Pakistan’s Diplomatic Missteps: A Closer Look at the Strained Ties with Afghanistan


Afghanistan in November 2023. Photo: @AADIL

By Kadeem Baloch

Pakistan cannot expect serious discussions with Afghanistan on promoting bilateral cooperation anytime soon; Islamabad seemed to have let go of any good chance of deepening the ties when it decided to push out 1.7 million Afghan-ethnic citizens and migrants. Just when Pakistan was the last bastion of hope for Afghans, the nation proved that the camaraderie was opportunistic. As the US aid for Afghan refugees in Pakistan dried up, so did the brotherhood.

The caretaker PM Anwarul Haq’s statement that referred to Afghans as “aliens” that “compromised the national security” of Pakistan was not received well by Kabul. Considering the adverse views of the Taliban government on Pakistan’s handling of the crisis, their prolonged criticism of Pakistan for the illegal expulsion is not surprising. 

Meanwhile, Afghanistan is in talks with India for a dam-building project on the Kunar River. Those whom Pakistan considered backward are finally advancing economically, building a future for their citizens. Despite the experts’ opinion that the project will not affect the quantity and flow of water in Pakistan, the latter is unconvinced. In reality, it is lamenting the amicable relationship between the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan and India. Jan Achakzai, Balochistan’s caretaker Minister for Information, went so far as to warn that the decision of the Taliban government to build a dam with India’s assistance and without Pakistan’s involvement, will ‘escalate tensions and possibly create conflicts.’

Achakzai called the decision “unilateral” and a “hostile act against Pakistan”. Guided by ad hocism, the Pakistani leadership rarely considers the repercussions of such confrontational statements. This comes at a time when militant groups allegedly from Afghanistan are launching offensives at Pakistan’s security institutions including the Army bases.

Such statements from the self-righteous Pakistani leaders underscores Pakistan’s double standards with all its allies. During the former Soviet Union’s war on Afghanistan, Pakistan lent its land as a haven for American interests in the region. It built and nurtured the mujahideen fundamentalist forces, which broke the social fabric of peace-loving Afghanistan and drove the Soviets out. Then toppling the same forces, it made way for America’s two-decade-long rule, and yet towards the end helped in the setup of the present government. Clearly, Pakistan’s motto has always been to cash its neighbor’s ruin, over doing some actual good for its citizens, like building a dam.

Answerable to the public, Pakistani leadership resorts to lying; their excuse for flooding in Pakistan is an excessive flow of water from India, and for drought is the lack thereof

Dams and Deception: Pakistan’s Troubled Water Projects 

Pakistan’s one such “mega dam” project was damned from the beginning; the gullible citizens have trusted consecutive governments for the completion of the project to no avail. According to Pakistan’s Parliamentary Affairs Committee (PAC), for the construction of the Diamer-Basha Dam on the Indus River Pakistan collected $40 million from the public but then spent $63 million just on advertising it! The dream of the “country’s lifeline” collapsed before construction.

Perhaps that’s why Saqib Nisar’s (the then CJP who supervised the dam project) house faced a grenade attack recently, right after the news broke about the India-Afghanistan dam deal. The absconder was trusted on the moral grounds of his status, and yet he stole the money, left for America, and closed the Diamer-Basha dam case for Pakistan. 

The closest Pakistanis came to success was in building the Mangla dam, funded by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. But that too seems to be a failed project in retrospect as more than 1.1 lakh people were displaced and 280 villages completely submerged in water when the dam was being built. 

Despite being bailed out from an economic collapse several times given the track record of 22 loans from the IMF, Pakistan’s economy remains on a downward trajectory. Its irresponsible statements targeting neighboring countries are reflective of this failure. However, impeding Afghanistan’s road to self-sufficiency and development cannot help Pakistan improve the state of affairs at home.

The author chooses a pseudonym. Kadeem Baloch is a freelance journalist based in Pakistan. 

Note: The contents of the article are of sole responsibility of the author. Afghan Diaspora Network will not be responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in the articles. 

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