Pakistan’s post 9/11 Crisis Management

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Air Commodore (R) Khalid Iqbal[1]


(9/11 came as a surprise to Pakistan. Within the international community, there was a perception that Pakistan should play a constructive role to convince the Afghan government to meet the American demand of handing over the nominated fugitives. Pakistan made hectic efforts but the Afghan government chose the path of defiance. The best post 9/11 option for Pakistan would have been to stay neutral in the conflict, just host the refugees and let Americans do the anti-terrorist operations. However, the first spanner in the way of this option came from India. Within hours of these attacks, India offered the Americans its military bases, proposed to share intelligence and conduct joint operations against the terrorists, who according to India were operating from Pakistan’s tribal areas. Given the pressures, the initial decision to side with America was logical and correct, however soon after there should have been a course correction to secure the best bargain; such a correction did not come. Pakistan’s crisis management in the context of Afghanistan has been a blend of pragmatism and realism. Things are moving at a fast pace, and Pakistan has to keep up in order to remain a relevant player. – Author)

Flash Back

9/11 came as a surprise to Pakistan as indeed to the entire world. The attacks were denounced by governments and mass media worldwide. Across the globe, nations offered pro-America support and solidarity.[i] Leaders in most Middle Eastern countries, Pakistan and Afghanistan also condemned the attacks.[ii] However, it brought numerous unique challenges for Pakistan in the realm of statecraft[iii]: both in the context of interstate and intrastate. To carry out 9/11 attacks, four American passenger airliners were hijacked by 19 hijackers of Middle East origin; the rest is history. None of the planes or hijackers were from Pakistan, India or Afghanistan. The incident had occurred at continental distances from the region. Within hours after the September 11 attacks, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld speculated on possible involvement of Saddam Hussein and ordered his aides to make plans for striking Iraq[iv]. Soon after the event, finger pointing towards Afghanistan added to the worries of Pakistan. Though the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was not directly blamed at state or government level for its involvement, its territory was used by the perpetrators of the crime.  The international community expected the incumbent Afghan government to apprehend and hand over the culprits to America for trial. Afghanistan instead wanted the trial to take place at a neutral venue. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE were the only three countries of the world that had extended diplomatic recognition to the Taliban led government of Afghanistan. Soon after 9/11, Saudi Arabia and the UAE withdrew their recognition, and Pakistan became the only window through which the international community could reach out to the Afghan government. Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan, Mullah Zaeef, became the contact point between his country and the world.

Within the international community, there was a perception that Pakistan had propelled the Taliban to power and that Pakistan had ample leverage over the Afghan government of that time. Hence, the international community expected Pakistan to play a constructive role to convince the Afghan government to meet the American demand of handing over the nominated fugitives. Pakistan made hectic efforts to convince the Afghan government, a high profile delegation of religious scholars was also sent to Kabul to meet Mullah Omar and persuade him. However, good sense did not prevail and the Afghan government chose the path of defiance[v]. The UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1368,[vi] which condemned the attacks, and expressed readiness to take all necessary steps to respond and combat all forms of terrorism in accordance with the UN Charter.

On the military front, the NATO council declared that the attacks on the United States were an attack on all NATO nations which satisfied Article 5 of the NATO charter. This marked the first invocation of Article 5, which had been written during the Cold War with an attack by the Soviet Union in mind. Australian Prime Minister John Howard who was in Washington DC during the attacks invoked Article IV of the ANZUS treaty. The Bush administration announced a War on Terror, with the stated goals of bringing Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda to justice and preventing the emergence of other terrorist networks. ‘Coalition of the Willing’ began to evolve at a rapid pace as dozens of countries joined the bandwagon.  War drums could be heard loud and clear. Tens of thousands of people attempted to flee Afghanistan following the attacks, fearing a response by the United States. Pakistan, already home to a large number of Afghan refugees from previous conflicts, announced that it would close its border with Afghanistan on September 17, 2001; however it could not stop the influx of refugees[vii].

On September 14, 2001, the US Congress passed the ‘Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists’ and granted the President blanket authority to use all “necessary and appropriate force” against those whom he determined “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the September 11 attacks, or who harboured said persons or groups.

Approximately one month after the terrorist attacks, the United States led a broad coalition of international forces to overthrow the Taliban regime from Afghanistan for their harbouring of al-Qaeda. On October 7, 2001, the War in Afghanistan began when the US and British forces initiated aerial bombing campaigns targeting Taliban and al-Qaeda camps, then later invaded Afghanistan with ground troops of the Special Forces.

Pakistan aligned itself with the United States against the Taliban; it permitted the coalition access to its military bases, and arrested and handed over to the US over 600 suspected al-Qaeda members. In December 2001, a number of prominent Afghans met under the United Nations auspices in Bonn, Germany to decide on a plan for governing the country. As a result, the Afghan Interim Administration (AIA) – made up of 30 members, headed by a chairman – was inaugurated on December 22, 2001, with a six-month mandate to be followed by a two-year Afghan Transitional Administration (ATA), after which elections were to be held. On the same day the Security Council authorized the establishment for six months of an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan to assist the Afghan Interim Authority in the maintenance of security in Kabul and its surrounding areas. Mr Hamid Karzai, after being chosen by the delegates of the Bonn Conference in December 2001, became head of an interim government. Hamid Karzai was elected as President in 2004 and then re-elected in 2009. The next presidential elections are scheduled on April 5, 2014. Due to the restriction imposed by the Afghan constitution, Karzai cannot contest for the third term. While supporters have praised Karzai’s efforts to promote national reconciliation and a growing economy, critics charge him with failing to stem corruption and drug trade, and the slow pace of reconstruction and reconciliation.

Spill over of the Conflict

When the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan ceased to exist as a state, its militant elements melted into civil society and started escaping into the nearest countries.  In the same timeframe, the Indian parliament was attacked on December 13, 2001; India accused Pakistan of this incident and massed its forces on its international border with Pakistan in a threatening posture[viii]. This diverted Pakistan’s attention from its western borders as all military assets had to be deployed on the eastern border to thwart any misadventure from the Indian side. This made Pakistan’s border areas with Afghanistan as the first choice for militants who were escaping from the mopping up operations of ISAF. Hardened militants and high value targets easily slipped into the tribal areas of Pakistan and disappeared in the country. Slowly they began to reorganize, reconstitute, and network. Outlawed sectarian and separatist entities as well as criminal gangs found it safe to associate with the Taliban. Over the years it became a potent force that was able to challenge the writ of law enforcement agencies, hit hard and soft targets and generate a sense of perpetual insecurity throughout the country.

