Redefining the Trajectory of Peace and Prosperity of Afghanistan: A Way Forward

After 40 years, there is an opportunity for peace throughout Afghanistan and opportunity to root out terrorism from there. This opportunity must not be lost at the altar of ego, revenge or disappointment, much less allowed to be sabotaged by those who see personal or strategic gain in continued conflict and chaos in Afghanistan. Coercion is not the road to peace in Afghanistan. It has not been in the past 20 years and it will not be in the future.

Amid intensifying geopolitical intrigue, Afghanistan presents a dismal picture with looming humanitarian challenges. Approximately 23 million people are in a state of humanitarian emergency. The economic situation is not the only problem that people of the Afghanistan are facing today, but it is one of the most urgent problems, and above all, one where the immediate action is required and must be taken quickly. The larger crisis that is looming the danger of a complete economic collapse. Cash is needed to revive the economy to pay salaries, restore small businesses, and revive the banking system. The establishment of the United Nations’ Special Trust Fund is not sufficient to address economic crisis. Similar mechanisms will be set up quickly to scale up money flow and stabilize the Afghan economy. Thus, the plethora of crises pose unprecedent challenges to the human security.

As the matter of fact, the consequences of a major humanitarian crisis and economic collapse in Afghanistan will be horrendous; massive human suffering, the outflow of millions of additional Afghan refugees, the likelihood of chaos and further conflict and reinforcement of Daesh and other terrorist groups. When the millions of Afghan refugees start flowing across our borders, as Pakistan is already hosting approximately 4 million Afghan refugees, will not be able to accommodate more, they will have to go elsewhere. These are consequences that requires immediate attention of the international community.

Although, on its part, Pakistan supported the humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan in several ways, including by facilitating the evacuation and relocation of international staff and establishing a humanitarian corridor to deliver relief goods through air and land routes. Indeed, Pakistan is playing a positive role and provided$30 million assistance for the development of Afghanistan. Wheat, rice, emergency medical supplies and other essential items were sent to Afghanistan. It has also lifted duties on imports of Afghan commodities. Furthermore, facilitating transit trade; providing essential medicines, refurbishing Afghan hospitals. Pakistan is also facilitating the WFP’s delivery of 10,000 tons of wheat flour, and a humanitarian air service has been set up – an air bridge – between Islamabad and Kabul.

During the recent visit of the acting Foreign Minister of the Kabul authorities, accompanied by the acting Finance, Trade and Aviation Ministers to Islamabad, Pakistan agreed to provide training for doctors, nurses and paramedics, in ATC, aviation safety and other fields, and other steps to help stabilize Afghanistan’s economic governance.

Pakistan has also taken concrete steps towards Afghan stability. It also initiated the platform of the six neighboring countries plus Russia which has met twice and will meet again early next year in China. The aim is to promote a regional consensus on steps to normalize the situation in Afghanistan, especially through economic integration and connectivity.

Pakistan had already reaffirmed the importance of combating terrorism in Afghanistan and in ensuring that the territory of Afghanistan is not used a platform or a safe-haven by any terrorist group or organization.

As far as global institutional engagement is concerned, Pakistan instrumented key diplomatic engagements for the economic packages, averting humanitarian and refugee’s crisis with multinational forums such as SCO, World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), Asian Development Bank, European Union (EU), Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

During annual Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Ministers meeting, Pakistan also urged the international community to avoid the mistake of abandoning Afghanistan, adopt a pragmatic approach, and sustain engagement. At this critical juncture, the Afghan nation must be helped to walk firmly along the path of peace, progress, and prosperity.

To address the security concerns, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) head visit Afghanistan, CIA’s chief visit to Pakistan and multinational: Pakistan China, Iran, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan Turkmenistan, and Russian intelligence heads gathering is another vital development for Afghanistan, and regional security dynamics. Henceforth, it can be argued that Pakistan’s stance, efforts and engagement for Afghanistan show rational intent and contributions for Afghanistan’s stability and sustainable progress. However, the aforementioned policy imperatives are reductionist strategies that may settle the dust, somehow in larger canvas, Afghanistan’s situation demands a broad-band and farfetched policy model from Islamabad. For those Policymakers and stakeholder have to introspect the pre-existing strategic and policy manual, further revamping would benefit Pakistan, and region. In account of this, a re-oriented multilayered approach that can preserve the national interest and secure positive sum gains for Afghanistan is vitally essential.

The role of Pakistan is vital for timely structuring and mediating a strategic regional support package for Afghanistan, in this regard, Pakistan can engage the Middle Eastern states and other allies such as China, Russia and Turkey to provide Afghanistan with much-needed economic relief.

Regional financial institutions such as the Asian Infrastructure Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, BRICS Bank, and Islamic Development Bank hold a significant amount of liquidity. Pakistan should initiate diplomatic maneuverings for the “humanitarian assistance package” loans schemes for Afghanistan to avert the chances of sudden economic collapse that may push the state into civil warfare.

Pakistan must take multilateral initiatives for convening SCO sessions to discuss the Afghanistan situation. As out of 150 ethnic groups living in the SCO region, around 30 live in Afghanistan; therefore, SCO has a vital role to play for conflict reconciliation, development, building confidence and trust; and developing empathy among indigenous groups.

As further improvisation, a dedicated fund could be held for the reconstruction and development of the war-torn nation. Projects like Peshawar to Kabul motorway and value addition to Afghan fruits and vegetables in Rashakai Economic Zone could be started immediately.

