By Sultan M. Hali

Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s latest diatribe regarding the international troops leaving Afghanistan and taking their fight to Pakistan has hurt the sentiments of Pakistan. Karzai owes Pakistan the hospitality of hosting him when the chips were down, and being a second home for Afghan refugees. Mr. Karzai delivered his latest criticism of NATO efforts over the weekend in Asadabad, capital of eastern Kunar province, where he was visiting relatives of civilians killed in a raid by international forces. The Afghan leader said his government has shown NATO that the terrorists and militants are not in Afghanistan, but instead are hiding in neighboring Pakistan. Even if Mr. Karzai was addressing his own people, he should not have been so callous towards his neighbour Pakistan, which bore the brunt of the Soviet invasion and besides hosting millions of Afghan refugees including Mr. Karzai for over a decade, supported operations to oust the Soviets. After 9/11, Pakistan supported the US-led coalition, which defeated the Taliban and helped install Mr. Karzai as the President.

Civilian casualties are a sensitive subject on both sides of the Durand Line. Earlier this month, NATO’s top commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, apologized for an airstrike that killed nine children in Kunar province – the result of miscommunication, according to the coalition. Mr. Karzai has warned that NATO could face “huge problems” if the accidental killing of civilians does not stop. A joint report last week by the U.N. mission in Afghanistan and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission says there were nearly 3,000 war-related civilian deaths in 2010 – an increase of 15 percent over 2009’s toll. The study concluded that insurgents and militants were responsible for about 75 percent of those deaths.

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The collateral damage owing to drone attacks in Pakistan, has led tempers to soar. However, for a US protégé like Hamid Karzai to ask NATO and other allied forces to deflect the attack towards Pakistan is pitiless. Mr. Karzai may have become overwhelmed by emotions after watching a child having had its limbs severed as a result of NATO’s brutal attacks on civilian population but to wish the same fate on its ally and well wisher, Pakistan is a reprehensible act and cannot be condoned. Mr. Karzai appears to have lost all sense of reason for him to parrot the US that Pakistan is harbouring Al-Qaeda terrorists, who frequent attacks on NATO and US troops from their sanctuaries in Pakistan.

If Mr. Karzai is a visionary and a statesman, he is presented to be, he would be urging the US not to ‘take the fight to Pakistan’. The coalition forces will depart one day then Mr. Karzai will be left to contend with Pakistan and why does he want to turn a friend and ally into a hostile neighbour, who is here to stay. Moreover, if Mr. Karzai thinks that by ‘taking the fight to Pakistan’, Afghanistan will be spared; he is sadly making a mistake. Terrorists and extremists know no religion or territorial boundaries. Afghanistan will burn in the same fire as Pakistan as today Pakistan is suffering and bearing the brunt of suicide bombers and terrorist attacks because of helping Afghanistan.

There is a word of caution here for the US too. Former President Bush’s impulsive action of attacking Afghanistan, without considering the consequences or even paying heed to the lessons from history is causing the US, once the sole superpower the ignominy of defeat.

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President Obama, too, relying overly on his trigger happy war horses like General Petraeus is going to cost him dearly. There is a time for action and there is a time for talk. Petraeus wants to negotiate from a position of strength but now it may be too late. The US has to cut its losses and withdraw, before there is total defeat. Let the Afghan-led reconciliation proceed with Pakistan’s help and stop considering “taking the fight to Pakistan”.

Under the prevailing situation in sub-continent with particular reference to US-led prolonged War on Terror and its likely outcome in the shape of de-induction of US/NATO forces from Afghanistan in coming years, a strong need is felt that Pakistan should take India out of reckoning as far as influencing Afghan media is concerned. Mr. Karzai should remember that Pak-Afghan brotherhood bonds have religious, historical and cultural foundations. Most of the Pakistanis migrated from Afghanistan. They have deep routed associations and linkages with the people of Afghanistan. It would not be incorrect to say that Pakistan is an extension of Afghanistan in the subcontinent.

Pakistanis consider Afghan heroes as their own, for example Ahmad Shah Abdali, Mahmud Ghaznavi, Shahab-ud-Din Ghauri are not only Afghan icons but also symbols of respect and emblem of aspiration in Pakistan. Having named their pride after these heroes, Pakistanis feel a sense of delightful elation and a buzzing thrill. Good deeds of Afghan people are rated high in Pakistani mind. Pakistan and Afghanistan are secured / pledged by unbreakable social, ethnic, cultural and religious bonds. Any upheaval in Afghanistan palpably impacts Pakistan and vice versa. No two other counties can be compared with Afghanistan and Pakistan since they enjoy a common past, present and a foreseeable peaceful future.

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Afghanistan is a cradle of civilization. It has an extremely rich culture and profound civilization based on a long cherished history. It has always positively influenced its surroundings while the external penetration of cultural change has always been brought to a standstill or out rightly rejected in Afghanistan. This is due to tribal and traditional social order prevailing in Afghanistan.

Nothing will work in Afghanistan unless the norms are followed in letter and spirit. Pakistan’s national poet Allama Iqbal is highly respected in Afghanistan. Besides having full praise for Afghan nation, Allama Iqbal considered Afghanistan as the hub of Asia. He further suggested that Afghanistan must remain balanced and peaceful for peace in Asia.

It is imperative that Mr. Karzai does not project the war into Pakistan and he gives due consideration to his Pakistani brothers rather than India, since blood is thicker than water.