Rationale for Pakistan’s Initial Decision

The best post 9/11 option for Pakistan would have been to stay neutral in the conflict, host the refugees and let the Americans do the anti-terrorist operations. However, the first spanner in the way of this option came from India. India offered the Americans its military bases, proposed to share intelligence and conduct joint operations against the terrorists[ix].  India declared that they knew where the terrorists were located in Pakistan’s FATA area who were not only responsible for hitting the Americans but who also routinely attacked Indian Territory. It was pretty sure that America would strike Afghanistan, for which they required land access to Afghanistan. There were only two such viable routes: one through Iran and the other through Pakistan. Iran could deny its route and get away with. If Pakistan did so, the Indians would prompt the Americans to march through Pakistan forcibly. Threats from the American side to Pakistan were quite potent. Richard Armitage spoke of bombing Pakistan to ‘Stone Age’; and there was an over arching American rhetoric: “Either you are with us or against us”. President Musharraf recalls that he mentally war-gamed against America and concluded that Pakistan would lose, and hence decided to jump into the bandwagon of international coalition by allowing the Americans ‘logistics facilities’[x]. During this crisis, Pakistan’s bargain skills were poor as compared with the ones on the eve of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Pakistan tried to get its foreign loans totalling US$ 8 billion rescheduled but was able to get relief of only US$1-2 billion. The second relief was to keep India off Pakistan’s back; Americans faithfully did that. Given the pressures, the initial decision to side with America was logical and correct, however soon after there should have been a course correction to secure the best bargain. Such a correction did not come[xi].

Fast Forward

Twelve years on, the conflict in Afghanistan between the Taliban insurgent groups and ISAF/NATO is still ongoing. Pakistan continues to be embroiled in the crisis situation, which is not of its making. Taliban are still a formidable military and political force to reckon with. Initiative of resolving the Afghan conflict has quietly passed into the hands of Taliban. They effectively rule the major chunk of rural Afghanistan, appoint shadow governors, and administer justice through their courts. During the night they are the effective rulers of most parts of Afghanistan barring a few urban pockets. Despite heavy investment and tall claims, the Afghan National Security Forces are no match to the insurgents. Going in full circle, the international community expects Pakistan to influence the Taliban for a negotiated settlement. Pakistan is striving hard to bridge the perceptional gaps between America and the Taliban on one hand and the Taliban and Afghanistan on the other. A task easier said than done.[xii]

The Pak-Afghan summit of August 26-27, 2013 had many interesting features. Before leaving Kabul for Islamabad, President Karzai had said that it would be his 20th visit to Pakistan, and that the earlier 19 had not yielded any results[xiii]. The Afghan President visited Pakistan on the special invitation of Prime Minster Nawaz Sharif. President Karzai came at a time when Afghanistan is undergoing important political and security transitions whose outcome are uncertain, but have serious implications for Pakistan. The draw-down of foreign forces is due to complete by December 2014; however, the key issue of the number and role of residual military forces remains unsettled. There are many question marks with respect to the credibility and acceptability of the forthcoming presidential elections. The sham elections of 2009 are still fresh in the Afghan public memory. In his Eid message, Mullah Omar had said: “As to the deceiving drama under the name of elections 2014, our pious people will not tire themselves out, nor will they participate in it.” He said selection in the polls, “de facto, takes place in Washington”. On the other hand, opposition political parties are contemplating to field a joint presidential candidate to face Karzai’s nominee.

Notwithstanding these uncertainties, consultations during the summit were wide ranging. Though differences on immediate security related concerns were obvious, there was consensus on moving ahead on long term strategic issues like connectivity, trade and economy. The leadership of the two countries was presumably looking at Afghanistan and the region in the context of beyond 2014. Talks focused on security and related issues of common interest as well as on common challenges and the huge potential opportunities available to both countries. Pakistan and Afghanistan also signed an agreement to boost the volume of trade and strengthen their economic relationship.

During his interaction with the media, President Karzai said he had “primarily and with emphasis” asked the Pakistanis to help with reconciliation after the majority of foreign troops leave Afghanistan next year.  He added: “We are advancing the cause of brotherhood between the two countries…For the two countries, the primary concern is lack of security for their citizens and the continued menace of terrorism…It is this area that needs to have primary and focused attention from both governments”. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif responded: “I reaffirmed Pakistan’s strong and sincere support for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. We fully agreed that this process has to be inclusive, Afghan-owned and Afghan-led…I assured President Karzai that Pakistan will continue to extend all possible facilitation to the international community’s efforts for the realization of this noble goal.”[xiv]

President Karzai expected Pakistan to provide opportunities or a platform for talks between the Afghan High Peace Council and the Taliban. “We hope with this we can move forward in bringing stability and peace to both countries,” he said.  But there are question marks over what Pakistan can deliver. The Taliban have publicly refused to have any contact with Karzai’s government, branding it a puppet of the United States. Analysts say that Pakistan can facilitate Taliban peace talks and help with logistics, but does not have the leverage to compel them to the negotiating table against their will.[xv]

President Karzai also wanted the release of all Afghan prisoners who are not facing criminal charges in Pakistan. Pakistan has already freed 26 Afghan Taliban leaders including former ministers and governors since the process started in November 2012. The Afghan government’s peace negotiators, who accompanied Karzai, called for the release of Abdul Ghani Baradar; there has been no breakthrough on the issue. Reportedly, at this stage Mullah Baradar is also not keen to go to Afghanistan. Afghan officials believe that prisoner releases can encourage the former detainees to talk to the Kabul government, although there is little evidence that such hopes have been realised. Several already released prisoners have returned to the battlefield[xvi].

