What is the cost of peace? Is it the lost childhood of millions of children over decades? Is it the thousands of Afghan women who failed to earn a livelihood to support their families? Or is it the wasted economic potential of a country that was robbed off its opportunities to become a major south Asian superpower? The truth is, the cost of peace is this and so much more. So much that is not quantifiable. Not studied in data or easy to put into statistics. The cost of peace is the overwhelming misery of the resilient Afghan people. It is the deeply embedded insecurities that are now a part of their behavior towards strangers and neighbors and finally it is the deteriorating relationships that Afghanistan now shares with a country like Pakistan.
The history of our two countries is nothing short of mesmerizing. A common culture, a shared people, a mutual language. There are numerous commonalities between us and yet our relationship has strained under political and diplomatic pressure. It is inherently important to mention here that the stressful relationship that we, the people, have suffered isn’t even directly the fault of our respective governments. The fault lies entirely with those unnamed string pullers that have used the Af-Pak region as a battlefield for their own political and international agendas.
This is also a commonality between us. A tragic burden that both countries have shared in the recent past. Owing to the “highly strategic” locations of both our countries, we have both often been the pawns in many global political games. Just two sets in an incredibly larger game theory designed by other countries. Proxies for unnamed nations and manpower for others to achieve their own political objectives. Pakistan and Afghanistan have suffered at the hands of those who have sought to maximize personal and political gains over the actual lives of those living here and because of this they have ruined the once warm, familial ties of the people residing here.
Hate like envy and greed is an emotion that is impulsive and all-encompassing. An extreme emotion that rids the soul of its beauty and its ability to see the truth. It clouds the mind and blinds the eyes. The people of both our great nations have been poisoned against the other. Their minds and hearts have been filled with thoughts and ideas that are simply not true. This is because, politically hate sells; divisions sell, fragmentation sells. It is much more difficult to manipulate and exploit those that are united. Those that share love and respect for one another and those that are at peace.
This is the Afghanistan that we Pakistanis truly strive for. To see our neighbors prosper and progress, to see the people reach their true potential and to be able to achieve all that they haven’t been able to in the last 4 decades, when the clouds of war have been upon them, constant and relentless. Prime Minister Imran Khan in one of his latest interviews with Al-Jazeera stated, “Whatever is good for Afghanistan, is good for us”. No one could have put it any better. It’s time we put the mistakes of our past behind us and look towards the future, together as equals; brothers and as neighbors. It is time that we stand up for what we believe in, to let those who wish to divide us, see that we are indivisible.
The winds of change are blowing in South Asian region and Pakistan and Afghanistan must harness the power of these winds to fuel peace, harmony and prosperity in the region. The dawn of a new era is commencing in Afghanistan and no one could be happier than its all-weather friend, Pakistan.