The Sleeping Fighter In Fata – Ayaz Wazir

Dr Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai made a hat trick by meeting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif three times in two months after assuming power as president of Afghanistan on September 29. He met the Pakistani premier the first time in Islamabad on November 14, the second in Kathmandu on November 29 and the third in London on December 4.

It was during these meetings that he gave positive signals about a change in bilateral relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Islamabad he said that the misunderstandings of 13 years has been buried in just two days of negotiations.

His visit to the GHQ, a day earlier, proved a game changer. That greatly contributed to the removal of misperceptions between the two sides and his understanding of Pakistan’s role in the region in the days ahead. That laid the foundation of understanding, for the time being at least if not forever, between the two sides to walk together on a path that was just and beneficial for pursuance of national interest by the two sides.

This positivity was witnessed further during the Saarc summit in Nepal where Dr Ashraf Ghani was quoted to have said that the soil of his country would not be allowed for use against others. This was a clear message to both India and Pakistan that Afghanistan will not permit anymore a proxy war to be fought on its soil. It may be recalled that earlier he had cancelled an arms deal his predecessor had concluded with India.

All these gestures pointed towards one direction only – to improve relations with Pakistan. But the million dollar question is: will that happen or will it prove to be another farce? The prospects of its success are bright but for that to materialise the first and foremost important factor is the ‘success story’ of the newly formed national unity government in Afghanistan where the winner and the loser both share power in the hope of running the country smoothly for a return to peace. But the inordinate delay in the formation of the cabinet says something else.

President Ashraf Ghani and his chief executive officer have not yet agreed on the number of cabinet seats each side will select nor have they selected the criterion for its selection. Dr Ashraf Ghani is believed to be stressing on merit whereas his chief executive officer is giving priority to the personal influence of the individual so that he (the CEO) is in a position to fulfil the promises he made with various pressure groups during the election campaign. For him merit alone does not carry much weight. The US is also seen to be supporting ideas other than merit, the reason being that those enjoying power and respect and capable of exerting pressure on their respective ethnicities, if selected, would be able to help move forward the process of reconciliation.

The possibility of the chief executive officer giving in to the mounting pressure from various sides cannot be ruled out.

The principled stand of the president is yet another factor pressurising him to compromise on the number of seats in the cabinet. Who wins and who loses in this tug of war is difficult to say but formation of the cabinet in the next few days will spell the beans.

Last but not the least the daunting task for the president would be to make a deal with the Taliban for durable peace. He is not only to ensure successful dialogue with them but also to manage positive results from that; otherwise it would not be easy for him to govern the country leave alone improving relations with the neighbours. This, no doubt, is a tall order but certainly not difficult to surmountable. It requires strong will power and unflinching resolve and President Ashraf Ghani is known for that quite some time. Let us see if he has the determination to resolve this complex problem which has ruined the country more than anything else.

With regard to improvement of relations with Pakistan the two sides have reached an understanding, it is believed, on a gentleman’s agreement during the last few meetings. The agreement seems to be in the process of implementation. Kabul has already started working on it.

Pakistan will have to reciprocate by bringing a change in the situation in Fata which borders with Afghanistan to meet requirement of the other side. It will have to change its policy – and change it in the true sense, not leaving it to rhetoric only.

The launch of the military operation in North Waziristan has created a perception this time that militants will not be spared, whether ‘good ‘ or ‘ bad’ locals or foreigners, and nor will they be allowed space (safe haven) anywhere in the country. Nobody disputes that everybody wants it so but mere words will not suffice. That is to be proved on the ground through action.

The militants need to be challenged and disengaged from resolving disputes between the people and the tribes in that area. This is the crux of the problem and will quickly restore confidence of the people in the government and will address concerns of the Afghans also. It is crucial this time because the Afghans have already started implementing the points of the agreed agenda and will soon revert to Pakistan to implement the agreed points on its side of the border.

Pakistan, no doubt, has done a lot for the success of the visit of Dr Ashraf Ghani to Islamabad but it should not leave it to that. It should do more, like an older brother, to put relations on the right track and maintain its continuity. Only that can ensure progress in restoration of peace and stability in the region.

While the military is busy fighting a war in Fata, the civil side seems least bothered about it. It is not interested in understanding the gravity of the situation. To understand that it should be present there, which has not happened for the last 13 years. Its governor in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, who represents the federation in Fata, cannot go there without permission of the security agencies. He has yet to visit South Waziristan, one of the most important tribal agency as far as our relations with Afghanistan are concerned.

How can one believe, in such a situation, that the civil and military establishments are on the same page when one is fighting a war and the other is absent from the scene. The whole world is focused on the region, but our leadership in Islamabad remains oblivious. But why blame them? They cannot solve political problems (Imran Khan’s dharna) in the heart of the country. How can they handle militancy in Fata?

We cannot afford to leave this unattended anymore. We have to find its solution through consultation with the people there. We have to take action, whatever, on their recommendations. That is the only way for permanent solution. The government has to take bold steps if it wants to address the problem. It has to empower the people there to handle the situation themselves since they know better than anyone else how best that problem be solved without causing further death and destruction. – See more at: