Image credit: Dawn Pakistan
By Sara Nazir 16 March 2023
Ties between Afghanistan and Pakistan have a long and complex history that has been characterized by hostility, conflict, and collaboration. Besides situational, the two nations have had a close relationship and cooperated in many areas. Although there had been tension between Pakistan and Afghanistan for a while, recent events seem to indicate that the two nations are headed towards peaceful coexistence, unfortunately dynamics changed once again especially after the most recent terrorist attacks in Pakistan. To safeguard its border with Afghanistan, which has previously been a point of contention between the two nations, Pakistan has also increased its efforts to secure its border. Pakistan’s policy towards Afghanistan is to improve people-to-people contacts, expand commerce and transit connection, develop joint energy and connectivity projects for stronger economic integration, work together to promote peace in Afghanistan, refrain from meddling in domestic politics, and not permit respective lands to be leveraged against one another.
Throughout the tensions, Pakistan remained contributed significantly to the support of Afghanistan. Afghan refugees who fled to Pakistan during the turmoil received help and support from Pakistan. Millions of Afghan refugees have been provided safety and asylum by the Pakistani government throughout the last forty years. Refugee aid demonstrates Pakistanis’ kindness, compassion, and empathy for their Afghan neighbors and brothers. Despite being involved in such activities, Pakistani government has over the years not only accepted Afghani population but also allowed them to develop independently, obtain an education, launch a company, and travel freely around the nation like Pakistani residents. Pakistan’s role has also been significant in giving Afghans access to training and educational facilities. Many Afghan immigrants have attended Pakistan’s universities and technical institutions. In addition to offering around 4000 Afghan students scholarships, of whom 3,000 were fully funded, Pakistan has built several schools and blocks at various universities. Over 50,000 Afghans who graduated from Pakistani universities are presently serving their nation. The Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police have both received training from Pakistan.
The vast majority of refugees in Pakistan are Afghans, while those who are not Afghani are from other Muslim nations. Government of Pakistan launched an initiative backed by UNCHR aimed at enhancing social harmony. The program began in 2006 with registration exercises for Afghans, who were initially given Proof of Registration Cards (PoR). Main goal of this initiative was to make it easier for Afghan refugees to access basic services across the nation by giving them access to a reliable databank for their IDs. With such a large refugee population, Pakistan’s government had to deal with several difficulties in the areas of infrastructure, food, security, and economy. Despite all of these obstacles, Pakistan indeed makes it possible for them to access free basic education, free medical care, subsidized food and non-food items, water, energy, opportunities for work, and other crucial services by giving them their identity and registration cards.
Pakistan has also played a crucial role in Afghanistan’s economic recovery. Considerable commerce, investment, and development aid from Pakistan were granted to Afghanistan.
Pakistan provided $1 billion of development assistance to Afghanistan in June last year. The state’s development aid is oriented on infrastructure, healthcare, agriculture, education, and career development for Afghans. In addition to building three hospitals, Weigh Bridges, internal roads in Jalalabad, communication and electrical systems, Pakistan has set up health services in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, Pakistan has contributed to the construction of hospitals, schools, bridges, and highways. In Afghanistan’s mining, agricultural, and telecommunications industries, Pakistani companies have made investments. The establishment of the Chaman-Spin Boldak border crossing is among Pakistan’s most significant contributions to Afghanistan’s economic growth. One of the busiest border crossings in the area, it links the Pakistani city of Chaman with the Afghan town of Spin Boldak. The border crossing is an important conduit for trade between the two nations and has contributed to economic progress in both states.
Health-related assistance from Pakistan has also been provided to Afghanistan. Individuals from Afghanistan have received medical care at Pakistan’s clinics and hospitals. At times of need, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Pakistan has also dispatched medical personnel to Afghanistan.
Probability for Stability and Peace
To improve security cooperation with Afghanistan, Pakistan has taken several measures. Pakistan’s foreign policy places high importance on forging close cooperation ties with Afghanistan, which are essential to realizing our goal of a “peaceful neighborhood.” Although there are many obstacles to be overcome, the prospects for peace and stability in the area remain positive. The Taliban insurgency continues to be a significant cause of violence and unrest in Afghanistan, and the group’s ongoing attacks endanger both peace negotiations and overall stability of the area. A peaceful relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan has enormous potential advantages for both nations as well as the whole region.
Involvement of other parties like Iran and India presents another barrier to the peace process. Both nations have a stake in the regime and have participated in several efforts to undermine Pakistan and Afghanistan. The two nations must cooperate to combat these foreign dangers and advance regional security.
There are still many complexities in Pak-Afghan relations, and recent years have seen tensions and conflicts. Tensions between the two nations have been exacerbated by the continuous war in Afghanistan, the emergence of the Taliban, and the danger of terrorism. However, in pursuit of Pakistan unyielding efforts to maintain regional stability, several rounds of negotiations for peace between the Taliban and the Afghan government also took place in Pakistan.
The governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan have resolved to take regional and bilateral steps to create conditions that support rehabilitation and a peaceful return through a legitimate registration phase. Using this method, both nations found areas where they could earn reasonable and safe returns. The Afghan government and the international community have a responsibility to ensure the peaceful and secure return of Afghan refugees to their country. Even as Pakistan received appreciation from the world community for showing compassion towards Afghan refugees, Pakistan has contributed its fair part to helping the Afghan people, and now the responsibility of resettlement of Afghan refugees in their homeland lies with the Taliban Government as an envision of their gratitude towards Pakistan’s hospitality.
The author has done MS in Strategic Studies from Air University Islamabad and currently teaching as visiting faculty in International Islamic University Islamabad. She writes on South Asian security and strategic issues.