Pakistan and Afghanistan initiated a new bilateral engagement frame-work — Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS) in the second week of this May.
The plan is aimed at accomplishing the common objectives of eradicating terrorism and achieving peace, stability, and working for development of the region. The APAPPS is said to be Pakistan’s initiative for cooperation in the areas of counter-terrorism and reduction of violence, to bring peace and reconciliation, refugees’ repatriation, and joint economic development. The plan provides a framework to reinforce bilateral trust and intensify interaction in all spheres of mutual engagements.
APAPPS is based on a set of seven principles, which include commitments that Pakistan would support the Afghan-led peace and reconciliation; the two countries would undertake effective actions against fugitives, and the irreconcilable elements posing security threats to either of the two countries; both countries would deny the use of their respective territory by any country, network, group, or individuals for anti-state activities against either country; the two countries would put in place a joint supervision, coordination and confirmation mechanism through liaison officers for realization of the agreed actions; territorial and aerial violations of each other’s territory would be avoided; there would be no public blame game and instead, the new framework cooperation mechanisms would be utilized to respond to mutual issues of contention and concerns; and working groups and necessary cooperation mechanisms would be set up as per APAPPS.
The fresh framework became operational on Monday May 14, 2018, after Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai and Pakistan’s National Security Advisor retired Lt Gen Nasser Khan Janjua held their meeting and pledged to strengthen efforts for success of APAPPS. In reality, if the two countries succeed in effectively implementing the plan, which reportedly enjoys the backing of both China and the United States, it will prove to be a constructive and productive move towards achieving the expected objectives.
The plan provides a framework to reinforce bilateral trust and intensify interaction in all spheres of mutual engagements
It should be minded that we will never be able to achieve sustainable peace in Pakistan unless and until, violent extremism and terrorism are annihilated completely from Afghanistan. Unfortunately, in the past, Pakistan and Afghanistan failed to build a consensus on dealing with terrorist organizations that have been posing an existential threat to both states since long.
Reportedly, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its breakaway faction Jamaat-ul-Ahrar operate from bases in Afghanistan to launch attacks on Pakistani territories. In this May, in North Waziristan the TTP targeted the Pakistan Army, killing seven soldiers and attacked two girls’ schools and threatened parents to not educate their daughters in schools. It appears that militants have been trying to return to North Waziristan. The situation necessitates the joint action to be made by Pakistan and Afghanistan to stop cross-border terrorist incursions, to prevent comeback of militants to the tribal agency and to consolidate gains made from military operations that have been carried out in the agency since 2014.
On Friday May, 11, 2018, the Indonesian Ulema Council organised a conference of seventy prominent Muslim scholars from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Indonesia at the presidential palace in Bogor, a West Java town on the outskirt of Jakarta, to discuss the burgeoning violent extremism and terrorism in Afghanistan and find out its solutions. In order to attain peace and stability in Afghanistan, the Islamic scholars issuing an edict (Fatwa) said that violent extremism and terrorism in all its forms and manifestation including violence against civilians and suicide attacks are against the holy principles of Islam. Surely, the declaration made at the Bogor conference can contribute concretely to a great extent in promoting peace in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The shocking fact is that Pakistan is the country most affected by terrorism in the world. The National Internal Security Policy (NISP) draft 2013-2018 reveals that from 2001 to 2013, around 48,994 people including 5272 personnel of the law-enforcement agencies were killed in 13,721 terrorist incidents in Pakistan. According to the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) report 2017, in 2013, Pakistan with 2345 terrorism related deaths in 1933 incidents was ranked third in Global Terrorism Index (GTI). Though the high ranking terrorist attacks in Pakistan have reduced by 59 percent since 2013, yet the country again in 2016 was ranked third with 1086 casualties caused by 1008 terrorist attacks. The perilous scenario posing an existential threat to the integrity and sovereignty of the state can possibly make a comeback if the effective and concrete initiatives are not taken.
After the September, 11, 2001 attacks Pakistan became a pivotal US ally in the war on terror. The country suffered from not only human but also huge economic loss. According to a report released by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on November, 18, 2016, terrorism cost the country $118.3 billion in direct and indirect losses from 2002 to 2016. “Apart from causing immeasurable human suffering including deaths and mass displacement, the war had helped drive out foreign investment, stall domestic investment, freeze exports and diminish trade”, the report said.
Though military operations such as Zarb-e-Azab and Rad-ul-Fasad have succeeded in bringing about peace in the country remarkably, yet this is a short-term peace because many of the terrorists have fled to Afghanistan after the military operations were embarked upon against them. Now they are trying to return with the intention to make their old hideouts safe. They have been attacking Pakistani territories and killing and threatening local people. To achieve long-term peace in Pakistan, peaceful Afghanistan is a prerequisite. For peaceful Afghanistan, the both states taking fresh start should filling existing gaps and take joint actions to strengthen bilateral trust because this is the only way they can inflict a concluding defeat on militant groups. The continued existence of the groups has been one of the major impediments to economic progress in both countries and mutual trust between them.
The writer is an academic, and can be reached on Twitter @ARShykh
Published in Daily Times, May 28th 2018.