We have noticed with keen interest the article ‘Let’s stop being manipulated by Pakistan” by Mr. Christopher Kolenda published in The Hill on 21st February. We welcome the sentiments of all those who emphasize the importance of bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan. We are moved by these sentiments since it is Pakistan, more than any other country, that continues to suffer on account violence and instability in Afghanistan for nearly four decades.
However we would like to draw readers' attention to remarks of Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson on 13th February where he expressed disappointed with some of the perception based assertions and insinuations made in U.S. based reports on Afghanistan. The Pakistan Foreign Ministry's Spokesperson statement may be viewed as contributing to the on-going discourse where he pointed out that any discussion on the future of Afghanistan and the way forward in Pakistan-U.S. relationship should take into account the following:
Pakistan chose to stand with the international community for a common cause following the tragic attacks of 9/11 and has paid a staggering human and financial cost. This has also been Pakistan's longest war costing over 60,000 fatalities and $118.3 billion in resources. Pakistan alone has lost more soldiers in this fight than the number of soldiers from all the 40 coalition partner countries combined. Pakistan has undertaken this momentous effort, while hosting one of the largest refugee populations in the world and operating under the limitation of an unregulated border.
Thanks to the remarkable success of our decade long military operations in FATA, especially Operation Zarb-e-Azb and continued law enforcement activities, Pakistan has been successful in destroying and eliminating the command and control structure of terrorist outfits operating from Pakistan-Afghan border.
A significant decline in incidence of terrorism in Pakistan is now an empirical reality widely acknowledged by international observers. This success has been made possible only after all the organized terrorist groups were indiscriminately targeted and eliminated, wherever found. Senior U.S. officials and congressional leaders have had the opportunity to personally witness the enormous change in the ground situation on our side of the Pak-Afghan border.
There is a multiplicity of factors both military and nonmilitary that contribute to the existing stalemate in Afghanistan. Therefore, singling out Pakistan and pinning the entire blame on Pakistan for the situation in Afghanistan is neither fair nor accurate, nor is it borne out by the ground realities.
In the absence of a sincere review of the past mistakes, recycling old strategies would not produce new results. The practice of pointing fingers elsewhere has not helped Afghanistan in the past nor will it promote Afghanistan's interests in the future.
Pakistan has consistently called for a negotiated peace settlement in Afghanistan, which remains the responsibility of all parties to the conflict. Pakistan has also argued strongly against steps and actions that complicate the conflict and result in loss of innocent lives. It has also been highlighted a number of times that Afghan soil should not be used against its neighbors.
Moreover, on a number of occasions in the past, Pakistan and the United States have agreed at the highest level on the criticality of border management and settlement of refugees as fundamental issues in achieving any degree of success in Afghanistan.
Sadly, even when there are serious policy debates on the larger issue of borders and refugees in other parts of the world, no serious attention is being given to Pakistan-Afghanistan border in the discussion.
It is clear from the evidence emerging from recent spate of terrorist attacks inside Pakistan that terrorist groups attacking Pakistan have safe havens in Afghanistan.
The nexus between ISIL-K and TTP is also a source of deep concern for Pakistan. We need to prevent the emergence of new and more virulent entities committed to spreading chaos and insecurity in the region. This calls for closer cooperation based on confidence and trust. Pointing fingers and throwing blame at others would be unhelpful and counterproductive.
Pakistan's resolve to defeat terrorism remains unwavering. Emerging terrorist networks like ISIL will not deter Pakistan from continuing its valiant struggle against terrorism. We also remain committed to peace and stability in Afghanistan and will continue to work with members of the international community including the Afghan government for peace, security and stability in the region.
Zoobia Masood is the press attache and media spokesperson for the Embassy of Pakistan, Washington DC.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill