Mohsen Rouhi Sefat, speaking in an interview with the website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, referred to the historical problems between Afghanistan and Pakistan and the long-standing problem regarding the Durand Line between the two countries, which has existed since the establishment of Pakistan, and added: This is the main problem in the relations between the two countries, which overshadows other issues. Pakistan suffers from the fact that the Afghan government has not recognized its borders in the past 100 years and there are claims over part of its territory.
He noted that Pakistan has a serious border dispute with two of its three neighbors and its borders are unclear, adding that Pakistan is at war with India and has no official border with the country. Over time, India has consistently become stronger than Pakistan, and Pakistan has no hope of overcoming it.
The former Iranian diplomat, saying that Pakistan feels that it can upset the balance of power in its favor in the face of Afghanistan, which is weaker than itself, further remarked: With the events that have taken place in Afghanistan over the past 40 years, this has further paved the way for Pakistan; while prior to the month of Ordibehesht 1358 (April/May 1979), Pakistan did not dare to invade the country because Afghanistan had been in the Eastern Camp for some time.
Political characteristics of desirable Pakistani government in Afghanistan
Rouhi Sefat, saying that the Pakistani government is politically interested in the Kabul government not having a good relationship with India as the enemy of Islamabad, added: Pakistan is interested in the presence of a government in Kabul that will be allied with it against India. Pakistan, meanwhile, sees Afghanistan as the depth of its strategy and is interested in that Kabul government use Pakistan’s territory as a transit route, and that life and death of Afghanistan which takes shape through trade be formed through the port of Karachi.
He continued: Pakistan does not seek a strong government in Afghanistan; because in that case it cannot get its demands from the Kabul government. In addition, it has no interest in establishment of a nationalist government in Afghanistan; this is because nationalist sentiments in Afghanistan may be reinforced over their claims to Pakistani territory in Pashtunistan. In fact, Pakistan wants those in power in Kabul be aligned religious forces; because with religious unity, it can overshadow national and border issues.
According to the expert on international affairs; Pakistan can work with the Taliban better than the nationalist bureaucrat and even Pashtun; in addition, the country is not interested in the forming of a civil society in Afghanistan; because civic groups in Afghanistan have anti-Pakistani sentiments due to historical issues.
Stressing that water is a vital issue for Pakistan, he said: 30 percent of Pakistan’s water comes from Afghanistan, and Afghanistan has completed two major dams over the past few years that flow into Iran. The country has also prepared a plan to control the water flowing to Pakistan and is seeking to build a dam on the rivers flowing to Pakistan. Pakistan is very dissatisfied about this issue and one of its demands of Afghanistan is not to build those dams. In fact, Pakistan has border and water concerns with regard to Afghanistan.
Rouhi Sefat described lack of a strong and cohesive army in Afghanistan as desirable for Pakistan and explained: Islamabad tends to train Afghan security and military forces in Pakistan and considers restrictions on the number of Afghan troops and forces. Pakistan is also interested in having proxy extremist forces in Afghanistan to be used against India, just as Afghan forces served in the Pakistani army in operations against India 20 years ago.
Pakistan’s desirable economic prospects in Afghanistan
He considered security of the energy transit line important for Islamabad so that Turkmenistan energy can be transferred through Afghanistan to Pakistan or India, adding: Islamabad has not invested much in Afghanistan and no infrastructural investment has been witnessed by Pakistan in Afghanistan over the past 20 years. It has not even fulfilled its obligations; because it is interested in Afghanistan being more economically dependent on Pakistan.
The former diplomat said that Pakistan expects the ethnic government, which now appears with the presence of the Taliban, to rule over the entire territory of Afghanistan, adding: However, Pakistan’s declared policy is different and states that it is interested in peace in Afghanistan.
Reminding that when Mullah Omar’s death was announced, it turned out that he died two years ago, he specified: In those two years, verdicts were issued and the Taliban were administered. No one answered this question that who was running the Taliban during those two years! It is clear that there was another apparatus and force that ruled the Taliban during those two years until Mullah Omar’s successor was identified.
The international affairs analyst continued: In Pakistan, there are various factions and institutions that are active on the issue of Afghanistan, the government has a moderate official position towards Afghanistan and the other part is the army, which is the main decision-maker in this regard. Another part is the hard line Pakistani military intelligence retirees who are implementing the policies of Pakistan regarding Afghanistan and the Taliban and have an active presence in the field and on the scenes.
He pointed to the widespread presence of Pakistani citizens among the Taliban, and called such presence as arbitrary by Islamabad and said: Although it is said that the Taliban have control over 80 percent or half of Afghanistan, their leaders never claim to be in Afghanistan and their headquartered is outside the country; this is a serious question.
Illegitimacy and lack of official recognition; regional and global problem of the Taliban
Referring to the published news about Pakistan’s efforts to invite different groups in Afghanistan with an aim of holding talks between them and also a meeting of Afghanistan’s neighboring countries, Rouhi Sefat said: The main problem that emerged out of the Taliban attack 20 years ago was that although they controlled 90% of Afghanistan’s territory, they were not identified. Only three countries, of Pakistan, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, officially recognized the Taliban government. This was an important factor in the failure of the policies of Pakistan and the Taliban government.
The analyst of international affairs stressed: They have learned from history, and we see that the tone of the Taliban and Pakistan is softer than it was 20 years ago; although there are no differences in practice, they operate differently in speech. Preparations are underway by the Pakistani government to ensure that this recognition takes place at the regional and global levels, and efforts to hold those meetings can be assessed in this regard.
Signals of Doha agreement to the Taliban to gain legitimacy
Rouhi Sefat referred to the US-Taliban agreement not to seize provincial capitals and added: In this agreement, it was said that negotiations should take place between the Kabul government and the political factions with the Taliban and the US government should support its outcome even if those talks lead to the rule of the Taliban!
He described the Taliban’s attack on provincial capitals in line with putting pressure on the US administration to impose their demands and continued: The Taliban appear to be advancing up to the siege of Kabul, where they would call for negotiations and deliver power from the current government in a form to be accompanied with official recognition and international legitimacy.