With the new regime’s stability and confidence, the private investors will start coming back, and the contribution of internal revenue generation will increase. The security situation in Afghanistan will remain the key factor in providing safe passage for transit trade, regional connectivity, and mineral development. In long term policy, efforts should be made to further strengthen the efficacy of the border management regime and contingency plans should be taken to ensure internal security to tackle the evolving security situation along the Pak-Afghan border. Security establishment must formulate a mechanism (covert/overt) through utility bargaining chips to address domestic security concerns, stemming from threats from Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), and other outfits across the border.

Nevertheless, the government has also reaffirmed assurances in all formats that Afghanistan’s soil will not be used against any country and take effective action against Daesh/IS-K. It has sought assistance in countering the menace of drug trafficking. It has also called for unfreezing of Afghanistan’s assets. This would be the best affirmation of solidarity with the people of Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, there are some in our region who, for narrow national reasons, continue to play the role of a “spoiler” in Afghanistan. They are still involved in schemes to destabilize Afghanistan. They must be isolated and exposed.

The process of engagement with the interim government in Kabul has produced progress toward the objectives and expectations of the international community. It should be continued and intensified. Through such further engagement and dialogue – rather than coercion – the international community will be able to advance its desire for an inclusive government, respect for human rights, especially the rights of women, and effective counter-terrorism. While pressing its concerns, the international community must also remain realistic and responsive to Afghanistan’s humanitarian and economic needs, its cultural and historical circumstances. A roadmap that would lead eventually to international acceptance and eventual recognition and representation of the new government at the United Nations must be formulated.

After 40 years, there is an opportunity for peace throughout Afghanistan and the opportunity to root out terrorism from there. This opportunity must not be lost at the altar of ego, revenge or disappointment, much less allowed to be sabotaged by those who see the personal or strategic gain in continued conflict and chaos in Afghanistan.

There is no doubt that, without humanitarian assistance, chaos and renewed conflict could return to Afghanistan with an exodus of refugees and an escalation of a terrorist threat.

The international community should continue and enhance its engagement with the new Government in Afghanistan utilizing all available formats – the Extended Troika, the six neighbor’s neighbor’s platform, the OIC, and other multilateral and bilateral consultations, such as those convened by Norway earlier this week in Oslo.

It is only through dialogue, it is only through consultations and mutual persuasion that will be able to achieve agreed outcomes. Coercion is not the road to peace in Afghanistan. It has not been in the past 20 years and it will not be in the future.

To stabilize Afghanistan, This should incorporate the expectations of the international community – for inclusivity, human and women’s rights and counter-terrorism – as well as the expectations that have been voiced by the interim Afghan Government – for economic and financial support, an end to sanctions and eventual recognition.

Yet even with all of this, efforts are insufficient compared to the needs. Humanitarian aid cannot replace a functioning economy, and that’s what we are here to talk about today. The measures we are putting in place to increase liquidity cannot replace a properly functioning Central Bank. Pertinent to mention that focus is   still addressing the crisis rather than the root causes of the crisis, of which I will suggest three. First, Afghanistan’s longstanding dependency on international donors which created the vulnerabilities we have seen when donor funding abruptly stopped. Second, Afghanistan’s longstanding under-development had been consistently blocked and undermined by four decades of conflict. Third, the most immediate challenge, the unresolved status of Afghanistan’s current situation with the rest of the world.

The current administration needs to generate trust and predictability so that all Afghans can participate in the economy without fear, and that Afghans with money to invest can do so with confidence. A wider a process of national reconciliation and the creation of durable institutions of consultation would generate greater confidence in Afghanistan’s future and make it easier for Afghans abroad to heed the calls to return to their country and help rebuild it. A more explicit commitment to enforce the statements of amnesty would also help. These measures would not only be highly beneficial for Afghanistan’s economic well-being, they would simultaneously significantly improve Afghanistan’s relationship with the rest of the world.

These root causes can only be addressed if the economy is seen not as an isolated issue but as an integral element of a process of national and international reconciliation. Indeed, economic progress, diversity and inclusion, human rights, and equality between all citizens, are closely connected. Economic growth stems from innovation, which requires education for all, creativity, technical capacity, and using the diversity and talents of the entire population. Special mention must be made here of the women and girls who represent half of the population and, as countries around the world have learned, are critical for economic prosperity. In addition, the current administration needs to generate trust and predictability so that all Afghans can participate in the economy without fear, and that Afghans with money to invest can do so with confidence. A wider a process of national reconciliation and the creation of durable institutions of consultation would generate greater confidence in Afghanistan’s future and make it easier for Afghans abroad to heed the calls to return to their country and help rebuild it. A more explicit commitment to enforce the statements of amnesty would also help. These measures would not only be highly beneficial for Afghanistan’s economic well-being, they would simultaneously significantly improve Afghanistan’s relationship with the rest of the world.

In the long term there are great opportunities for Afghanistan that arise from the cessation of the conflict. But succeeding in these priorities demands the creation of an enabling, peaceful and stable policy environment, which will generate trust amongst the Afghan population in the future of the country and their place in it. The government should devote its total energies on this goal, which will in addition give donors, neighbors, and investors’ confidence in a brighter Afghan future.

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About Mushahid Hussain Naqvi 22 Articles
The author is the Digital Editor at The Asian Telegraph and sub-Editor at Melange International Magazine and Research Associate at COPAIR with academic expertise in International Relations.