Hamid Karzai’s Legacy and future of Pak-Afghan Relations!

Afghanistan's President Karzai speaks during a news conference in KabulBy Iftikhar Hussain Jazib

Finally, elections have taken place in Afghanistan and uncertainty cast by Hamid Karzai’s frustration over constitutional bar which disqualified him for consecutive third term of President is over.  Many world leaders, including President Obama, were fearful of postponement of elections or any other scenario which may prolong his tenure on the Afghanistan. Everyone is relieved while election results are being finalized in Afghanistan. However, President Karzai’s legacy, specially his anti-Pakistan rhetoric, will continue to impact Pak-Afghan relations apart from regional and international peace / stability in years to come.

In 2014, before the elections, Hamid Karzai was showing opposition to Western countries and Pakistan in an unprecedented way. His refusal to sign bilateral security agreement with USA perturbed international community as mandate of International Security Assistance Force is coming to end and NATO troops are scheduled to leave Afghanistan this year. Though Afghan National Army and Police are well trained yet they are not capable enough to take full charge of security as Taliban are still potent force in Afghanistan. Therefore, this dangerous gamble of Karzai over Bilateral Security Agreement with USA is like mocking over the sacrifices of international community which were rendered in the last twelve years for the people of Afghanistan. Going a step ahead, in his recent interviews, Karzai made insulting remarks about soldiers of Britain and America. Interestingly, his view about proscribed terrorist group Al-Qaeda also suddenly changed and he called it a myth in a televised interview. To the annoyance of Americans, he also ordered the release of some of the detainees involved in the major attacks. Many journalists consider these overtures Karzai’s bet to project him as a nationalistic leader before going into retirement.  In any case, these developments may be good for Hamid Karzai personally but they can harm Afghanistan and its people.

Dr Abdullah Abdullah is a leading candidate according to the compiled election results so far. Now the fate of Bilateral Security Agreement with USA rests with new Government. Hamid Karzai was also unable to seek any break through in peace and reconciliation dialogue with Taliban. This critical issue also awaits new president’s attention and will determine destiny of people of Afghanistan. However, the toughest challenges for next president are ripened corruption in Afghan institutions including police and Afghan National Army, drug cartels and powerful war lords. All of them are big challenges and good governance is essential for keeping Afghanistan on the path of democratic stability. The most important issue is the continuation of international financial assistance as Afghanistan requires around 11 billion dollars annually to support its security forces and public sector development. The international community is already distracted by the crisis in Ukraine therefore, newly elected Government of Afghanistan also needs to engage it so that the commitments made in this regard are fulfilled.

Hamid Karzai was supposed to resolve Afghanistan’s problems when he was put into the power twelve years ago. Unfortunately, he did not get much success and all the major issues are still unresolved. Karzai’s own family members were involved in various vices, while political considerations strengthened war lords. The corrupt practices of his government dragged every institution of the country in unaccounted corruption. Dr Abdullah, who remained his Foreign Minister till 2006, became the strongest opponent of Karzai for same reasons. Now, when he is hopeful to form the new Government it is expected that the future government should be able to shape the environment for betterment of Afghanistan.

Hamid Karzai’s recent tirade against Pakistan, its army and its National Security Institutions is further damaging the already strained relations. During last couple of months, he blamed ISI for every big and small attack in Afghanistan. It always remained a hallmark of his Government to hide its failures for blaming Pakistan for everything. While Pakistan’s approach was very friendly and cooperative towards his Government, he unjustly continued to accuse Pakistan for hosting Al-Qaeda and Taliban by providing them safe heavens. Moreover, Western leaders never shy away from exposing Karzai’s efforts to destabilize Pakistan through RAW in their public statements and Wikileak papers also revealed details of his anti Pakistan approach. The proxies of NDS in the shape of Latifullah Mehsud, Fazlullah and many others to inflict Pakistan with terrorism were indicative of negative approach of Karzai’s government. Such overtures of Afghan Government have hurt the interests of Pakistan and Afghanistan in the past. We must realize that only a relationship based on mutual trust and respect can help in overcoming the woes of both the nations.

We hope that with the formation of a new Government in Kabul, things will change and a new era of Pak-Afghan friendship will start. Dr Abdullah remained under the influence of those Afghan leaders who were harsh towards Pakistan however, his election manifesto emphasis on building a trustworthy relationship with Pakistan. This is a rational and realistic approach in the interest of both the nations. Our salvation lays in fighting collectively against   Al-Qaeda, Pakistani / Afghan Taliban and religious / sectarian extremism which will also guarantee for regional stability.

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