Ghani Writes To Sharif With 'Patch Up' Proposals
Ashraf Ghani and Nawaz Sharif
NEW DELHI: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has reportedly outlined a set of demands as critical to bridging frayed Afghan-Pakistan ties in a confidential letter to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
According to TOLO News, Ghani’s letter calls for “An official declaration by the political leadership of Pakistan condemning the launching of the Talban offensive, operation; a directive by the military leadership that sanctuary will be denied to the Taliban and effective measures by the security forces and civil authorities that the directive is carried out."
TOLO News, that claims to have a copy of the letter, quotes an unnamed source saying that the letter is now in the possession of Sharif, who is expected to furnish a written reply within two weeks. If this does not happen, the window of opportunity will be closed," said the source
The news agency reports: “The letter meanwhile goes on to state that: "A direct(ive) to extend the counter-terror campaign to the Haqqani network and verification that those responsible for the recent terror campaign in Afghanistan are arrested."
In addition it states that a directive needs to be issued to "place the leaders of the Quetta Shura and the Peshawar Shura under house arrest and to initiate legal proceedings against them for threatening a friendly state."
Ghani goes on to say that "agreeing on an exchange of prisoners such as Mulla Bridar (Afghan Taliban Commander) for (members of) Tehrik-i-Taliban-i-Pakistan".
He also said: "A directive to all medical facilities to turn over those with war wounds to the custody of security officials for investigation and arrest."
Another directive he called for was that the factories producing fertilizer and switches for improvised explosive devices (IEDs) be allowed to sell only to authorized firms.
Lastly he said there was a need for an "agreement to carry out a series of simultaneous operations to deny passage to TTP (Tehrik Taliban Pakistan) and TTA (Tehrik Taliban Afghanistan), such as Baramcha."
The letter is a three-page document with the first two pages outlining the issue of insurgency faced by Afghanistan. The third and final page lists his demands.”
The TOLO News report states that “Ghani started his letter by pointing out that during the second term of President Hamid Karzai's presidency, relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan descended into a "vicious circle of distrust" and became a public blame game.
He said in the letter that this essentially led to the creation of a sense of uncertainty which further led to the emergence of "terrorism and extremism" as a threat to the state system.
The letter states that directly after Ghani's inauguration he quickly moved to shape the domestic, regional and global relations in a bid to bring stability to Afghanistan.
He stated in the letter that he offered a fresh definition of the key problem and a process for building mutual confidence. "The key problem in relations between the two countries during the last 13 years has been an undeclared condition of hostilities between the two countries," read the letter.
"Peace therefore has two related but distinctive aspects: peace between Afghan state, as represented by its legitimate elected leaders and the Taliban and related armed opposition groups that have distinctive political agendas."”
There is truth to the fact that Pakistan and Afghanistan have shared a tense history, which Ghani has moved to improve. When Ghani came to power in September last year, he quickly signalled a change in policy. Ghani soon after being sworn-in visited Pakistan, and then Pakistan’s army chief and head of intelligence visited Kabul. Afghanistan and Pakistan’s tense equation had sunk to an all-time low under the presidency of former Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Karzai had been openly critical of Pakistan -- accusing the neighbouring country of supporting the Afghan Taliban and providing refuge to the group’s leadership.
Ghani, unlike his predecessor, reached out to Pakistan. Delegations from the two countries made visits across the border; six Afghan army cadets were sent to Pakistan for training; military efforts were coordinated across the shared border; and Ghani and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif both issued statements in support of cooperation and bilateral ties.
The shift in policy seemed to be bearing fruit, with reports circulating that the Afghan Taliban -- under pressure from Pakistan was on the verge of agreeing to talks with the Afghan leadership. This was huge. For the first time in thirteen years -- since the US invasion of Afghanistan -- the Taliban, which has thus far maintained that the Afghan government is illegitimate, was ready to initiate a peace process.
Pakistan’s support was the crucial factor in enabling talks. A report in The Express Tribune quoted an unnamed former top commander of the group saying, “Taliban officials, who had been involved in talks with the Pakistanis and the Chinese, and had sought time for consultations with the senior leaders, have received a green signal from the leadership,” adding that “Pakistani officials had advised Taliban leaders to sit face-to-face with the Afghan government and put their demands to find out a political solution to the problem.” The same report quoted another unnamed Taliban source confirming the report and adding that “a small delegation will be visiting Pakistan in days for consultations” to be able to take the discussion with the Afghan government forward.
Then Ghani’s trip to Washington happened, where US President Barack Obama announced the decision to slow troop withdrawal. The Taliban, in turn, issued a statement vowing to continue fighting. "This damages all the prospects for peace, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said of the announcement. “This means the war will go on until they are defeated.”
In fact, Ghani’s predicament -- of needing the US and wanting to begin a dialogue with the Taliban -- is reflected in a statement made by the Afghan President whilst in Washington. Ghani issued an apology -- of sorts -- to the Taliban. He said that peace with the militants was “essential” and that some Taliban members suffered legitimate grievances. "People were falsely imprisoned, people were tortured. They were tortured in private homes or private prisons," Ghani said (as reported by Reuters). “How do you tell these people that you are sorry?" he added.
Clearly, it is not easy being Ashraf Ghani. This is further proven by the fact that Ghani’s policies have been outrightly criticized. His decision to reapproach ties with Pakistan has especially come under criticism. In an interview with The Guardian, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai -- said that the country’s historic struggles against British imperialism and Soviet invasion will have been in vain if it succumbs to pressure from Pakistan.
This view was echoed by Karzai’s associates who sat in on the interview. Rangin Dadfar Spanta, a former foreign minister and national security adviser said that the policy amounts to the humiliating “appeasement” of a hostile power who would never change its ways. In a similar vein, Omar Daudzai, one of the most influential officials of the Karzai era who served as chief of staff and interior minister, predicts, “There could be a bloody summer, there will be fighting and there will be disappointments on the dialogue table from time to time.” Daudzai, a former ambassador to Islamabad, added that whilst he thought Ghani’s attempts to woo Pakistan were “courageous,” they would ultimately fail to change the country’s behaviour. “He has taken controversial steps that his predecessor didn’t take, and now we have to wait to see whether the Pakistani side is sincere or not,” he said. “But I am far more sceptical than I ever was before about Pakistan’s sincerity.”
And this is by no means an isolated view. An important figure within Afghanistan, Karzai echoes a distrust that runs deep with the Afghan people. Ghani, therefore, will inevitably -- sooner rather than later -- begin to face pressure in showing that his policy translates into results beneficial to Afghanistan.
One indication of this will be evident by how Pakistan chooses to respond to the list of demands outlined in the said letter.