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Pak-Afghan prosperity lies in close relationship
 
By Imtiaz Gul

Weekly Pulse, Islamabad May 01, 2008

An interview with Hamayun Hameed Zada (Afghan presidential spokesperson)

Q: What did Bokharist summit give to Afghanistan?
A: Well it gave a lot to Afghanistan. Bokharist was truly a success. We went with the expectation that we will get the international countries' recommitment to Afghanistan and we got that and more than that. We see the official communiqué that came out of the Bokahrist summit is that they are basically supporting Afghanistan on four major fronts:

1. Giving their firm, united and long-term support. 2. They are recognising the Afghan ownership and responsibility for the whole process both political and economic.
3. They are working and they have committed themselves to develop more cohesion between the military and economic efforts.
4. A re-focus on regional aspects especially on relations with Pakistan what we did these, the announcement that came from the Afghan side.
The president announced that we are taking control of Kabul’s security by August this year. We re-affirmed our commitment to good governance and fighting corruption and fighting all challenges we have and lastly working very closely with the NATO coalition and Afghan forces to make sure during the operation, we don’t have major civilian causalities.

Q: Civilian causalities have been a pain for the government-US troops fire, wherever they are suspicious?
A: It’s not like that – it’s not just an arbitrary fighting. We are international partners on one side. They are not purposely bringing harm to the civilians. We are working very closely with them on strategies on ways to make sure civilian causalities are brought to the minimum. And wherever it happens to make sure that we reach out to address those affected.

Q: How do you create balance between the military option and the rule of economic development and reconstruction?
A: One objective and our policies are to bring peace to Afghanistan. In order to achieve these objectives you use military and a political front, the balance is right. We are open on the political front to all Afghans who have grievances to accept the constitution. On the military front, these are other actually sworn enemies of the country and with them we are fighting militarily.

Q: You are fighting with people who are called Taliban -- there is a major demand that the foreign troops should leave Afghanistan -- is that possible?
A: Well, the doors are open for all those Taliban who want to come back. They can come back and can seek elected political offices. They can seek any kind of role that normal Afghan citizens have. But then the role of foreign forces. Why foreign forces came to Afghanistan? Afghanistan had become a haven for international terrorists. Now we are moving very fast in re-building our institutions i.e. security, political institutions and our economic growth rate is very impressive. So as soon as we have our institutions in place our security forces are able to protect Afghanistan. There will be no need for international forces.

Q: Do you think terrorism is a threat for both countries?
A: Exactly, as terrorism is challenge extremism is also a challenge and it’s threatening both Afghanistan and Pakistan. It’s a common threat to both the countries and we have been working very close to the Pakistan government. Our relationships have seen ups and downs but our level of cooperation has increased significantly and especially you are welcoming the new government of Pakistan that came out of fair elections process and president has spoken with PM Gillani and we have the assurances of Pakistan government that will work with us in order to fight this challenge.

Q: Setting up of common intelligence centre- has it helped in combating the preemptive terrorist strikes?
A: It’s too early to judge its effectiveness because it has been just established but intelligence sharing is one area that we need to work and collaborate more closely with each other. I’m sure at the working level there is some progress but we need to do more because if you look at the number of suicide attacks inside Pakistan and Afghanistan, if you look at the number of attacks in schools, passenger buses on civilians also on military forces. It shows that on one hand we are making progress and on the other hand it seems that the enemies are also committed and we need to further collaborate.

Q: Who is the enemy? Is it just one group of people? Do you think that groups are used by multiple states?
A: It’s not just one group. There is also a criminal element to it. If you look at the majority Afghans their main concern is criminality and there comes the role of police and law enforcement and there are other areas that are also concerned about Taliban, ALQ threats and it goes true with Pakistan. The Afghan soil is being used by people who are not actually Afghans.


Q: Do you think the drug mafia is also contributing to the instability of Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan?
A: There is a direct link between drugs smuggling, narcotics, terrorist and criminality. They are interconnected.  They pose challenge to the local authorities. At the national regional and international level. Narcotics is a problem in Afghanistan that we face at the cultivation level, but the trafficking and corruption is a regional and global problem and we are working very closely with the international community.

Q: It is also been said that half of Afghanistan economy. Drive its strength from narcotics?
A: Afghanistan is legislated to 40 per cent of GDP and that is a concern because we are the first victims of narcotics. Narcotics provide a challenge to the rule of law, challenge to good citizenship and also fuel corruption and all kinds of narcotics and we know very well that this is a menace to fight. And the Afghan view is that in order to address the narcotics problem we have to consider the root causes and to address that we have to have a comprehensive strategy. So we can eradicate it. But we have also a regional and global dimension. What come out of narcotics in Afghanistan. So what remains with Afghanistan are poor farmer that are cultivating poppy out of poverty. The bigger money goes to the traffickers. We are in control of territory. We have to understand why people resort to poppy cultivation. Well one part is eradication when you go and destroy the poppy fields. You work with the farmers first and provide them some incentives but we have to do better on that front.

Q: How do you view the status of Afghan-Pakistan relations?
A: We are at a very good juncture. We can improve the relations even more. We are looking forward to good relations with the new government and we are also looking forward to working with the new provincial governments, because as Karzai used the analogy that ‘Pakistan Afghanistan are like joined twins’ and we have to make sure that whatever benefits other countries because we are facing similar challenges and our prosperity and economic development also lies in our close relationships. Misconceptions and lack of trust was mutual. In order to address this it will take mutual effort and right now it’s happening. We are committed to improving the relations and working closely with Pakistan and we have the similar desire from this side.

(The author heads the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies, Islamabad.

Email: imtiaz@crss.pk