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SOUND BYTE: ‘The more Afghans trust Pakistan, the worse off we are’

19 November 2015 No Comment

By Ikram Junaidi in Dawn, November 19th, 2015
Last week, a group of journalists, academics and civil society members from Afghanistan were invited to what was informally known as a ‘Track 1.5/2’ exchange, hosted by the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS).

Dawn spoke to Barry Salaam, a media professional and human rights activist, who visited Islamabad for the dialogue, and asked him about the prospects for peace between the two neighbours in the context of the changing regional security situation.

Q: Why do you think, from an Afghan perspective, have relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan taken a turn for the worst?

A: The Afghan president took a lot of flak at home over trusting Pakistan and trying to get a security agreement signed between our two intelligence agencies. [Earlier this year] he took the level of cooperation to a whole new level, assuming that Pakistan was willing to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table. What we got in return was absolutely the opposite: Pakistan concealed the death of Mullah Omar and allowed Taliban to select his replacement on Pakistani soil while terrorist attacks and atrocities reached an unprecedented level, especially in Kunduz province

Unfortunately, the popular feeling in Afghanistan is that the more we trust Pakistan, the worse the situation will get in terms of Taliban attacks.

Q: How do the people of Afghanistan – many of whom have lived in Pakistan for a long time – feel and what steps can be taken to end the distrust between the two sides?

A: Afghans, especially those who have lived in Pakistan, love the Pakistani people and have friendly relations with them. But they see the military establishment and the agencies as the main factor that is fuelling war and tensions in Afghanistan.

To improve relations, the Pakistani government should abandon its double standards as far as insurgents are concerned. Islamabad should come to terms with the idea that the Taliban ideology should be defeated in the region.

If they take genuine steps to this end, trust me, Afghans will notice and take equally effective measures in improving relations.

The first step should be that Pakistan should officially ban all activities of the Afghan Taliban, including the Haqqani network, in Pakistan. Can you do that? If yes, then you are truly a friend. If not, then don’t expect Afghans to trust you. It is that simple.

Q: How do you see relations between the two countries panning out in the future?

A: I keep hearing in Pakistan that thanks to Operation Zarb-i-Azb, things are much better here. But I find it disturbing that at the same time as things have improved on this side of the border, terrorist attacks in Afghanistan have reached alarming levels. This means that we care only about our own well-being, not the well-being of the other side. This means we are not cooperating yet in practical terms.

But there are still some people on both sides who believe that we must find a way to end the mistrust that is destroying our future.

These people and groups must find each other, talk to each other, and ultimately reach out to their respective governments to take practical measures in improving relations.

For Afghans, security is the first priority; if Pakistan takes one practical measure to address this, I am sure we will be in a better position to reciprocate.http://www.dawn.com/news/1220668/sound-byte-the-more-afghans-trust-pakistan-the-worse-off-we-are

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