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Pakistan's Domestic Politics and Afghan War.

How Pakistan bogged down in the unnatural and unpopular war in Afghanistan is a story of sad occurrences. When 9/11 took place, the country had a military dictator in power, a person who had absolutely no understanding of the delicacies of foreign policy. He was leading in his own world, convinced of his own intelligence, and totally oblivious of what was good or bad for the country. Also, being a military dictator, he neither had the requirement nor the inclination to discuss or consult with his military colleagues, the political allies or even media persons and intellectuals. More so because being an illegitimate ruler, attaining the legitimacy from the US was his most cherished goal. Therefore, without considering in detail the pros and cons of Pakistan's support and cooperation with the US in its design in Afghanistan and the region, and without taking into account the terms and conditions, he offered the country's services generously.

Pakistan is now paying the price of the self-committed crimes of that time. The American occupation of Afghanistan just like the USSR occupation of it has had a deep impact on Pakistan, albeit with a major qualitative difference: the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan was opposed not only by the people and government of Pakistan alike but virtually by the international community in general. Pakistan's offer to accept the Afghan refugees was lauded and praised by the world. Even so, the international community encouraged Pakistan to provide the facility to the resistance fighters, who came to be known as the Mujahideen, to use Pakistan for training purposes and other related requirements. So Pakistan's role both uplifted the nation and brought Pakistan to the world stage as a country that was willing to shoulder huge responsibility, lay sacrifice many of its own interests and uphold the cause of freedom and independence of a fellow Muslim country that also happen to be its neighbor.

However, in case of the US occupation of Afghanistan majority of the people of Pakistan and major political parties do not condone country's support to occupiers of the present times. The people are convinced that their government has decided to side with the aggressor either for the purpose of receiving money or under duress from the United State. More importantly, it has created a tremendous backlash in the country, as more and more Pakistanis are convinced that Pakistan's support for the American occupation is primarily responsible for the growth of the militancy and extremism in Pakistan.

On the one hand, Pakistan is a frontline state in the global war on terror and a non-NATO ally, but on the other hand, its major alley, the US, believes that it has been playing a double game, showing a clear lack of confidence. The people of Pakistan think that the government is also engaged in this game with the US which is costing the people of Pakistan a great deal. Even though this is an elected government, it has come about as a result of a political negotiation between Musharraf and his successor which was in fact brokered by the US. Hence, there is no change whatsoever in the government's policy. The recent disclosures of American documents confirm that both the president and prime minister are willing to accept the drone attacks and other American efforts which amount to severe encroachments on Pakistan's sovereignty.

The lesson that all the countries caught up in Afghanistan need to learn from their current adventure is that military occupation is no longer sustainable. The resistance will get stronger whether the coalition forces stayed there for another fifteen years. Afghans history, culture and traditions suggest that they do not permit outsiders to come and occupy their land. So, the US and coalition partners should sit back and actually do a bit of soul searching and reach decisions that may be unpopular but are, nevertheless, essential. President Obama will have to convince his administration, American Congress and his supporters that the US has to take the hard decision of withdrawal. A broad-based government is needed in Afghanistan that includes all the ethnic groups and political parties.

America, thereafter, needs to offer a massive economic assistance for the economic growth and development of the country, and use its influence to bring all the stakeholders in Afghan peace and stability to consensus, so that an international agreement can be reached either through an international conference or through the mechanism of the UN. Such an agreement should guarantee Afghan independence and clip the interference of any external player in the country's internal affairs.

Considering the historical relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the former can help the international community a lot in this particular enterprise. It is in Pakistan's interest to have a peaceful and stable neighbor as its own economic growth will remain deeply impacted and all opportunities of investment, trade, economic ties and energy pipelines from central Asia will remain unfulfilled, unless peace is restored in Afghanistan. There is no other country that would gain more from the restoration of peace and stability in Afghanistan than Pakistan. Hence, Islamabad's efforts should lead to urge the US to work on a strategy that would create an independent, neutral and sovereign Afghanistan.
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Publication:Policy Perspectives
Geographic Code:9AFGH
Date:Jun 30, 2011
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