No special driver for the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Upon arrival in Islamabad for a two-day visit, he was welcomed by Abdul Razak Dawood, Advisor for Commerce, Textile, Industry and Production, and Investment of Pakistan. Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani arrived in Islamabad, for the first time since 2015, on the invitation of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, on 27 June.
The Pakistan PMO issued a statement post-meeting: “The meeting has been the usual success for Pakistan and Pakistani diplomacy, and the two leaders agreed to “open a new chapter of friendship and cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan, based on mutual trust and harmony for the benefit of the two peoples and countries and for advancing the cause of peace, stability and prosperity in the region”.
Imran Khan reiterated that Pakistan supports an Afghan-led peace process, and promotes an intra-Afghan dialogue. Nothing new here. Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, said in his statement, that President Ghani “praised Pakistan's role in the peace process”. This appears to be slightly stretched; a little bit of an exaggeration.
“Pakistan Wants Govt In Kabul That Can Be Controlled By Islamabad & Rawalpindi”
According to a number of local experts, Ghani was compelled to go to Pakistan, in a bid to garner support for talks between his government and the Taliban, since the current talks in Qatar are between the US and Pakistan-based Taliban, who still refuse to include the Afghan government in the meetings.
President Ghani, last January, had accused Pakistan of meddling in the internal politics of Afghanistan, saying that the key(s) to the war were in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, where Pakistan's government and military are based, and in Quetta, the hideout of a key group of Taliban leaders. He was and is right, but apparently things are getting out of control.
According to a Pakistani analyst who prefers to remain anonymous, the so-called ‘Lahore Process’, a meeting organised a few days ago in Pakistan’s Bhurban town near Murree city, is an “ISI and Army job”, to bring together a number of Pakistan-sponsored members of the Afghan political scene, starting with war criminals like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and encircling Ghani and his people to put pressure on them.
The same analyst claims that Pakistan wants (despite official statements), a “peace process” that will install a government in Kabul – a government that can be easily controlled and manipulated by Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
Accusations Levelled Against Pakistan Army By PTM Activists
Mohammed Umer Daudzai, one of Ghani’s advisors, declared a week ago, while in Delhi on an official visit: “We see that the relationship between Pakistan and the Taliban has remained intact. We have told the US that they should include the clarification of the Taliban's relationship with Pakistan in its discussions”. But the relationship, out of the official channels and diplomatic declarations, is quite clear.
Eyewitnesses and sources based in Waziristan say that the Army keeps the border open for members of the Taliban and the Haqqani Network.
The Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), fighting for the rights of the Pashtuns, has been accusing the Pakistan Army of using border regions as: a) training camps and nurseries for jihad; b) as battlefields for war-like actions against the ‘bad’ Taliban; c) as safe havens for the ‘good’ Taliban; d) and as factories for fake documents in order to send ISI spies to Afghanistan.
And, according to PTM activists, nothing has changed despite the repeated denials of the Pakistani officials. “They cross the border at Ghulam Khan,” says an eyewitness.
‘Truth’ About Ghani's Visit to Pak Likely To Emerge After Talks In Doha
The same eyewitness also said: “The Pakistan Army still runs a camp in the hills between Bannu district and Waziristan. The ‘good’ Taliban are still recruiting young people, still harbouring terrorists coming from other parts of Pakistan, and helping them cross the border with Afghanistan when they need to. They all work under the patronage of the Army.”
Then he added: “In Khaisor village, North Waziristan Commander Gohar Wazir of the Haqqani Network is still active with his group, while Commander Ishaaq of the Haqqani Network for Jani Kheil area, is roaming freely along with his Taliban under the patronage of the Pakistani Army.”
He went on to say, “Khair Noor, who is the Commander of the Hafiz Gulbahdar group in Miran Shah (Asad Kheil), is getting direct military assistance from the Miran Shah military camp.”
And of course, it is very well known that Mullah Baradar and his Taliban team travelled to Qatar through and from Pakistan for talks with the US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.
On 29 June, a new round of talks between the US and the Taliban will begin in Doha. The truth about Ghani's visit to Pakistan is more likely to come from there.
(Francesca Marino is a journalist and a South Asia expert who has written ‘Apocalypse Pakistan’ with B Natale. She tweets at @francescam63. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)