Zalmay Khalilzad, a former American diplomat has made a path breaking suggestion – that the US should immediately cease all support to Pakistan.

The reason: Pakistan’s support to the Taliban and Haqqani network, which is causing instability in Afghanistan, disturbing US intervention.

However, Pakistan’s former President Asif Ali Zardari had already made a striking statement in 2011, which eerily is a befitting answer to the US diplomat’s suggestion. Reacting to a White House report on the Pakistan- Afghanistan issue, Zardari said, “The United States has been an ally of Pakistan for the last 60 years. We respect and appreciate their political system. So every time a new parliament comes in, new boys come in, new representatives come in, and it takes them time to understand the international situation.”

Clearly, it seems like Pakistan feels highly misunderstood.

The history of Pakistan-Afghanistan hostility

UN membership conflict: In order to understand the present political situation, it is crucial to have a look at the historical relationship between the two Islamic nations. Pakistan was formed in 1947, when the British left the Indian subcontinent and it was split into two independent nations – India and Pakistan, with Pakistan becoming an Islamic nation. However, in 1947 itself, Afghanistan became the only country to vote against Pakistan gaining admission to the United Nations, which became a bone of contention between them.

Pashtunistan issue: Following this, Afghan nationalists rallied for Pakistan’s Pashtun-dominated state of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to become an independent state known as ‘Pashtunistan,’ but ironically this idea did not appeal to a majority of Pakistan’s Pashtun population, who voted against it in a referendum in July 1947. This is another cause of cultural tension between the two countries.

Since 2007, there have been numerous incidents of military bloodshed and violence between Pakistan and Afghanistan. In June 2011, Afghanistan claimed that Pakistan had killed several of their civilian citizens, through continued shelling across the border. Later in 2011, Pakistan claimed that they had killed about 30 militants who entered Pakistan along with 200 insurgents. Following this, Pakistani Special Forced troops went across the Afghan border, about 4 or 5 kilometres into the country. This was only been the beginning of the military issues between the countries, and Pakistan’s alleged involvement with militants causing violence in Pakistan is now a subject of global debate.

Why does Pakistan want to intervene in the Afghan conflict?

Interestingly, in April 2011, then President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari said that the war in Afghanistan was destabilising Pakistan and the constant unrest in that country was also affecting Pakistan’s efforts to strengthen democracy and their economy.  Explaining what exactly this means, he said, “Just as the Mexican drug war on US borders makes a difference to Texas and American society, we are talking about a war on our border, which is obviously having a huge effect.” By comparing the situation to an American issue, he sought to emphasize the fact that the US did not understand the impact of the Afghan war in Pakistan. Reiterating how the Afghan unrest affects Pakistan, Zardari also said, “We have all the gas in the world waiting to go through to markets in India and the Red Sea but it cannot be brought in until Afghanistan is settled. So Afghanistan is a growth issue for us. I think most of the time the quantification of the effect of the war is not calculated.”

US diplomat’s proposed solution

Khalilzad feels that Pakistan is playing a two-faced game. He said, “The role that Pakistan has played….is that of a double game. It has signalled on the one hand that it wants to be helpful to the United States in fighting terrorism and stabilising Afghanistan. But on the other hand, in reality, it has been energetically supporting the Taliban and the Haqqani network to achieve the very opposite. That has been the essence of the Pakistan policy on Afghanistan.”

The solution: Khalilzad proposes, “The choice we have made hasn’t really worked for the last 15 years in terms of changing Pakistan’s two-faced policy. The time has come to adjust that policy. In my view a better option is international isolation of Pakistan.”

Recently, US President Barack Obama announced that US troops would stay in Afghanistan:

This is what Afghan officials have to say about this move:

Meanwhile, here’s what the public thinks about Pakistan’s stand:

It’s time for the US to have some serious dialogue with Pakistan, as clearly top US officials are quite unhappy about the way Pakistan is tackling the Afghan issue.

Image: Flickr