Pakistan had made considerable effort to assemble the parties involved in the conflict at Doha for talks; President Karzai blew it up out of sheer emotionalism. Now Kabul is again turning back to Pakistan to get access to the Taliban leadership. It wants its own channel to the insurgents, independent from the US. Afghan attempts to go through Pakistan are not new. However, other similar moves have been unsuccessful in the end due to the limited influence Pakistan has over the Taliban. On the prospects of the derailed Doha process and likely venue of future peace talks with the Taliban, the former Afghan ambassador to Islamabad Mr Daudzai had quipped: “Location is not important, what is important is Pakistan’s active participation in the dialogue process.” Pakistan’s facilitation and cooperation in this context are vital, he added[xvii].

Pakistan’s Diplomatic Efforts

Pakistan has been in a perpetual state of diplomatic campaign to ward off the negative image that Pakistan has attracted following the event of 9/11. The origin of some of the high profile incidents of terrorism in the US and Europe were traced back to tribal areas of Pakistan, though most of those involved in such incidents were raised and brought up in the West. It was not fair to shift the entire blame of some of the events on to Pakistan. But the international opinion had swayed against Pakistan. Anyone could accuse Pakistan on terrorism related matters and get away with it. During these trying times, Pakistan constructively engaged the international community through various forums and became a part of the solutions envisaged by the international community to combat terrorism. Pakistan is in compliance with all UN resolutions pertaining to countering terrorism. Pakistan has constructively contributed towards various international forums, which are trying to resolve the Afghan issue. These include: Bonn conferences, Istanbul and Ankara processes, Heart of Asia, Tokyo conference and a number of bilateral, trilateral and quadrilateral arrangements.

Pakistan has always advocated for Afghan led and Afghan owned processes of national reconciliation and integration[xviii]—though it is questionable whether a country under occupation of foreign forces could really lead the way in this context. The international community believes that Pakistan has a central role to play in the resolution of the Afghan conflict. With the failure of military instrument as the only tool for managing the crisis, diplomatic efforts have again occupied the centre stage. One of the major concerns of Pakistan is to protect its national interest vis-à-vis Indian efforts towards influence in Afghanistan. India has invested heavily in infrastructural projects in Afghanistan (around US$ 8 billion) and is of the view that by doing so it has acquired the right to become a major player in deciding the destiny of post 2014 Afghanistan. Indian diplomatic presence all along the Pak-Afghan border exceeds the legitimate consular requirements. These undercover entities have been instrumental in fermenting unrest in FATA and Baluchistan.   Pakistan’s prime Minister had handed over a dossier to his Indian counterpart during Sharm-al-Sheikh NAM summit in July 2009[xix]. Pakistan’s foreign office has been instrumental in steering the country out of troubled waters since the beginning of the conflict and during various bouts of anti Pakistan frenzy.

Military Dimension

Pakistan military’s primary role would have been to prevent the influx of hardened fighters fleeing from their chase by the invading forces; it was embroiled into another demanding contingency. In a dramatic development, the Indian parliament was attacked by five persons allegedly associated with the struggle for the right of self determination of Kashmiri people[xx].  All five attackers were killed by security personnel within minutes of the attack. India used this as a pretext and deployed its forces on its international border with Pakistan in an aggressive posture. This forced Pakistan to divert its military and intelligence resources towards the Indian border, where they remained deployed for nearly one year. The western border was left unguarded; whereby there were no arrangements to check and stop the inflow of extremist fighters. These incoming militants melted into the tribal people as they had similar physical features and could speak the local dialect in a non-conspicuous way. Soon they began to reorganise, reconstitute and regroup. Their activities initially remained restricted to crossing back and forth from Afghanistan and occasional low scale terrorist activities in Pakistan. In the meanwhile, they were able to place their sleeping cells at important urban locations. The first manifestation of their power was the defiant mood of women students of Lal Masjid of Islamabad. The operation to evict militants from the Lal Masjid in July 2007 was a watershed.

This exposed to the public and outside world the weakness of the security apparatus and division within the political leadership regarding the options for tackling militancy.[xxi] It was also a turning point in relation to tempo and tenor of terrorist activities. These were no longer confined only to a handful of foreign intruders. Their local collaborators were now well trained, motivated and networked to participate in never ending terrorist activities.  Their activities were no longer runaway attacks or cowardly ambushes or erratically thrown explosives. They were now well organized attacks aimed at fighting their way to targets and destroying them. High profile attacks on the Sri Lankan cricket team, the GHQ, Merhran Naval base, Kamra air base, military convoys, investigation centres and offices of law enforcement and intelligence agencies created a feeling of perpetual insecurity. Suicide bombers occupied the centre stage. It appeared as if nothing was safe. These circumstances led towards a national consensus to use hard force to tackle terrorist outfits.

Operation Rah-e-Rast[xxii]. The Second Battle for Swat, also known as Operation Rah-e-Rast, began in May 2009 and involved the Pakistani Army, Air Force and Taliban militants in a fight for control of the Swat district. Earlier, the first Battle of Swat had ended with a peace agreement that the government had signed with the Taliban in February 2009. This agreement was widely criticized in the West. However, by late April 2009 government troops and the Taliban began to clash once again, and in May, 2009 the government launched military operations throughout the district and elsewhere to evict the Taliban. This resulted in displacement of around 2.2 million persons. The operation was a success. By August 22, 1.6 million refugees had returned home, as per the UN estimates. A majority of the key Taliban leaders had been captured and the militants were evicted from the area. This was followed by massive deradicalization and rehabilitation programmes. The Swat operation was a resounding success, it earned international acclaim. However, the army inducted in this operation is stuck to date; mainly due to the inadequacy of the civil administration to resume charge.

Operation Rah-e-Nijat [xxiii]. Rah-e-Nijat or Path to Salvation was a strategic military operation by the armed forces of Pakistan (mainly army and air force) against the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and their extremist allies in South Waziristan, FATA. Pakistan was now taking the fight to the TTP Chief Baitullah Mehsud’s mountainous stronghold lodging an estimated 20,000 men. After a three-month blockade of South Waziristan and intermittent skirmishes with militants, Pakistani military announced on October 2, 2009, that it would begin a large-scale operation to wipe out Taliban and Al Qaeda militants in the area. A meeting, which was attended by the top civilian and military leadership, gave the go-ahead to launch a military operation in South Waziristan to eliminate terrorism and extremism on October 16, 2009.  A major land-air offensive was launched on October 17.

