Photo: DAWN

Pakistan Envoy Says Afghanistan Poses Greater Challenge Than Wars with India

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – Pakistan’s Special Representative on Afghanistan, Asif Durrani, says that his country has suffered greater losses due to issues arising from Afghanistan than from its three wars with India. 

As reported by Pakistani media outlet DAWN, speaking at an international conference on Wednesday, April 24, Mr. Durrani said that over 80,000 Pakistanis have died during the past two decades of the war on terror, and his country is still tallying its casualties.

“The post-9/11 world order has negatively impacted Pakistan. Apart from losing 80,000 citizens’ lives, including 8,000 law enforcement agency personnel, the country’s economic opportunity cost is estimated at $150 billion,” he said.

The Pakistani diplomat emphasized that although his country hoped that following the withdrawal of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan, peace in Afghanistan would lead to peace in the region, such expectations were short-lived.

Since the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, Pakistan has experienced a surge in terrorist attacks. Militant groups like the Tahreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its affiliates, which share ideological, operational, and personal alignment with the Afghan Taliban, a proxy of Islamabad’s national security establishment, have escalated their violence against Pakistan’s security forces and civilians.

Mr. Durrani said that TTP attacks on Pakistan’s border areas increased by 65%, with suicide attacks rising by 500%. “The TTP’s enhanced attacks on Pakistan while using Afghan soil have been a serious concern for Pakistan. Another worrying aspect is the participation of Afghan nationals in these attacks,” he said.

A report from the Islamabad-based think tank, Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), indicated a notable 65% surge in terrorism-related fatalities in Pakistan in 2023, with the TTP identified as the main contributor to this violence.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces, which share borders with Afghanistan were the primary centers of violence, accounting for over 90% of all fatalities and 84% of attacks during this period.

Pakistan claims that members of the militant groups are hiding in Afghanistan, receiving training and advanced military weapons to launch cross border attacks and destabilize the region. The country has consistently demanded the regime in Kabul to take decisive actions against the militant group and surrender them to Islamabad.

Last month, the newly elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, Shehbaz Sharif, warned that his government would not tolerate any form of cross-border attack from Afghanistan. He emphasized that the security of Pakistan’s geographical frontiers is a red line for his government.

The Taliban authorities, however, have denied their ties with the militant group in the past, saying that they are not responsible for the recent security incidents in Pakistan. Taliban officials argue that Pakistan’s internal issues are not their responsibility.

Talking about the future for Pakistan in the regional context, Asif Durrani said that while a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan is likely to continue with its anti-Pakistan pursuits, Pakistan can overcome its issues with Afghanistan, including the TTP challenge, through “deft diplomacy.”