Afghans wary as Karzai goes to Pakistan talks

Kabul residents hope their leader presses Pakistan on alleged Taliban support during trip to Islamabad.

    Afghans wary as Karzai goes to Pakistan talks
    Mohammad Ayoub says Afghanistan-Pakistan relations affect one's daily life [Sulyman Qardash/Al Jazeera]

    Kabul, Afghanistan - Due to visit the Pakistani capital Islamabad on Monday, Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, has said he is "not at all certain of [the] outcome" of his first talks with Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan's new prime minister.

    Speaking in the Afghan capital on Saturday, Karzai said he hopes his day-long visit to Afghanistan's southern neighbour "will result in meaningful and honest discussions", but the long-strained relations between the two countries have shown few signs of letting up.
    The leadership of the Afghan Taliban has long been believed to be based in Pakistan, where Afghans say Inter-Services Intelligence, the Pakistani intelligence agency, offers its support. Afghanistan has demanded that Pakistan hand over Mullah Baradar, a senior Taliban leader arrested by Pakistani security forces. In March, Kabul cancelled a military trip to Pakistan in response to cross-border shelling into eastern Afghanistan.
    And the May death of Qasim Khan, an Afghan border policeman killed in clashes between Afghan and Pakistani border police, led to a series of nationwide anti-Pakistan protests and an outpouring of support on social media.
    For its part, Islamabad has lodged repeated accusations that Pakistani anti-government fighters are being given refuge in the eastern borderlands of Afghanistan. This issue came to a head in February, when Rehman Malik, the Pakistani interior minister, threatened to contact Interpol if Afghanistan did not hand over Maulvi Faqir Mohammad, a senior member of the Pakistani Taliban captured in Nangarhar province.
    Karzai's first official visit with Sharif, who last served as Pakistan's prime minister during the rule of the Afghan Taliban, comes after recent Afghan overtures to Pakistan and its arch-rival India.
    Last week, Afghanistan's national football team defeated their Pakistani counterparts 3-0 in their first match in Kabul since 1977. The match was intended to foster a sense of friendship between the two nations.
    Days later, Mohammad Karim Khalili, Afghanistan's second vice president, embarked on a three-day visit to India meant to boost the economic and military ties between New Delhi and Kabul. Upon his return from New Delhi, Khalili said India was ready to train and equip Afghan forces beyond the scheduled December 2014 withdrawal of international troops.
    Ahead of Karzai's visit, Al Jazeera asked eight Afghans living in Kabul - four of whom have moved to the capital from the provinces - about their expectations for the visit and whether relations between the neighbouring nations can be improved.
    Mohammad Ayoub, 43, seller of posters
    Mohammad Ayoub [Sulyman Qardash/Al Jazeera]

    The outcome [of the meeting] is dependent on the policymakers of Afghanistan. We, the people, aren't involved in the process, so we don't know the real reason behind the trip. Perhaps they can come to an agreement that is in the overall benefit of Afghanistan.
    The difficulties between the two nations are reflected in the daily lives of the people. From the simplest things to the most important, the difficulties between Pakistan and Afghanistan impact Afghan life … Pakistan does help the Taliban, it's a known fact. Instead, though, they should be helping the Afghan people.
    In the 43 years that I have been alive I have experienced several different relationships between Pakistan and Afghanistan. There were many times where there was very cold relations. But today, it has the possibility of getting better.
    Azim, 18, ice-cream vendor
    Azim [Sulyman Qardash/Al Jazeera]

    I left Nangarhar and came to Kabul five years ago. Afghanistan's first enemy is Pakistan. They have no right to come here ... Pakistan is not a good friend to Afghanistan. They send the Taliban, including Pakistani Taliban, into Afghanistan so they can fight with us, so they can fight the Americans.
    The Taliban are not from Kabul, or any other province [of Afghanistan], they are from Pakistan. They won't let Afghanistan advance. A person can't even build a house here. Karzai knows himself if there will be any benefit to these meetings.
    The first thing Karzai needs to do is tell [Pakistan], 'Brother, you aren't doing good things'. In Nangarhar, especially in Goshta, people are still torn apart [by the death of an Afghan border policeman in May].
    Ahmadullah, 23, police officer
    Ahmadullah [Sulyman Qardash/Al Jazeera]

