What does Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s visit mean for Pakistan? His social, political, and business relations in this country are spread over decades. For him, it was like a home-coming, unlike Dr.Abdullah Abdullah, whose September visit to Islamabad was a momentous event because he belongs to an ethnic group that doesn’t look at Pakistan favorably.
During and after his meetings with Pakistanis across all spectrums, Dr.Abdullah Abdullah generated a number of positive impressions, spoke of unusual positivity in the air, appreciated the host country’s contribution to the Afghan reconciliation process, and underlined more CBMs (confidence-building measures) to clear the mist of the mistrust that still clouds bilateral relations.
A few points to ponder;
Firstly, why would the Kabul residents be favorable to a person they consider as a “notorious, controversial, opportunist and a ruthless power seeker who destroyed parts of Kabul while trying to evict Jamiate Islami and its allies?”
Secondly, why would such a controversial person – pretending to be a maverick – spew venom against Ghani while rubbing shoulders with Pakistani leaders? Ghani – despite all his shortcomings – remains an internationally recognized president of war-torn Afghanistan.
Thirdly, why would Hekmatyar, while sitting in Islamabad, belittle Dr.Abdullah Abdullah as a “paid official appointed by Ghani and with no political value.”
Fourth, did Hekmetyar’s misplaced aggressive and dismissive posturing vis a vis other stakeholders – Ghani, Doha, US – serve Pakistan’s narrative on reconciliation?
On the contrary, it not only sparked furious reactions in Kabul but also once again triggered negative commentary on Pakistan.
This also meant undermining the goodwill that Pakistan has regained with its recent moves on visa facilitation, transit trade, and education scholarship, of course, coupled with Dr.Abdullah Abdullah’s first formal Islamabad visit.
Lastly, this context begs the question as to whether it was a wise move to extend a state reception to a controversial leader and allowing him a free run to foul-mouth his own president as well as the United States? Despite his commitment to peace and reconciliation, his talk centered on negativity and skepticism – all at a time when Afghanistan’s hapless people need positive messaging loaded with peace and not pessimism.