July 21, 2008

Private TV Mulls Pakistan’s Influence Over Afghanistan

Afghan private Ariana TV aired the Haqiqat (The Truth) feature on 20 July to analyse the tense relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, Pakistan's tendency to expand its influence over Afghanistan and the impact of the recent suspension of scheduled meetings between Afghan and Pakistani officials.

The presenter began the feature by saying that Pakistan, in direct cooperation with Britain, was trying to assert its absolute dominance over Afghanistan or at least in the Pashtun areas. He argued that disagreements between the USA and Britain had affected the Afghan government's policy towards Pakistan and prevented Afghanistan from taking tough action in this field. Although some observers believed Pakistan was doing this to legitimize the Durand Line, some others emphasized that the country was even interested in gaining more authority beyond the line. The presenter then listed Pakistan's likes and dislikes in this sphere: First, it does not approve of close relations between Kabul and New Delhi. Second, it intends to use the huge resources in Afghanistan freely. Third, it likes to ensure comfortable business relations with Central Asia via Afghanistan. Fourth, it is trying to immensely benefit from the poppy growing and drug production. Fifth, it covets the chance to sell its low-quality products in the Afghan market.

Talking on the subject, Dr Mohammad Osman Rosta Taraki, a political observer, stated that Pakistan was worried about the Afghan side from different aspects, among them "a new strategy after the Bonn Agreement that made Afghanistan closer to India and its interests. In addition, Pakistan is concerned that the Pashtuns may gain more power in Afghanistan and raise the issue of the Durand Line more seriously. It is also anxious about Afghanistan's division, because if this happens, it will automatically help divide Pakistan into separate parts. Not to mention that it is worried that Afghanistan may use its land for transit purposes with Central Asia."

Pakistan quickly switched sides after the Taleban's downfall, the presenter said, adding that Pakistan would never approve of the establishment of the Interim Administration, the parliamentary and presidential elections and the government's growing relations at the international level. To that end, Pakistan used its most powerful lever, economy, transit and dumping system, against Afghanistan, restricted Afghan imports and exports and instead exported Afghan high-quality handicrafts to international markets in its own name.

Political Science Prof Wadir Safi asserted that the suspension of talks with Pakistan would unarguably have "a disastrous economic effect" on Afghanistan because most of the basic needs were imported from Pakistan and the government was incapable of reviving business relations with Central Asia and Bandar Abbas - the latter is still restricted due to unfriendly ties between Iran and the United States.

The presenter then focused on the regrouping of insurgents and terrorists thanks to the Pakistan's support, particularly in those areas where it had marked influence. He continued that the Pakistani intelligence service, in collaboration with Britain, managed to revive the overwhelmed Taleban and Arab terrorists as strong proxy on the two sides of the border.

Mr Azhar, another political science professor, accentuated that the tribal areas were directly affected by the Pakistani government's policy as it has "influence there by writing off taxes, providing free educational services and not recruiting young men to the army". The professor, however, added that some other countries were also involved in the "divide-and-rule" policy to benefit from the situation and use the tribal areas and Pakistani Islamic movements for their own purposes.

Pakistan was not convinced yet, the presenter claimed, arguing that infiltrating the Afghan government with its spies had been very useful to its foreign strategy as these "spies, by giving all the government's classified information to the ISI, have provided the act of influence and sabotage for Pakistan. Organizing repeated suicide attacks in different areas and during critical situations would never have been possible without the cooperation of the fifth column." The presenter blamed the incapability of and a lack of coordination among the presidential office, the security departments and judicial systems for the problem. Wadir Safi voiced deep concern over this "countrywide" spy influence.

The presenter described the government's threats against Pakistan as "funny", adding that the suspension of negotiations with Pakistan on a temporary basis had also worsened the already strained relations between the two countries.

Afghan observer Homayun Shah Asefi was sure Pakistan would continue pursuing its "hostile" policy towards the Afghan government, but since the government was simply unable to fight Pakistan, it should seek help from the international community in this sphere. "We hope the government will set up a long-term, realistic policy towards such important issues," he said.

On the other hand, Afghan government official and journalist Asef Nang, stressed the government used to pursue its policy on the basis of optimism, flexibility, tolerance and lenience, but it proved ineffective. He continued: "Now our decision is to separate the issue of the Pakistani people from the government and military departments and deal with the latter [independently and seriously]. We have good relations with the people of Pakistan and we want these relations to remain good in all fields." He warned of tough action against the Pakistani civil government if it continued backing military departments and the intelligence service. Among other things, he accentuated that tension was not in the interest of Pakistan or any other country, but "Afghanistan has the duty to retaliate if necessary."

The presenter stated that the major, underlying factor behind most of the aforementioned problems was a lack of effective coordination between the activities of the Afghan government and the international community, the United Nations and NATO in tackling terrorism being nourished and sheltered in Pakistan. This came at a time when NATO soldiers were also involved in civilian casualties in Afghanistan and there was no powerful organ to bring them back to the right path and prevent them from committing such "inhumane acts". This was also because the Afghan government did not enjoy autonomy, the presenter articulated.

Dr Taraki recalled that the Bonn Agreement was a "unilateral agreement" that eventually compromised the country's national sovereignty, not to mention that the presence of over 30 countries, with their certain interests, policies and needs, obviously took away the autonomy of the governments established following the Bonn Agreement.

Summing up, the presenter reiterated that the problem did not only stem from activities of the Pakistani intelligence service as Afghanistan had been dealing with the USA, Britain, Iran, Russia and India. This changed some of the Afghan officials into mere "stooges" and betrayers in the political scene.

Originally published by Ariana TV, Kabul, in Dari 1700 20 Jul 08.

(c) 2008 BBC Monitoring South Asia. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.