It is said when USSR attacked Afghanistan, Bacha Khan (a red-shirt leader) had said “If I meet Brezhnev, I will try to persuade him about the psychology of my nation (Afghans) that if you force us to go to Heaven we will refuse, but with love and sweet words we are ready to go to hell. So I am going to give Brezhnev only one piece of advice: The same amount you are spending on the Afghan war, if invested in construction of the same country, even the coming generations of Afghans, out of respect, will honour you like a master.” However, no such meeting took place, and the USSR continued to spend on the war, ending in the destruction of both Afghanistan and the USSR.
Afghanistan and the adjacent areas of Pakistan are not hosts to the ‘New Great Game,’ rather they may be called the playground of international Buzkashi. Buzkashi (Afghanistan’s national game) is more or less like football, with the exception that players of both teams compete while sitting on horses and use a headless goat carcass instead of a ball. Afghanistan and Pakistan’s border areas suffer the same fate in this international Buzkashi as the goat’s body does in the real game. In this Buzkashi there are several master players: Russia, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, India, UK, Germany and Turkey etc. However, the captains of the two rival teams are the US and Pakistan. If these two captains gave ear to Bacha Khan’s advice, every player involved could benefit.
For instance, if the US adopts a policy based on Bacha Khan’s views, neither Afghanistan nor the US would have had to suffer such violence. If the US extends its defence expenditures to Afghanistan for welfare of the country, its objectives could be achieved in a shorter time. However, if the US insists on its present policy and tries to pressurise Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries, it will fail to achieve its objectives.
Since the past five decades there is an interesting but sad similarity between Pakistan’s policy towards Afghanistan and the US’ policy towards Pakistan. The largest chunk of financial aid for Pakistan comes from the US; they, however, insist on interfering in our internal affairs as well. The same is true for Pakistan; its sacrifices and efforts for Afghanistan are matchless, but Pakistan never refrains from interfering in Afghanistan’s internal affairs. Just as the US harvests nothing but popular disapproval in Pakistan, in the same way the majority of Afghans hate Pakistan.
The US heavily invested in rightist forces and the military in Pakistan but today faces the same groups as challengers. In Afghanistan each group that was once patronised by Pakistan is a cause of much grief for the country now.
There is one advice for Pakistan: In policy matters about Afghanistan, instead of the US model, follow the Chinese prototype. If we compare financial aid provided by China for Pakistan, it is far less from that given by the US. However, China follows a policy of non-intervention in Pakistan’s affairs and is not hypocritical in mutual transactions and dealings. No matter who is ruling Pakistan, China has kept its friendship on the same level with the people and government of Pakistan. The result is strong relations and a safe China. Pakistan has remained close to the US, but Pakistani land has never been used against China.
Pakistan has to follow China’s model, and let Afghans tackle their internal affairs themselves. It is up to the Afghans who they wish to see in the president house: Taliban, Hamid Karzai or anyone else. It is again their choice and decision whether they appeal to the US or Russia, or maintain relations with India or China. We have to concentrate on our own valid national interests and protect our borders. All we have to ensure is that there must not be any interference from Pakistan’s side into Afghanistan and from Afghanistan into Pakistan. This policy seems to be the last option left to us. We achieved nothing by following the US model and trying to protect our national interests through interventions during the last sixty years. What if we follow the Chinese model of non-interference to achieve our objectives?
By: Saleem Safi