This was clear from Pakistan’s direct involvement in the government formation process when then ISI chief Faiz Hameed visited the war-torn country to broker truce between warring Taliban factions.
18 months on, it seems that the relationship between the neighbours has taken a massive nosedive amid a series of cross-border incidents and Pakistan’s “untenable” Afghanistan policy.
Recent incidents of “unprovoked” cross-border shelling by Afghan troops near the southwestern Chaman border crossing have escalated tensions between Islamabad and Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers.
Pakistan and Afghanistan share a 2,600-km volatile border.
Last week, at least one person was killed and 11 others were wounded when Afghan Taliban forces fired mortars toward civilians in the Chaman-Spin Boldak area in the restive Balochistan Province.
Apart from running our economy to the ground, this Imported govt has failed to deal with the 50% increase in terro… https://t.co/uRT259dNNw
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) 1671431334000
Chaman remains a busy border trading area for Pakistan and Afghanistan and has also been a flashpoint for clashes between border forces on both sides.
Earlier this month, Pakistan’s Embassy in Kabul came under gunfire in an attack that was later claimed by the Islamic State group.
Pakistani officials at the time had called the incident an attack on its envoy there. Islamabad also accused Afghanistan’s rulers of sheltering militants who carry out deadly attacks on its soil.
An emboldened TTP
To make matters worse, an emboldened Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also known as Pakistan Taliban, has stepped up attacks on Pakistani soil in recent months.
The Afghanistan-based terror group, which wants to establish its own brand of Islamic rule in Pakistan, called off a shaky ceasefire with the government last month.
Since then, its militants have carried deadly bombings and suicide attacks, targeting both civilians and security personnel.
On Sunday, two policemen were killed when Pakistani Taliban terrorists seized a counter-terrorism centre and took some people as hostages in Pakistan’s troubled Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
In an article on Dawn, former Pakistani diplomat Maleeha Lodhi wrote that Islamabad’s expectations that the Taliban’s return to power would enable Pakistan to secure its western border have not been met.
‘An untenable policy’
In her column, Lodhi said that Islamabad’s increasing frustration with Kabul was apparent when it took a significant departure from the “all-is-well” public stance it has mainainted so far.
Last month, Pakistan’s special representative for Afghanistan Mohammed Sadiq presented a progress report of 16 months of Taliban rule and said the expectations of Pakistan and the international community had not been met on key issues.
He also lambasted the Taliban dispensation on other issues such as political inclusivity, women’s rights and terror.
However, with TTP attacks on the rise and border tensions prevailing, Lodhi argued that Pakistan’s current Afghanistan policy – focusing largely on trade – won’t produce an outcome any different from the past and will continue to be an exercise in futility.
She said that Pakistan could explore other options, such as a ‘tough love’ approach wherein it could “use its leverage in a carefully calibrated way from a policy toolkit of incentives and disincentives to secure the necessary response.”
“The third option is to forge a coordinated regional strategy using collective leverage to bring pressure to bear on Kabul. Security, after all, is a concern for all Afghanistan’s neighbours, even if their other interests vary,” she said.
Lodhi noted that stable ties with Afghanistan are Pakistan’s strategic compulsion and it must first accept that the present Afghan policy is now untenable.