    In Jowzjan, where I'm from, there is safety and we are far from Pakistan, so we have very little to do with them ... In Kabul, where I work, though, we have to work day and night to ensure the people of the capital are comfortable and secure.
    It is not entirely proven where the terrorists come from, but President Karzai needs to raise the issue of insecurity and ask 'who sends them, from where?' We have yet to see any results from all these talks.
    At least 50 percent of the recent suicide bombings appeared to be aided by Pakistan. We see the bombers - they have Pakistani goods and papers on them. Whether they are Pakistani or Afghan, they come with Pakistani materials. After a bombing, we go and inspect the evidence. The majority are always from Pakistan.
    Pakistan hasn't helped us with security so far. Why would they start now? 
    Ali, 70, lumber worker
    Ali [Sulyman Qardash/Al Jazeera]

    I left Kohestan 30 years ago to come to Kabul. The security in Kabul has gotten better over time. If there are no suicide bombings, it is to our benefit. People say the bombers come from Pakistan and it could very well be … Karzai needs to talk to Pakistan about the suicide bombers. He needs to ask them for some kind of help to make it stop.
    Of course, Pakistan has the power to make the bombings stop, but they don't want to. I am just a simple worker, I don't know about politics.
    It's possible Pakistan helps the Taliban. I was a refugee in Iran and also in Quetta. In the beginning Quetta was safe, but now they are dealing with bombings and insecurity.
    Abdullah, 19, student
    Abdullah [Sulyman Qardash/Al Jazeera]

    My family were refugees in Quetta for 14 years. The government of Pakistan said they were friends of the Afghan refugees, but we never saw any proof of that friendship.
    Even in the recent football match, they wanted to make Afghanistan look lesser. They wanted to beat us so we look weak. When Afghanistan won, everyone joked that for each of the three goals, Pakistan will send double the amount of suicide bombers in return.
    Karzai needs to address the issue of peace. We have advanced on so many levels, but we still lack peace. Peace in Afghanistan would be to the benefit of both nations. Even in Pakistan there is unrest, so if the situation in Afghanistan is sorted out, it will impact Pakistan so they have some comfort and happiness. 
    Mohammad Amin, 20, student
    Mohammad Amin [Sulyman Qardash/Al Jazeera]

    The majority of the Afghan people believe that Pakistan aids the Taliban. All of our politicians, whether they be inside the nation or abroad, believe that from the beginning Pakistan has put negative pressure on Afghanistan.
    In Afghanistan, the most important thing is peace. If there is no peace in Afghanistan, no one can live in security and safety. Even during the holy month of Ramadan, look how many of our innocent people were killed, how many children.
    If Hamid Karzai wants to go to Pakistan, the first thing he should discuss is peace. Afghanistan cannot exert pressure on Pakistan. They need to ask the global community for help. Or the United States. 
    Haji Sahb, 40, restaurant chef
    Haji Sahb [Sulyman Qardash/Al Jazeera]

    I came from Faryab to Kabul in the 1980s because my grandfather had a business here. In Faryab today, if you stay in Maymana [the provincial capital], there are no problems, but as soon as you get into the districts or the villages you will find Taliban.

    Afghanistan and Pakistan must have a good relationship. We are neighbours, and as neighbours, if we don't get along, then the lives of the people become very difficult.

    But every time there's a bombing in Afghanistan it gets blamed on Pakistan, and every time something happens in Pakistan they say it's the Afghans. I don't know if the bombers actually come from Pakistan, but it's what everyone says.

    It's up to the politicians to improve the relationship. What can the people do? Karzai should talk about business: Two nations that are neighbours should have trade with one another along with a political friendship.

    Golalai, 23, student
    Golalai [Sulyman Qardash/Al Jazeera]

    In the entire history of Afghanistan, Pakistan has always committed treason against us. We have never seen anything good from them. They don't want us to advance in the most basic things. They want everything, even education and culture, to be under their influence.
    It's obvious Pakistan is aiding the Taliban. Anytime a bomber is caught they are Pakistani or Arab. When it is an Afghan, they received their training in Pakistan. Look at how much Pakistan has tried to divide the Afghan people. Every day, for so long, they were firing shells into southern and eastern provinces. They won't let us rest, not even for a minute.
    Karzai can have all the meetings he wants with Islamabad, but they're all pointless. He can talk and talk, but we have always seen only negativity come from Pakistan. They are on a mission to destroy Afghanistan piece-by-piece.
    Follow Ali M Latifi on Twitter: @alibomaye

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera



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