Pakistan-Afghanistan Agree On New Afghan Setup ?March 10, 2010
ISLAMABAD: A strategic shift in Pakistan’s three-decade old Afghan policy has taken a quiet but effective shape as Islamabad has successfully negotiated a peace plan with Mustafa Zahir Shah, the grandson of late King Zahir Shah, who would play a key role in future political dispensation comprising all ethnic groups. “It is a strategic coup by Pakistan against rising Indian influence in Afghanistan,” an analyst tartly remarked commenting on the development. As Islamabad has agreed to untangle the complicated jihadist network fabricated by General Ziaul Haq in 1979, it has acquired ‘iron-clad’ guarantees from Washington and other world capitals to gain advantages not only in regional political and economic affairs but also to get peaceful nuclear technology related benefits, sources privy to the most significant development taking place in the region in more than quarter a century, claimed.
Prime Minister Gilani’s spokesperson Shabbir Anwar, when contacted, said Pakistan wanted peace in Afghanistan. “We will do whatever we can in strengthening of the political institutions in Afghanistan.”
Anwar, however, said the Foreign Office would be in a better position to comment on such a development. The foreign office spokesman could not be reached despite repeated attempts as his cell phone was switched off.
“Karzai is fast becoming a seat-warmer for Mustafa Zahir Shah,” a diplomat commented. “But the young leader will have to perform a very complicated balancing act by satisfying both sides of the ethnic divides in the world’s one of the least governable countries.”
To continue to have a political foothold in Afghanistan and counter Pakistan’s thriving liaison with Mustafa Zahir Shah and the Northern Alliance, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh went to Saudi Arabia to get help in establishing contacts with Taliban. Saudi Arabia reportedly has refused to oblige.
According to the clinched deal, Islamabad would help cobble together a consensus political dispensation in Kabul comprising all ethnic groups, help ensure its stability, dismantle the dreaded militant infrastructure and carefully comb its security apparatus to avert the rise of radicalism. On all counts, Pakistan has already started delivering and brick-by-brick demolition of Jehadi infrastructure has already set in motion. A high-level Pakistani delegation held a final round of negotiations with Mustafa Zahir Shah and Northern Alliance in Kabul a couple of weeks ago.
Islamabad’s diplomatic circles are abuzz with this new, exciting development taking shape during the last few weeks. “To convince Mustafa Zahir Shah to lead, and make the leaderships of Northern Alliance and Taliban share power among themselves is a major breakthrough successfully engineered by Pakistan to reclaim its lost position in Afghanistan,” the sources said.
In addition to winning over the confidence of Mustafa Zahir Shah, the weaning off Northern Alliance from India is the most important milestone in Pakistan’s foreign policy as ties between the two sides had been strained for Islamabad’s tilt towards Taliban. As final touches are being given to level the rough contours of this win-win policy, the diplomatic sources in Islamabad are attributing great significance to the sudden dash of Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to Kabul over the weekend.
In return for the success of this policy, the sources claimed, Washington has given guarantees to Islamabad that it would support Pakistan’s efforts to buy nuclear power plants from France for peaceful purposes, limit India’s political role in Afghanistan and Pakistan would have the right to buy oil and gas on less-than-market price from the proposed oil and gas pipelines originating from Central Asia and Afghanistan to India. The royalty that Pakistan would earn on these energy pipelines passing through its territory would be in addition to the above benefits.
DG ISPR Maj-Gen Athar Abbas, when contacted to ask if Pakistani officials were engaged in negotiating such an understanding with the help of the US and the Nato in return for political and economic benefits of the country, he said: “It is a political issue and I have no comments”.
When asked about the high level contacts between Pakistani officials and Mustafa Zahir Shah and Northern Alliance leaders, Abbas said: “Not to my knowledge.” The arrests of top Taliban commanders from Mulla Abdul Ghani Baradar two weeks ago to Abu Yehya Gadan over the weekend is a testament to Islamabad’s sincere commitment with this new approach.
In his weekend visit Gen Kayani met Afghan President Hamid Karzai to, what the sources said, discuss his role, if any, in the new setup. Almost a week prior to Kayani’s visit to Kabul, a high-level delegation comprising officials who have been handling the Afghan strategy for decades, visited Kabul and met Mustafa to finalise the future peace plan for Afghanistan. The success has been reached following a series of behind-the-scene meetings in and outside Pakistan between Pakistani officials, Mustafa Zahir Shah, Saudi and US officials, and key leaders of Northern Alliance who have earlier been sceptical of Islamabad’s intentions.
The difference this time would be that Pakistan would ensure the acceptance of this new formula both by the Northern Alliance and Taliban with Mustafa Zahir Shah leading the brood. Sources claimed that the new plan would guarantee Pakistan’s political and economic interests in the region as well as the existence of a peaceful Afghanistan after the withdrawal of the US and the Nato troops.
The sources claimed that the establishment is quite serious now in reigning in radical elements who have been creating difficulties for Pakistan in the past. “Now they will not be given a free hand anymore and the elements within the establishment supporting such ideologies and activities would be sidelined in the next round of promotions starting from next month,” source said.