By December 12, 2009, the operation was over and the Army retook the whole of South Waziristan. 594 Taliban militants and 80 Pakistani soldiers were killed during the ground offensive. Another 243 soldiers were wounded and 83 militants were arrested. However, none of the top Taliban leaders were killed or captured in the operation. At various stages of these operations, Pakistan’s military had requested their ISAF/NATO counterparts to increase their border posts along the Durand line so that they could stop the exodus of fleeing militants into Afghanistan[xxiv]. However, instead of facilitation, NATO/ISAF reduced their number of already deployed border posts, thus making it easy for the top leadership of Taliban to flee into Afghanistan and enabling combat tiers to make trips to Afghanistan for rest, rearming and rejoining the combat. The operation was aimed to finish the senior Taliban leadership and bring the lawless areas back to government control; the Taliban leadership escaped to Afghanistan while areas came back under the Pakistan government’s control. According to Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) press release, dated October 20, 2009, 11,080 families (80,000 individuals) had registered themselves with the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in Tank and Dera Ismail Khan districts before the start of the operation on October 17, while 4,477 families (41,289 individuals) had registered after the commencement of the operation. These displaced persons returned to their homes after the operation was over. Once again, like Swat, the political process failed to take charge and the army that entered South Waziristan has not been able to move out.

North Waziristan Dilemma. Pakistan has faced tremendous pressure to launch an offensive in North Waziristan. This area houses over 10,000 battle hardened militants of local and foreign origin. Having realized that the armed forces have not been able to extricate from any of the earlier operations, the military command concluded that any new military operation would be an over reach.[xxv]

Humble Pie: Abbottabad and Salalah Attacks. America launched two unilateral military attacks inside Pakistan, which brought embarrassment to the armed forces and political leadership. The attack and post attack handling of the extraction of Osama Bin Laden from a compound in Abbottabad on the night of May 1-2, 2011 was clumsy from military, diplomatic and political perspectives. It was indeed a strategic fiasco and a leadership failure. The military was in a quandary. Acknowledgment or denial of prior knowledge about Osama’s presence in Pakistan was equally embarrassing[xxvi].

Likewise, inaction in the case of the Salalah attack was an embarrassment.  The attack took place on two Pakistan Army check-posts along the Pak-Afghan border, codenamed “Boulder” and “Volcano”. Commonly known in Pakistan as the Salalah incident or Salalah attack, this occurred when the US-led NATO forces engaged Pakistani security forces at these check posts on November 26, 2011. Two NATO Apache helicopters, one AC-130 gunship and two F-15E Eagle fighter jets entered by varying estimates as little as 200 meters to up to 2.5 kilometres  into the Pakistani border area at 2 AM local time, from Afghanistan and opened fire at two border posts, killing  24 Pakistani soldiers and wounding another 13.[xxvii]

These two premeditated attacks resulted in a sharp deterioration of relations between Pakistan and the United States. On the domestic level, it raised many questions about the capability and capacity of the armed forces to defend the country. Pakistani public reacted with protests all over the country. The Pakistani government asked for an apology from the US on the Salalah incident, America refused. With this standoff, embarrassment could only be offset through a bold anti-America stance.

Closure of NATO Supply and Eviction from Shamsi Air Base. The government of Pakistan reacted by asking the US to vacate Shamsi Airfield and closed the NATO supply line. The Americans continued to use the air corridor for supplies. Vacating Shamsi base was comparatively inconsequential, but stopping the trucks hit American vulnerability.  It had no alternative arrangements to supply liquid fuels to its troops in Afghanistan. The restriction started to bite as the 100 days reserve started to deplete. US policy makers tried to find alternative routes through Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan (termed as the “Northern Distribution Network”), however, huge costs are associated with the Central Asian supply lines.[xxviii] According to figures released by the Pentagon in January 2012, the United States was paying six times more to send supplies to troops in Afghanistan via alternative supply routes following the closure of Pakistani routes. The figures placed the new US costs at $104 million per month, roughly $87 million costlier per month than when the cargo was transported via Pakistan. Pakistan withstood intense diplomatic pressure and decided to reopen the supply lines only after US Secretary of State apologized on July 3, 2012 for the Salalah incident via a telephone call to the Pakistani Foreign Minister[xxix].

Drones. The gap between Pakistan’s state policy and public aspirations in the context of drone attacks is quite wide. According to the London-based ‘Bureau of Investigative Journalism’, between 2,627 to 3,457 people have reportedly been killed by US drones in Pakistan since 2004, including 475 to 900 civilians. Conflicting narratives about whether drones are being employed with the tacit understanding of the Pakistani government have tarnished its image in the eyes of its own public. Recent acknowledgement by former President Musharraf that he had allowed limited use of drones has added credence to American narrative that Pakistan’s government has been on board on this issue[xxx]. During his recent visit to Pakistan on July 31, 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke on the drones’ issue[xxxi]. He said that President (Obama) has a very real timeline and we hope it’s going to be very, very soon.” However, back home, US officials immediately sought to downplay Kerry’s remarks. The US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that the number of drone strikes had declined owing to the drawdown of American troops from Afghanistan and because of progress in curtailing the Al Qaeda threat. “Today the Secretary referenced the changes that we expect to take place in that programme over the course of time, but there is no exact timeline to provide,” she stated. On the other side, when asked whether Pakistan wanted the United States to curtail the strikes, foreign affairs adviser, Mr Sartaj Aziz, said, “We are asking them to stop it, not just curtail it.” The issue figured in Premier Nawaz’s speech at the 68th ministerial session of the UN General Assembly[xxxii].

As a matter of policy, America is scaling back the weapon launching usage of drones the world over, while expanding their surveillance role. According to the data compiled by the New America Foundation, US drone strikes in Pakistan have fallen significantly over the past 2 1/2 years, totalling 20 so far this year, versus 48 in all of 2012 and 73 in 2011. However, the issue stands politicised in Pakistan. The Federal and the KPK governments came to power with a baggage that their anti-drone attacks frenzy was a main support rallying point during their electoral campaigns. Though the federal government had adopted a conciliatory approach towards the issue, the KPK government has suspended the passage of ISAF/NATO supplies through KPK till drone attacks are stopped.

