Almost from the moment he took over from Hamid Karzai as President of Afghanistan in September last year, Ashraf Ghani put all his eggs in the Pakistani basket in the hope of peace in his country. Unmindful of its reputation as a double dealer and a country that used terror to advance its foreign policy goals, Ghani reversed Karzai’s policy of dealing with Pakistan cautiously. He not only professed his love for Pakistan but, in an incredible act of genuflection, he called on the Pakistani chief of army staff at the latter’s headquarters in Rawalpindi during his first official visit to the land of the pure. And he appeared to refuse the general perception that the Taliban is a Pakistan proxy, and it is executing the orders received from the other side of the Durand Line.
Yet, almost two months before completing one year in office, the Afghan President has lambasted Pakistan. ‘The last few days have shown that suicide bomber training camps and bomb producing factories which are killing our people are active as before in Pakistan,’ he said at a press conference in Kabul on July 10.
Ashraf Ghani added: ‘We hope for peace but we are receiving message of war from Pakistan.’ These are perhaps words of desperation, but from someone who had gone out of his ways to befriend Islamabad-Rawalpindi combine much against the prevailing mood in his country.
Not knowing how to publicly react to Ghani’s ire, the Pakistanis have fallen on their standard excuse whenever found with their pants down: Ghani has not provided any ‘proof’. Interestingly they themselves routinely make such allegations against India in the context of troubles in Balochistan but never provide any shred of evidence to substantiate their charge.
The fire from Ghani has Pakistan worried. One of its important allies in keeping up the terror pressure on Afghanistan, the one-eye Mullah Omar, is dead and there is succession war in the Taliban which may erode Pakistani influence on the terror group.
For two years the Pakistanis had kept under wraps the news of Omar’s death in Karachi. The Afghans spilled the beans to the embarrassment of ISI and the GHQ. It has hardly surprised the world that like the Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar too was found living inside Pakistan when all along Pakistan kept denying that either lived on its soil.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the all-powerful Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif will, no doubt, make strenuous efforts to see that Ghani remains their ally even if he is unable to control the average Afghan’s anger against Pakistan. Ghani might adopt the ‘forgive and forget’ posture to satisfy them who undoubtedly have the capacity to continuously keep the war inside Afghanistan going.
In the new round wiser from experience, Ghani will put a caveat on his friendship. It is that the Pakistan leaders, civilian and military, will have to walk the talk; their words have to be matched by a perceptible change on the ground.
Pakistan has roped in its ‘all weather friend’ China in ‘facilitating’ Murree negotiations between Kabul and the Taliban for ‘reconciliation’ and peace in Afghanistan. The Machiavellian Americans have decided to go along and ‘forgive’ Pakistan’s duplicity, being desperate to retain a foot in Afghanistan after formally withdrawing its troops from that land locked country.
While vowing love for Islamabad-Rawalpindi combine, the Afghan President had made conscious efforts to distance himself from India, despite all the goodwill between New Delhi – Kabul and the massive help India has provided to rebuild the war-ravaged Afghan economy. Well it amounted to lowering of India’s status on the Afghan theatre and was designed to create a bonhomie for Ghani vis-à-vis Pakistan.
Ghani had imagined that once Pakistan accepted his profession for love, peace will be restored to his terror-infested country. He thought that after he had paid obeisance to the Gen Sharif, his country would be free of the scourge of terror which the Pakistani army nurtures. This is the reason why he had readily agreed to ‘cooperation’ with Pakistan in all matters relating to terror, particularly intelligence sharing. Ghani brushed aside opposition from his own intelligence sleuths and ignored the signals that did not bode well for the return of peace in his country or the end of terror exported from Pakistan.
The Afghan President had asked and hoped that the Sharifs – Prime Minister and the Army chief - would at once persuade the Taliban leadership based inside Pakistan to join ‘reconciliation’ talks with Afghan officials and negotiate a peace deal. For months there was no sign of the Pakistanis pushing the Taliban to talk to Afghan officials because the GHQ Shura was uncertain of any gain if it put pressure on the Taliban to talk to Kabul. In fact the Pakistani army saw danger to its pet theory of ‘strategic depth’ if it wound up all terror groups because there will be no point of leverage against Afghanistan.
The Pakistan-based terror outfits met no hindrance in planning frequent and deadlier attacks on Afghanistan as soon as the snows had melted. Finally, it was the spate of terror attacks, each with heavy casualties, at the height of summer that led to the Ghani outburst against Pakistan.
It is significant that Ghani’s criticism of Pakistan followed a telephonic conversation he had with the Pakistani Prime Minister and the chief of army staff. Obviously, the two failed to assure him about their sincerity in curbing terror and ‘facilitating’ a meaningful dialogue with the Taliban.
Within Pakistan, to the continuous applause of the subservient civilian government, the Army is playing this charade of fighting home-based terror groups since June 2014. It has declared Operation Zarb-e-Azb a great ‘success’. The military and civilian leaders have also stepped up propaganda against alleged Indian involvement in all acts of terror inside Pakistan to divert public attention from the endless economic miseries and sectarian violence and militancy inside the country.
Ghani had mistakenly assumed that the terror groups being attacks by Pakistani army and its jet fighters and helicopter guns in selected tribal areas close to the Afghan border include groups who attack Afghan targets. The fact is that Pakistan based terror groups making forays into Afghanistan even after the Sharifs have claimed that they have ‘eliminated’ all terror groups in the entire tribal region.
Those who are willing to be fooled by that absurd claim should recall the classification of terrorists by Sartaj Aziz, the de facto foreign minister of Pakistan (his official designation is National Security Adviser and Adviser on foreign affairs. Pakistan has no full-time foreign minister). He has grouped terrorists into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ categories; the good one are those who help Pakistan and the bad one are those who work against Pakistan. Why Pakistan should go after the ‘good’ ones, he has asked some months ago. He has not changed his definition as yet. Certainly to the new found dismay of President Ghani.