Pak-Afghan: A lot to Gain from Cooperation!
Image Source: Radio Pakistan

The two brotherly neighbors in the South Asian region, Pakistan and Afghanistan, have witnessed decades of unrest, the latter been caught in a formal state of war since 2001. From sharing borders, ancestry, and culture to sharing the future, the Pak-Afghan populace has a lot to gain from cooperation!

Last year’s August marks the return of the US forces and the control of Afghanistan is returning gradually to the locals since then. Affairs of the state are being run by the Afghan Interim Government. On one end, the society is returning to normal with day-to-day education policies being finalized, painting exhibitions conducted, women entrepreneurs seeking and planning business activities, while on the other end a looming humanitarian crisis is haunting both the Afghan populace and the Interim Government.

Pak-Afghan Cooperation and Shared Future

ICRC reports a 30% increase in the need for humanitarian aid in Afghanistan. Protests in Afghanistan and online petitions are calling the US to unfreeze Afghanistan’s assets and to return the wealth that belongs to none but the Afghan people. The transformation that Afghanistan is going through is a critical point in history and calls for a collaborative regional and international effort. It is important that the new contours of Afghan politics, security, and society have room for regional connectivity and peaceful coexistence with the neighbors. In this regard, both the Pak-Afghan nations have a lot to gain from cooperation.

In a scenario that requires nothing but collective effort and support, any minor disturbance on the Pak-Afghan border is a major setback.

Pakistan’s government has prioritized the well-being of the Afghan people and a smooth relationship with the Afghan Interim Government since August 2021. Being the next-door neighbor and given a shared bond built on shared culture, history, ancestry, and religion, Pakistan has always extended diplomatic support to Afghanistan in trying times. Hosting around 3 million of the Afghan refugee population, Pakistan continues to open avenues for any form of assistance and aid to reach Afghanistan. The recent transport of Indian wheat to Afghanistan through Pakistan stands as an example. Moreover, possibilities for expanding trade between the two countries are also being considered and executed.

The Economic Coordination Committee of Pakistan’s cabinet has allowed the export of 17 commodities to Afghanistan in Pakistani currency.

Afghanistan’s Transformative Phase: Challenges and Expectations

Afghanistan’s transformative phase is both important and sensitive. From seeking legitimacy in the world to normalizing life and avoiding a crisis, both Afghanistan and Pakistan can gain a lot from cooperation in almost every sector. However, border clashes come up as a grave challenge to both sides. Terrorist factions and groups benefit at the cost of fueling mistrust between the two brotherly countries. Skirmishes started in December last year and unfortunately, the month of January also recorded unrest on the border. Another unwelcomed news is reported recently in February when exchanges across the border killed two people.

Critics blame border fencing initiated by Pakistan in 2014 for these border clashes. But it is worthwhile to consider that border fencing is a move to secure the region in the longer run. The history of violent extremist factions in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan justifies the fencing. With 94% fencing already done, the completion is nothing but a ray of hope for both countries. It will help regulate trade and avoid any illicit movements cross border. It will serve as a deterrent for the spoilers in the region who desire turmoil and seek to benefit from it.

Border control and management will strengthen the control of both the governments over their respective territories.

In respect of border clashes, it remains to be seen how far and deep the realization of the positives that cooperation can bring is embedded in the various tiers of the Afghan societal setup. The interim government is a display of the face of a peaceful Afghanistan that the South Asian Region wishes to see. But how the Interim Government consolidates with the factions that have been fighting and picking up arms all these years is undetermined. These groups, if left unmanaged, can spoil Afghanistan’s emerging ties with its neighbors. The Pak-Afghan border tussles are a case in point.

All things considered, Pakistan and Afghanistan share values that go beyond borders and connect people on both sides. A peaceful border region will bring harmony and stability to the lives of the tribes who live on both sides of the border. The potential of cooperation, if fully realized, holds the promise of prosperity for both countries. If peace prevails, the complete benefits of projects like China Pakistan Economic Cooperation (CPEC) will trickle down to the people of the Pak-Afghan region. Hence, from sharing ancestry, borders, and values to sharing the future, Pak-Afghan has a lot to gain from cooperation!



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here