To resolve the impasse, US secretary of State visited Pakistan on December 09, 2013. During his meeting with the Prime Minister, Secretary Hagel raised the importance of keeping the ground supply routes out of Afghanistan open. The Prime Minister conveyed his deep concern over continuing American drone strikes in the country’s tribal regions, stressing that drone strikes were counter-productive to Pakistan’s efforts to combat terrorism and extremism on an enduring basis[xxxiii].

On the heels of the Prime Minister’s meeting with the US Defence Secretary, the National Assembly of Pakistan passed yet another unanimous resolution against US drone attacks, demanding an immediate halt to drone attacks on Pakistani territory. The resolution strongly condemned these attacks, saying these constitute violation of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, international laws and humanitarian norms[xxxiv].

Economic Dimension

Afghanistan has serious economic issues at hand.[xxxv] Being a landlocked country it is dependent on Pakistan and Iran for its access to the world. War economy dominates the country; informal sector thrives on timber and drug money; security contractors, mainly Taliban elements, employed by the warlords to protect NATO/ISAF convoys siphon off US$ 500 to 700 million per annum, with no benefit passed on to either the government or common people. There is no foreseeable way of transitioning from war into a normal economy. The Tokyo Declaration pledged US$ 16 billion spread over four years, ending in 2015, which is quite inadequate. This offer is also preconditioned. Accompanying the declaration is an annexure titled “Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework,” which lists 15 commitments the Afghan government needs to meet during the next two years.[xxxvi] These include free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections in 2014 and 2015, human rights goals, implementation of a law to punish violence against women, etc. These conditions reflect international donors’ frustrations with the poor quality of Afghan governance, planning, management, and inability to operate in high-risk areas[xxxvii]. As per ‘Transparency International’, Afghanistan’s public sector ranks as the third most corrupt in the world. Operational and maintenance cost of the Afghan National Army and police is likely to be between US$ 3-4 billion per annum, for which donors are yet to be roped in. The pledged economic aid fell far short of the average $10 billion a year that Afghanistan had requested at the Bonn II Conference. A long term Afghan request for $120 billion through 2020 was also not addressed, leaving further discussions for a follow up conference, in London, in 2014.[xxxviii]

Despite its own economic difficulties Pakistan has been making an all out effort to ease the difficulties of the Afghan government and people. During the Islamabad summit in August 26-27, 2013, beside security related negotiations, finance ministers of Pakistan and Afghanistan held comprehensive discussions aimed at pursuing various economic and connectivity projects.[xxxix] Later, on the invitation of President Karzai, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited Afghanistan on December 01, 2013.[xl]

Some of the agreed projects are: rail projects including the establishment of new rail links to connect Torkham with Jalalabad as well as Chaman to Spin Boldak; initiation of highway projects; early implementation of CASA 1000 and TAPI energy projects; and development of a joint hydel power project on the Kunar River, the project will produce 1500 MW electricity to be shared by the two countries[xli]. All connectivity related projects present win-win opportunities to both countries and the region. All these projects shall be a source of revenue for the Afghan government in the form of either commodity trade or transit fee. Pakistan and Afghanistan will pursue with the World Bank the early finalization of a 170 KM Torkham-Jalalabad new rail link connecting Peshawar with Jalalabad. The two countries are also working on a 11.5 KM Chaman-Spin Boldak rail link that will ultimately connect Chaman with Kandahar[xlii].

In addition, both sides agreed to the early and full implementation of the Afghanistan- Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA). The two countries had signed this agreement in 2010, which serves as a key instrument for the facilitation of Afghanistan’s access to foreign markets through Pakistani sea-ports and land routes. Both sides are engaged in efforts for optimal utilization of APTTA and its extension to Central Asia. Pakistan’s access to the Central Asian region is dependent on the Afghan government’s ability to provide safe passage through Afghanistan. Pakistan is keen to continue working with Afghanistan in pursuit of connectivity and energy projects linking Pakistan with Central Asia. In this context, discussions are also continuing on extending APTTA to Tajikistan by finalizing the Tripartite Agreement by the three sides.

Formal bilateral trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan has witnessed an impressive growth in recent years and had reached US $2.44 billion in 2012, Pakistan’s exports stood at $2.24 billion, making Afghanistan the third largest destination for Pakistani products. Informal trade almost equals the formal trade. Recognizing the vast untapped potential, the two countries have agreed to expand bilateral trade to US $ 5 billion by 2015. Pakistan is of the view that necessary regulatory measures should be put in place to convert informal trade into formal transactions so that the governments and the people benefit instead of few a individuals[xliii].

To support Afghanistan’s reconstruction and socio-economic development, Pakistan has already provided bilateral assistance worth US $ 330 million in diverse fields including infrastructure, health and education. Pakistan has also offered US $ 20 million for the training of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). Unlike the pattern of international economic aid offered to Afghanistan by the Tokyo Conference, Pakistan’s approach has been to ease the difficulties of the Afghan people, in the immediate timeframe, and without any preconditions. In the medium and short term timeframes Pakistan has been advocating measures and projects focused on generating regular income for the Afghan government so that it could take charge of its economy.

People to People Contact

Hosting of Refugees. Since 1979, Pakistan has been hosting a large number of Afghan refugees; the number of registered refugees has been varying, touching a one-time peak figure of 5.5 million[xliv]. For over three decades, Pakistan has played host to one of the largest refugee populations in the world, despite dwindling international support and in-spite of its own economic difficulties[xlv]. About three million Afghan refugees still live in Pakistan, out of which about 1.6 million are registered. In August 2013, Pakistan signed the Tripartite Agreement along with Afghanistan and UNHCR extending the stay of refugees till December 2015. During their stay in Pakistan, refugees are extended health and education facilities and rules pertaining to their movement from and to the camps have traditionally been lax. The population of Pakistan has generally been hospitable towards refugees. This single act has generated tremendous goodwill for Pakistan amongst Afghan masses.

