Pak-Afghan future inter-linked

by Bari Baloch

Originally published in The Nation on 12th October 2012

KABUL: After destruction of many years Afghanistan particularly its
capital Kabul is fast developing which could be gauged from the lofty
buildings, roads, educational institutions, hospitals and media
outlets.
The decades long war and oppressive regime of Taliban had destroyed
almost entire Afghanistan, its infrastructure, educational
institutions, hospitals and above all millions of Afghan people were
killed while millions of others migrated to neighboring countries such
as Pakistan and Iran.
Kabul which is the heartbeat of Afghanistan, centre of politics,
commerce and culture was also badly affected not only in Taliban
regime but also during Soviet aggression.
When Taliban regime was eliminated by United States and it allies in
2001 a new ray of hope created amongst the people of Afghanistan to
rebuild their war-torn country with the help of world community.
Besides, US, European Union and other countries, Pakistan being
neighboring and sharing 2600 km long border with Afghanistan showed
commitment to play a role in the rebuilding and reconstruction of
Afghanistan.
Since last many years Pakistan has begin a number of development
projects in various parts of Afghanistan particularly in education,
health and construction of roads. Pakistan is providing $ 330 million
for building of educational and health institutions, and communication
infrastructure of Afghanistan.
“Pakistan is playing an important role in the development of
Afghanistan since a stable Afghanistan was vital for stable Pakistan,”
says Muhammad Sadiq, Pakistan’s ambassador in Kabul.
He said some 5,200 Afghans crossed the border into Pakistan everyday
in 2009 for business, jobs, medical treatment, education and to visit
relatives. “This was significant increase over a year ago when 44,000
Afghans traversed the border daily. Pakistan issues more visas to
Afghans than the rest of the world combined and Pakistan does not
charge any visa fee from Afghan passport holders,” he said.
He said that due to Pakistan’s longstanding policy on educating Afghan
nationals some 30,000 Afghans had attended Pakistan universities and
colleges in last three decades. “Today, 6,000 afghan students are
enrolled in Pakistan’s colleges and universities while half a million
Afghan refugee children attend schools in Pakistan.
Pakistan has constructed many educational institutions, including
Allama Iqbal Faculty of Humanities at Kabul University costing $ 10
million was completed in 2009, Rahman Baba High School in Kabul
costing $ 4 million. Some educational institutions have been also
constructed in Balkh, Kandahar, Wardak, Baghlan and Herat.
“We have always more expectations from Pakistan to do more
particularly in the education sector,” says Fawzia Koofi, a member of
Afghan parliament, adding that we knew Pakistan had its own problems
but not much had been done in development of Afghanistan on the part
of Pakistan which could be visible.
“In Afghanistan which has been in war for the last decade, there are a
lot of hopes from Pakistan especially in education and health
sectors,” she added.
Over 80 per cent of Afghans seek medical treatment in Pakistan
particularly in the hospitals of Balochistan in Quetta and Khyber
Pakhtunkhwa in Peshawar.
Pakistan is playing a significant role in building healthcare
infrastructure in Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan.
Similarly,  Nishtar Kidney Centre was built in Jalalabad at a cost of
$ 7 million.
Another main project in health sector is Jinnah Hospital of 400 beds
in Kabul worth $ 20 million was completed in 2011. A 200-bed hospital
was constructed in Logar at the cost of $ 20 million.
One of the shining examples of Pakistani cooperation with Afghanistan
is the construction of a 75 km long road linking Torkham with
Jalalabad Road at a cost of $ 34.42 million.
“Our neighbours are very important for us for developing this region.
Pakistan has played a role in constructing the Torkham-Jalalabad
Road,” says Sediq Sediqi, spokesman of Afghanistan’s Interior
Ministry.
Sediqi said that development in education and health sectors was
crucial but most important for them was security and counterterrorism.
“There is a need of strong will among people in both the countries to
help each other like when there was earthquake and flood in Pakistan,
Afghan government was among the first to help Pakistanis,” he added.
Sediqi said there were conflicts in this region especially between
Pakistan and Afghanistan and it is sad that after so many years we
have not been able to find a solution to our common problems.
Notwithstanding that Pakistan is playing a key role in putting back
Afghanistan on the track of development, there are a lot of issues
that need to be resolved which are creating a gulf between the two
countries.
“We know the people across the border love us and we love them too.
But Pakistan is responsible for uprisings in Afghanistan and its
destruction,” says Ahmed Zia Neekbin, a professor in Kabul University.
Prof. Neekbin said that Pakistan should respect “our borders and
completely wind up its interference in Afghanistan” and should prove
to be “a responsible neighbour”.
Over 100,000 Pakistanis hailing from different sectors mainly
labourers are working across Afghanistan particularly in Kabul and
playing a significant role in the reconstruction of Kabul and other
cities of the country.
Officially, the trade volume between Pakistan and Afghanistan stands
at $ 2.6 billion while informal trade is estimated at more than $ 2
billion which is creating over 3.4 million jobs in Pakistan.
Afghanistan is a tremendous market for Pakistani economy as it allows
Pakistani goods and products to be widely available.
Political analysts on both sides of the border believe that peace is
essential for the regional prosperity and Pakistan, being a developed
country, as compared to Afghanistan, should play a significant role in
the process of development of their Afghan brothers

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