups is nothing more than a distant nightmare. An example of such portrayal is present in an interview given by the President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, who said, that ‘For the first time, the possibility for peace is really at hand. The aim of the South Asia strategy is not to perpetuate war; it is simply put as a staple of understanding within a secure South Asia’. Recently, the President of the United States of America, Donald J. Trump said that he ‘believes that great nations do not fight endless wars. He wants to end 18 years of war and bring back the US military group from Afghanistan.’ The outlook of the peace talks is believed to be positive, it creates an illusion that our world is moulding into a suburban utopia where everything is perfectly conjoined with one another to make a seemingly flawless wonderland.

However, we forget that even the said utopian wonderland tends to break under the visual perfection of its existence. Upon closer inspection into the US-Taliban peace talks we observe how society causally undermines the suffering of the silent half of the Afghan population, the Afghani women. Prior to the Taliban take over and the Soviet occupation, Afghanistan was a relatively progressive country when addressing the rights of women. Afghan women made up 50% of government workers, 70% of schoolteachers, and 40% of doctors in Kabul. After the fall of the Taliban regime, things started to look a bit better for the Afghan women, at least on paper. In the year 2004, a new constitution was approved, and the country held its first presidential elections, proclaiming that Afghanistan is henceforth a democratic state that provides equal rights to men and women. Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Discussion, Peace building, Politics, Trump, United States, Women

‘Afghan refugees’ born in Pakistan are excluded from Pakistani citizenship

Properly understood, the important right to citizenship is the right to have other rights such as the right to reside in one’s country of residence and to consular protection. Having been prime minister for just six months, Imran Khan has inexplicably made some rather grandiose plans regarding how his shambolic government plans to illegally hand out Pakistani citizenship to millions of so-called “Afghan refugees” in Pakistan who simply have no right to remain in the country, let alone be granted the right to citizenship. In other words, Imran Khan’s so-called “new Pakistan” has already abdicated its own citizens’ rights by irresponsibly putting our country’s enemies before the rights of its own citizens. His recent statement that “Afghans whose children have been raised and born in Pakistan will be granted citizenship inshallah (God willing) because this is the established practice in countries around the world” is highly misleading and inaccurate. All this is entirely unacceptable and blatantly breaches Imran Khan’s campaign promise that Pakistan is for Pakistanis and that he will put Pakistan’s interests first above all else.

First of all, Pakistan does not participate in the Refugee Convention 1951 and so our country has no obligation whatsoever to give asylum to those arguing that they are fleeing persecution and cannot avail the protection of their home state. Yet the figures show that Pakistan has been hosting the world’s largest refugee population. Most of these persons are Afghan and some 2.7 million of them are present on Pakistani soil and 60 per cent of them were born in Pakistan and 1.5 million Afghans will benefit from the government’s new policy. Others include 400,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar and also several hundred thousand Bengalis from Bangladesh. Pakistan is said to be the only country in all of Asia to grant “unconditional” jus soli citizenship to those born within its borders under the Citizenship Act 1951. However, a close reading of the 1951 Act and Afghan law itself shows that in reality Afghans born in Pakistan have no legal right to Pakistani citizenship and are excluded from possessing it.  Continue reading

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Filed under Accountability, Afghanistan, Discussion, Immigration, Migration, Pakistan, Partition, Politics, Refugees, Rohingya

Alexey Dedov: ‘Russia is working with Pakistan to counter terrorism’

Russia has cut down its nuclear capacity by 85 per cent over the past 30 years, says Moscow’s envoy

Together with Moscow’s ongoing campaign against Ukraine, murky Russian involvement in the bloody Syrian conflict and the recent Novichock attacks in Salisbury, UK, have badly tarnished Russia’s reputation as a responsible global power. Equally, Trump’s new policy of maligning Pakistan despite its contributions to the causes of the western world have left Islamabad in a similar predicament. Below is the media reporting on the recent talk by the Russian Ambassador in Pakistan. Keeping his promise to return that he made during his first visit to The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs in 2015, Ambassador of the Russian Federation in Pakistan Alexey Dedov arrived at the PIIA on Friday evening to a very warm welcome. Since the ambassador’s last visit, the moderator of the event said there had been a great change in the global scene and “we look with interest at Russia’s role in world affairs, especially in Syria, and other global issues”. Discussing Russia’s “stabilising role” in South Asia, Mr Dedov, who has also served in India, Bangladesh and Iran, said that the modern world was undergoing a profound transformation.

He added that they were also witnessing dynamic changes in international relations. “Globalisation and technological progress contribute to the increased independence of nations,” he said. Talking about nuclear weapons, Ambassador Dedov said that the Russia Federation stood at the forefront of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. “Russia has made unprecedented contribution to the progress of this by cutting down its nuclear capacity by 85 per cent over the last 30 years,” he said. Another very important issue, according to Mr Dedov, is the prevention of the arms race in outer space and thus excluding it from becoming a new arena and yet another battleground for military confrontation. “Thus Russia, China and Pakistan along with many others are promoting this and are in negotiation to stop weapons from going into outer space,” he said, adding that Russia was also working with Pakistan to counter terrorism. Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, China, Disarmament, Discussion, Pakistan Horizon, Russia

Converting CPEC into Pakistan-Central Asia Economic Corridor

We have to give up our India-centric policies and our slave mentality.

Pakistan is on a knife-edge with the upcoming general election on 25 July 2018. With Nawaz Sharif firmly behind bars, civil society organisations are predicting rigging in the election by the armed forces and there is a consensus in the country that the army is mass manipulating electoral politics in favour of its cronies. The economic problem arising out of the present political situation is that Pakistan is seriously in the doldrums owing to its debt to its international creditors. The country is facing a sovereign debt crisis and reliance on Chinese money is very high indeed. As reported recently in the Financial Times, Islamabad is headed for a foreign currency crisis but is keen to avoid yet another IMF bailout. So it is appealing to Beijing for more lending. In the year ending June 2018 Pakistan borrowed $4 billion from China and is facing problems with the devaluation of the rupee, the strategy used by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to keep the economy afloat. At the start of June 2018, the SBP only had $10 billion in foreign currency reserves in comparison to $16.1 billion just a year earlier.

The problem does not stop there because $12.7 billion in external payments are due in comparison to £7.7 billion last year. The country will need to raise $28 billion this financial year to repay its debt obligations. Therefore, in such an environment, it is hardly surprising that Kaiser Bengali thinks that “we have to play our cards right in case of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The opening up of China has enhanced travel but not trade.” He recently made these remarks while addressing members of the prestigious Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) and the media. Speaking on the subject, ‘Changing geo-politics and challenges for Pakistan’, he said: “My fear is that we will not be playing our cards right because of the slave mentality that our bureaucrats and planners have.” Elucidating further he said: “We are always looking to a bigger power to protect us against military adventurism.” In this context, he recalled that back in the 1950, we joined the US-sponsored defence pacts, the Cento and Seato, as a guarantee to be protected during times of aggression. Continue reading

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