Border Control and Visa rules: The Durand Line is an open border with easement rules as provided in the Rawalpindi treaty of 1919. Though Pakistan has proposed biometric based control over border crossings, it has not imposed any unilateral restrictions. This has helped in continuous maintenance of people to people contacts, even at the cost of security implications for Pakistan. Keeping in view the land locked status of Afghanistan, Pakistan has traditionally maintained an easy visa regime for the Afghan people.

Education: Provision of educational opportunities to Afghan students has been growing over the years[xlvi]. On June 16, 2012, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan, Mohammad Sadiq, said that Pakistan had offered significant educational opportunities to Afghan students to study in its universities and professional colleges. He expressed these views during a meeting with a delegation of young Afghan journalists. He gave a comprehensive briefing to them about the Pak-Afghan ties in their historical perspective and highlighted the steps taken by Pakistan for the socio-economic uplift of Afghanistan particularly its contribution towards the promotion of education. Currently 7,000 Afghan students are studying in universities and professional colleges of Pakistan. Over 30,000 Afghans have completed their graduation/post-graduation from Pakistan’s institutions and are now playing an active role in reconstruction of their country.[xlvii] Moreover, half a million Afghan refugee children are attending schools in Pakistan.[xlviii]

On March 23, 2013, the government of Pakistan offered 600 additional scholarships for the current academic year for Afghan students to study in different disciplines in prominent educational institutions, professional colleges and universities of Pakistan.[xlix] Pakistan has been offering fully-funded scholarships since 2009 under “the Prime Minister of Pakistan’s 2000 Scholarships Scheme for Afghan Students”. All the expenses of the students including tuition fee, boarding and lodging, travelling to and from Afghanistan are borne by Pakistan. About 1500 Afghan students are already benefiting from this scheme. Keeping in view the vital educational requirements of Afghanistan, Pakistan offers scholarships to Afghan students in the fields of Medicine, Engineering, Information Technology, Business Administration, Agriculture, Economics, Natural Sciences and Teaching[l].

Public Welfare Projects

Pakistan has provided project specific assistance amounting to US$ 330 million in various areas. Some of the educational, health and connectivity related projects completed out of this aid are[li]:-

  • Rahman  Baba School, Kabul
  • Rahman Baba Hostel, Kabul
  • Allama Iqbal Faculty of Humanities, Kabul University
  • Sir Syed Post Graduate Faculty of Sciences, Nangarhar University
  • Liaquat Ali Khan Engineering Faculty, Balkh University
  • Six Primary Schools
  • Nishtar Kidney Centre, Jalalabad
  • Four Hundred  Bed Jinnah Hospital, Kabul
  • Naeb Aminullah Khan Hospital, Logar
  • 2 Vocational Training Institutes in Baghlan and Kabul city
  • 15 deep well hand pump in villages of Kabul province
  • 75 km Torkham –Jalalabad Road
  • Additional Carriage Way at Torkham –Jalalabad Road
  • 3 Internal Roads in Jalalabad
  • Rail Link to connect Chaman and Kandahar (planned)
  • Provision of 30 Mobile Hot Mixers
  • Road Construction Machinery
  • Digital Radio Link between Kabul and Peshawar
  • Television Transmitters for Kandahar
  • Traffic Signals for Jalalabad
  • 28 Generators to Various Provinces
  • Security Equipment
  • 45 Ambulances for 12 Provinces
  • 14 Fully Equipped Mobile Medical Units
  • 200 Trucks
  • 2×200 KVA Generators for Kabul University
  • 100 Public Transport Buses
  • 10 Buses to Kabul and University
  • 2 Pickups, 4 Generators and Medicines for Wardak Province
  • 500 Computers for Different Provinces
  • 5 million Religious Text Books of Grade One to Metric
  • 300,000 School Kits for 18 Provinces
  • 3000 School Bags for Kabul, Jalalabad and Kandahar
  • 50,000 Food Packages during the month of Ramadan
  • 50,000 Metric Tone Wheat
  • Medicines for Kabul, Jalalabad and Kandahar
  • 9600 tents for the Internally Displaced People
  • Rehabilitated Kabul Zoo and Deh Mazan Park
  • 100 Afghans Assisted to Perform Hajj
  • A Week Long Free Eye Camp in Jalalabad treated 4818 patients, performed 357 Eye Surgeries and distributed 4126 Eye Glasses
  • A single philanthropic Pakistani organization performed over 30,000 free eye surgeries on Afghan patients in 2008 alone
  • Trained 644 Afghan Police and Drug Control Officers, Doctors and Paramedical Staff, Diplomats, Judicial Officers, Customs Officers, Agriculturists and Bankers

Cultural Bondage. Afghanistan and Pakistan have historic, religious, linguistic and cultural relations.[lii] Affiliation between the artists of the two countries is embedded in common culture, traditions and folklore. Since the struggle against Soviet occupation, Pakistan has become the second homeland for many artists. Several artists came to Pakistan in the 1980s; here their artistic talent grew with the increased opportunities offered by a larger market. Many famous Afghan artists of today rose to fame after they were associated with the state run Pakistan Television and Radio Pakistan. Cultural associations between the two countries cut across ethnic divisions, geographical boundaries and political affiliations.[liii] Afghan singers like Naghma, Mangal, Zar Sanga, Kandi Koochai, Qmamr Gula and others were welcomed by millions of Afghan refugees in Pakistan. They reached their peak of popularity during their stay in Pakistan. Together with their Pakistani counterparts they kept Pushtu Music alive. Zara Sanga, Known as Queen of Pushtu Folklore, and Kandi Koochai are the prime examples of shared cultural association between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Both started their singing career with Radio Pakistan. These cultural similarities have helped to keep the two peoples attached to each other, even during the periods of crises.[liv]


Pakistan’s crisis management in the context of Afghanistan has been a blend of pragmatism and realism. For Pakistan, today the most important capital in the world is Kabul because its instability could spill over into Pakistan, and fuel its own Taliban insurgency.  As time for the US drawdown is ticking, there are many loose ends which need to be tied if durable peace is to be ensured in Afghanistan. Where other immediate and distant neighbours may have concerns about the trajectory that Afghanistan could take after 2014, Pakistan has stakes. Already a home to 3.0 million Afghan refugees, Pakistan cannot afford to stay indifferent to the ongoing developments in Afghanistan. Pakistan should take the lead in bridging the perceptional gaps between the Kabul government and various political resistance groups of Afghanistan.

