|By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd)
Former Director General of Information Systems, Indian Army
The Pakistani media is upbeat with the news that Pakistan and Afghanistan have agreed to continue with the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) established for talks with the Taliban in order to bring them into the reconciliation process. Obviously, Pakistan wanted to show some sort of diplomatic 'victory' after Chinese President Xi Jinping snubbed Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif by not granting him te customary meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Kazakhstan, while Xi held meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, PM Bakytzhan Sagintayev of Kazakhstan and Russian President Vladimir Putin. India had already conveyed to Pakistan that PM Modi would not have meeting with Nawaz Sharif, reiterating that terrorism and dialogue cannot go together. So the Pakistan media went on to say that while "one strained bilateral relationship (with India) was not addressed, but another was (referring to Afghanistan)".
The report states that on the sidelines of the SCO summit, Nawaz Sharif met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and agreed to a revive the "moribund QCG to develop a verification mechanism for actions by Afghanistan and Pakistan against terrorists as demanded by the other side". According to Pakistan's Foreign Office, "The two leaders agreed to use the Quadrilateral Coordination Group mechanism as well as bilateral channels to undertake specific actions against terrorist groups and to evolve, through mutual consultations, a mechanism to monitor and verify such actions." The media interprets this communiqué as continuing difficulties between Pakistan and Afghanistan; the agreement in Kazakhstan is a tentative one, with both sides yet to agree on the specific steps that are to be taken and possibly verified by the other two QCG members, the US and China. The QCG comprises Afghanistan, Pakistan, US and China to facilitate reconciliation in Afghanistan. No doubt the Afghan Government has been underlining strong commitment for peace and reconciliation with Taliban groups and Hezbi Islami Hekmatyar. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar returned to Kabul in May 2017 and is likely to be a political force. However, the Afghan Taliban have made it abundantly clear that they will not join the reconciliation process unless all foreign troops are out of Afghan soil. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar came over ground because he was a spent force in the conflict zone. He has called for the Afghan Taliban to join in reconciliation but at the same time demands either President Ashraf Ghani or the Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah to resign.
The Afghan Taliban has not accepted Gulbuddin Hekmatyar as a mediator. The US tried for years to bring the Afghan Taliban on board but did not succeed. The QCG largely remained defunct for the same reason - Afghan Taliban refusing talks till US-NATO troops left Afghanistan. But that is not the only reason why the QCG was unsuccessful; US policy in Afghanistan remains ambiguous and China-Pakistan have their own strategic designs in Afghanistan, with Pakistan enlarging her strategic depth in Afghanistan through proxy forces and China backing Pakistan. Interestingly, according to a former DG ISI of Pakistan, US forces killed Mullah Mansour, former Afghan Taliban Chief because he wanted to join the reconciliation process - implying US Doesn't want the QCG to succeed. The US also remains lackadaisical to Pakistan exporting terror to Afghanistan and India. That leaves only Afghanistan within the QCG grouping on the receiving end. To this, end President Ashraf Ghani has no doubts about the insincerity of Pakistan. Pakistani media, therefore, claiming some sort of diplomatic win on the sidelines of the SCO summit is actually laughable. Getting back to the Ashraf Ghani-Nawaz Sharif bilateral meeting in Kazakhstan, Pakistani media says that Nawaz Sharif recounted the human and economic sacrifices made by Pakistan in fighting terrorism in the meeting, which revolved around terrorism-related issues faced by the two neighbouring nations, adding, "Prime Minister Sharif joined President Ghani in condemning the recent terror attacks, especially the wave of violence in Kabul following a truck bomber in [the] centre of the city last week resulting in loss of life and injury of hundreds of people." The report goes on to say PM Sharif reiterated Pakistan's commitment to peace and stability in Afghanistan. He mentioned Pakistan's efforts for peace, stability and economic progress of Afghanistan and in hosting millions of 'brotherly' Afghans who have been residing in Pakistan for the past 37 years.
But most importantly why the QCG amounts to flogging a dead horse is because Pakistan will not stop exporting terrorism. Addressing a peace conference in Kabul on June 6, attended by foreign delegates from about two dozen countries, President Ghani accused Pakistan of instigating an "undeclared war of aggression" against his country after a series of deadly bombings in the capital Kabul in the past week. Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS) blamed the Taliban-allied Haqqani terrorist network for a bombing outside the diplomatic Green Zone in Kabul. The deadly truck bombing of May 31 was followed by three blasts on June 4 at a funeral attended by senior Afghan politicians, including Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah, who escaped unharmed. The Kabul government said the funeral was targeted by bombers trained at a seminary by Wahhabi zealots in Pakistan. Terror attacks are continuing in Afghanistan.