“Spoilers” could derail ongoing peace efforts in Afghanistan, Pakistani defense experts and former diplomats warned Tuesday.
Speakers at a webinar organized by the MUSLIM Institute, a think tank based in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, stressed the need for immediate action against actors seeking to thwart the prospects for peace in the war-torn country, even as all of the stakeholders seemed concerned as well as in agreement regarding the success of the intra-Afghan dialogue.
“An uncomfortable India, the release of prisoners on both sides, the diversity of opinion among pressure groups within Afghanistan, the financial dependency of the Afghan government along with the financial future of the country, the share of the Taliban in the future political and administrative government, the return of refugees and the type of future constitution of Afghanistan are some prime issues which need to be addressed for the successful transition of intra-Afghan dialogue,” said former Pakistani army general Lt. Gen. Amjab Shuaib.
Earlier, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi repeatedly warned US and Afghan leaders of “spoilers,” referring to his country’s arch-rival India, and said they could derail the landmark peace deal between Washington and the Taliban signed in Doha in February this year.
Speakers highlighted that the Taliban are not ready to accept a Western type of democracy and suggested the international community to present possible alternatives to the Afghan Jirga by accommodating their cultural ethos.
Former Pakistan Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua said there are many variables that need to be looked at in great detail for the peace process to succeed.
MUSLIM Institute Chairman Sahibzada Sultan Ahmed Ali said “Afghanistan is often known as the heart of Asia. An economically and politically stable Afghanistan is in the interest of Pakistan.
“Pakistan’s security will also improve if Afghanistan’s security is improved. However, it is not just Pakistan; other regional countries will benefit as well. Pakistan has always maintained that the Afghan peace process should be Afghan-owned and Afghan-led,” he added.
The defense experts and former diplomats believed that the Afghan peace process is at a critical juncture, and that critical juncture can go in any direction.
“We cannot forget that there will also be a contest within Afghanistan as well. There are key differences that need to be resolved,” said Maria Sultan, an Islamabad-based defense analyst.
She suggested that all ethnic groups in Afghanistan need to be integrated into society.
“No one will invest in Afghanistan if there is no peace or security. Looking at the long-term Afghan policy, from Pakistan’s perspective, Pakistan is fully investing in the peace process,” she said.
In the changing regional apparatus, Afghanistan’s peace and stability have become indispensable for regional development.
“Whether it is China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Pakistan’s China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, or the TAPI Pipeline, peace in Afghanistan is the first and foremost prerequisite. In the century of emerging Asia, the heart of Asia holds the ultimate position for its prosperous future,” said Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, an Islamabad-based analyst and professor at Quaid-i-Azam University.
Former Maj. General of Pakistan army Khalid Amir Jaffery, former Pakistani Ambassador Abdul Basit and other experts also addressed the webinar.
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