Pakistan has strived to manage the fallout emanating out of post 9/11 crisis. Against the given odds, performance has been satisfactory. Hopefully the worst is behind Pakistan. However, things are moving at a pretty fast speed, and Pakistan has to keep pace to remain a relevant player. In all probability, a Bilateral Security Agreement would be signed in due course, allowing around 10,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan. Pakistan should also brace up for a situation emerging out of complete troops withdrawal and retention of political influence, by America, through non-military means. At the domestic level Pakistan needs to launch a concerted campaign to roll back clandestine foreign influence that has crept into various segments of its government institutions, non-government entities and pockets of civil society. A comprehensive country wide de-radicalization programme needs to be implemented to reclaim the extremist element. There is a need to boost the national economy to absorb those who are keen to give up militancy in exchange for respectable socio-economic rehabilitation.

[1] The author is Consultant Policy and Strategic Response at Islamabad Policy research Institute (IPRI). He is a retired Air Commodore and a former assistant chief of air staff, Pakistan Air Force.

[i] “Reaction From Around the World”, New York Times, New York City; Washington (Dc). September 12, 2001, (acessed on October 21, 2013)

[ii] Iraq was the only exception. Iraq was a notable exception, with an immediate official statement that “the American cowboys are reaping the fruit of their crimes against humanity”. (accessed on October 22, 2-13).

[iii] Statecraft is a subtle orchestration of foreign policy “assets,” including intelligence and analysis, diplomacy, sanctions, economic aid and military pressure. State craft means ‘the use of power in international relations”, the art of conducting state affairs, the art or skill of conducting government affairs in the globalized world—with its fluid borders, terrorist networks, and violent unrest. Most of all, it requires negotiations. It consists of reality based analysis which in turn leads policy makers to achievable end and plans to marshal the resources to achieve those ends. It is the art of leading a country.

[iv] Joel Roberts, “Plans for Iraq Attack Began On 9/11,” CBS News, September 10, 2009, 1:33 p.m, (accessed October 21, 2013). CBS News has learned that barely five hours after American Airlines Flight 77 flowed into the Pentagon, Defence Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was telling his aides to come up with plans for striking Iraq—even though there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the attacks. That’s according to notes taken by aides who were with Rumsfeld in the National Military Command Centre on Sept. 1–notes that show exactly where the road toward war with Iraq began, reports CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin. At 2:40 p.m. in the afternoon of September 11, Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld was issuing rapid orders to his aides to look for evidence of Iraqi involvement, according to notes taken by senior policy official Stephen Cambone. “Best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H”—Meaning Saddam Hussein—”At same time. Not only UBL” (Osama bin Laden), Cambone’s notes quoted Rumsfeld as saying. “Need to move swiftly—Near term  target needs —go massive—sweep it all up. Things related and not.” Top Muslim organizations in the United States were swift to condemn the attacks on 9/11 and called “upon Muslim Americans to come forward with their skills and resources to help alleviate the sufferings of the affected people and their families”. Top organizations included the Islamic Society of North America, American Muslim Alliance, American Muslim Council, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Islamic Circle of North America, and the Shari’a Scholars Association of North America. Along with massive monetary donations, many Islamic organizations launched blood drives and provided medical assistance, food, and shelter for victims.

[v] National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon The United States. 9acessed on October 24, 2013).

[vi] United Nations Security Council resolution 1368 was adopted unanimously on 12 September 2001, expressing its determination to combat threats to international peace and security caused by acts of terrorism and recognising the right of individual and collective self-defence. The Council condemned the September 11 attacks in the United States. The Security Council strongly condemned the attacks in New York City, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania and regarded the incidents as a threat to international peace and security. It expressed sympathy and condolences to the victims and their families and the United States government. The resolution called on all countries to co-operate in bringing the perpetrators, organisers and sponsors of the attacks to justice and that those responsible for supporting or harbouring the perpetrators, organisers and sponsors would be held accountable. The international community was called upon to increase efforts to suppress and prevent terrorist activities through co-operation and implementation of anti-terrorist conventions and Security Council resolutions, particularly Resolution 1269 (1999). Resolution 1368 concluded with the Council expressing its readiness to take steps to respond to the attacks and combat all forms of terrorism in accordance with the United Nations Charter.

[vii] US president’s Speech to the United Nations. CNN. November 10, 2001. Retrieved on 2011-09-04.

[viii] Now there is some inconclusive evidence that it was a false flag operation, as part of series of such operations to embroil Pakistan to deploy its assets along Indian border, so that western border could be left off guards, whereby hardened Afghan combatants being chased by the invading forces could cross over to Pakistan. These combatant melted away into the society, dispersed themselves throughout Pakistan. They were to later regroup rearm and pose threat to internal stability of Pakistan. This threat became quite serious by 2005. Again there is inconclusive evidence that India did play a part in facilitating these groups. Afghanistan provided its soil to India for established a number of Consulates along Pak –Afghan border to organize, finance, and facilitate such groups. First time proof of such involvement was handed over to PM Manmohan Singh, by his counterpart, during NAM Summit at Sharm-al Sheikh. Later, the issue was again raised with Dr Singh by PM Nawaz Sharif during their meeting on the side lines of 68th UNGA on September, 29, 2013.

[ix] Brigadier AR Siddiq, “No reunion, but union possible in subcontinent”, Daily News (New York),March 29, 2012). (accessed on October 24, 2013). Recalling India’s reaction to the US post-9/11, Siddiqi said: ‘Jaswant Singh, the then defence minister{foreign Minister}, offered everything to the US, including naval bases, even before (then joint chiefs of staff committee) General Colin Powell and the US president telephoned India for help.’ ‘But they called (then Pakistani army chief and president Pervez) Musharraf, after which he pledged support,’ Siddiqi said, on pointing out the difference, said on 29 march 2012. Brigadier (R) Siddiqi is a former Director of ISPR.

[x] Pervez Musharraf, In the Line of Fire:  A Memoire, (London: Simon & Schuster, A CBS Company, 2006), 201. “The next morning I was chairing an important meeting at the Governor’s House (Karachi) when my military secretary told me that the US secretary of State, General Colin Powell was on phone…Powell was quite candid: ‘you are either with us or against us’…I told him that we were with the United States against terrorism…We did not negotiate anything. I had time to think through exactly what might happen the next”.

[xi]“Musharraf ‘bullied’ into supporting US war on terror: ex-General”,   Z News, updated on December 11, 2009, (accessed on October 24, 2013). Islamabad: Pervez Musharraf was “bullied” into supporting the US in its ‘war on terror’, claimed Pakistan’s former Chief of General Staff  Shahid Aziz, who also accused the ex-President of deceiving other army officers and corps commanders in the decision leading up to the anti-Taliban campaign.  Aziz said the decision to support America was taken unilaterally before a crucial corps commanders meeting took place. The former Pakistan’s Chief of General staff underlined that Musharraf was “bullied” into supporting the US in the war on terror. The corps commanders were reluctant to support the US, he told Dawn news in an interview. Aziz said that the corps commanders wanted to remain neutral in the war against the Taliban instead of actively supporting it.  Aziz also said that Pakistan’s army intelligence had informed them about Indian lobbying, calling for attacks on both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

[xii] Syed Saleem Shahzad, “Setback for Pakistan’s terror drive”, August 2008 Asia Times.(Hong Kong) (accessed on October 31, 2013)

[xiii] Iqbal Khan, “Dilemmas in way of Afghan peace,” The Frontier Post (Peshawar), September 11, 2013.

Posted on 2013-09-11 00:34:45

[xiv] The Express Tribune (Islamabad), August 27, 2013.

[xv] Ibid.

[xvi] Ibid.


[xviii] Special Correspondent, “Pakistan urges Afghan neighbours’ role,” The Nation (Lahore), December 17, 2013.

[xix] Indrani Bagchi, “Baluchistan bungle may prove costly”, The Economic Times ( New Delhi), July 09, (accessed on December 17, 2013)

[xx]According to India’s Times of India (TOI) newspaper, RVS Mani, who as home ministry under-secretary signed the affidavits submitted in court in the Ishrat Jahan ‘fake encounter case’, has said that Satish Verma, until recently a part of the Central Bureau of Investigation-SIT probe team, told him that both the 2001 attack on Indian parliament and the 2008 Mumbai attacks were set up “with the objective of strengthening the counter-terror legislation (sic)”. Mani has said that Verma “… narrated that the 13/12/2001 (attack on parliament) was followed by POTA (Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act) and 26/11/2008 (terrorists’ siege of Mumbai) was followed by amendment to the UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act).”

[xxi]Editorial Samarth, September 21, 2010. Month September 21, edition 000631, collected & managed by Durgesh Kumar Mishra, published by Manish Manju. Website:

l (accessed on December 17, 2013).

[xxii]Operation Rah-e-Rast, ISPR . (accessed on December 17, 2013)

[xxiii]Operation Rah-e-Nijat, Wikipedia, the free Encyclopaedia (accessed on December 17, 2013)

[xxiv] Ibid.

[xxv]Reuters, “Why would Pakistan invade North Waziristan?” Express Tribune (Islamabad), May 31, 2011. (accessed on December 01, 2013)

[xxvi] Air Commodore (R)  Khalid Iqbal, Seeing beyond perceptions”, Pakistan Observer (Islamabad) , January 02, 2013. (accessed on December 01, 2013).

[xxvii] Ibid.

[xxviii] Ibid.

[xxix] Ibid.

[xxx] “Germany helped US with ‘illegal’ drone attacks” The Local ( German news in English) , October  22, 2013 , (accessed on November 30, 2013).

[xxxi] The Gazette, July 31, 2013. (accessed on August 01, 2013)

[xxxii] The Express Tribune (Islamabad), October 6th, 2013.

[xxxiii] The Nation (Lahore), December 10, 2013. ( accessed on December 18,2013).

[xxxiv] Dawn (Karachi, December 10, 2013.

[xxxv] “Afghanistan’s Economy: The hand that feeds,” The Economist, July 14, 2012. (accessed on November 01, 2013).

[xxxvi]Anthony H. Cordesman,  “Afghanistan and the Tokyo Conference: Hope, Fantasy, and Failure”,   Centre for Strategic and International Studies( CSIS), (accessed on December, 01, 2013).

[xxxvii] Ibid.

[xxxviii] Ibid.

[xxxix] Karzai visits Pakistan, seeks help in Taliban peace process. (accessed on December 19, 2013)

[xl] Prime Minister of Pakistan visits Kabul. (posted on December 01, 2013 and, accessed on the same day)

[xli] Media Monitoring Bulletin, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, August 27, 2013. (accessed on December 10, 2013).

[xlii] Ibid.

[xliii] Ibid.

[xliv] Thirty Years of Hosting Afghan Refugees, Journey of Friendship: Pakistan’s assistance to Afghanistan, Publication Department Embassy of Pakistan, Kabul, 2010. P 26-35

[xlv] Ibid.

[xlvi] Education and capacity Building, Journey of Friendship: Pakistan’s assistance to Afghanistan, Publication Department Embassy of Pakistan, Kabul, 2010. P 14-19.

[xlvii] Pakistan to sponsor 600 additional students for Higher Education. (accessed on December 01, 2013)

[xlviii] Ibid.

[xlix]Pakistan to Sponsor 600 Additional Afghan Students for Higher Studies,  http://pa ( accessed on December 13, 2013).

[l] Ibid.

[li] Journey of Friendship: Pakistan’s assistance to Afghanistan, Publication Department Embassy of Pakistan, Kabul, 2010. P 2-13.

[lii] Culture and Art bring Pakistan and Afghanistan Together, Journey of Friendship: Pakistan’s assistance to Afghanistan, Publication Department Embassy of Pakistan, Kabul, 2010. P 36.

[liii]Culture and Art bring Pakistan and Afghanistan Together, Journey of Friendship: Pakistan’s assistance to Afghanistan, Publication Department Embassy of Pakistan, Kabul, 2010. P 36-43

[liv] Ibid.