From Kabul with love: Don’t let our relations with India ruin what we have, Pakistan

Published: October 17, 2015

A Pashtun man passes a road sign while pulling supplies towards the Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossing. PHOTO: REUTERS

This year, I paid a visit to the city of my dreams – Islamabad – for the first time in my life. My visit to Pakistan was a part of a citizen-to-citizen dialogue between the youth of Afghanistan and Pakistan. As the youth delegates discussed the mutual issues, problems and misconceptions with high ranking officials, youth activists and even Reham Khan, the wife of Imran Khan, a new side of Pakistan unravelled. This was a side which the media never revealed.

A week before we were scheduled to depart for Islamabad, violence had returned once again to the streets of Kabul. With blasts occurring, the blame game was back too. Pakistan was once again blamed for the violence. The many demonstrations in Kabul and the outcry on social media were all the more reasons for me to be ready for a rather frosty welcome in Islamabad.

But nothing could have prepared me for the surprise we received.

We were welcomed by the Pakistanis with smiles and open arms. Furthermore, we visited the most beautiful place in Islamabad, the Faisal Mosque. I never expected such sheer beauty in a country that I had only heard negative things about.

Before visiting, I had thought of Islamabad as any other Pakistani city like, such as Quetta or Peshawar. For a second, I actually forgot I was in Pakistan; Islamabad was more developed and stunning than I could imagine. It made me look at my own country and realise that war offered us nothing but destruction. I also learned the importance Pakistanis gave to their culture and traditions, and more importantly, they were not so different from us.

I came to realise that Pakistan is as much a victim of the undeclared war which is running between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Violence in different parts of Pakistan is as much of an issue as it is in Afghanistan. The youth of Pakistan with whom I had a chance to interact with, also wanted peace between the two countries, an end to the bilateral problems, just as any youth of Afghanistan does.

The youth with whom we intermingled were very peace loving and for a moment, I was wishing that these people were the high ranking officials of Pakistan, as they were so positive about Afghanistan and its future. The face-to-face interaction with the local people of Pakistan was another experience for me as I felt they held no animosity towards Afghans in their hearts.

However, many misconceptions on the relations between Afghanistan and India are also evident. Pakistanis believe that India is using Afghanistan to spread hate against Pakistan, by implementing development projects within the nation. As an Afghan, I would like to negate this perception. India has undertaken a lot of development work in Afghanistan, just as Pakistan or any other country. And as a country which has seen nothing but war and violence for the past three decades, we need as much support from the international world and are grateful for it.

But it does not mean that due to this development process, the Afghans support one country over the other.

Why can’t we have cooperation, peace and harmony between the three countries, instead of competition, jealousy and mischief?

There are over 2.5 million Afghans living and working in Pakistan as immigrants and we Afghans never forget someone’s help. The Afghans acknowledge the Pakistanis’ hospitality towards immigrants of Afghanistan.

It became clearer every day that there were little to no problems between the people of the two countries, both want the same thing, peace and prosperity. But we also came to know that while there are people who want peace, there are also groups of people who hold an interest in maintaining the cycle of violence. And as the future of the two nations, it is our responsibility to realise that harmony is vital between the two countries. I loved the people of Pakistan and I would love nothing more than Pakistan contributing to the prosperity of their neighbour and brother, Afghanistan.

Feroz Mahbobi

Feroz Mahbobi

The author is a political affairs enthusiast from Kandahar, Afghanistan. He has a degree in English Literature from Kandahar University and is a youth ambassador for Af-Pak Youth Dialogue. He tweets as @ferozmahbobi (twitter.com/ferozmahbobi)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • wb

    Feroz, could you please – for the sake of Pakistanis, not all – clarify how many consulates does India have in Afghanistan?

    Even today, in the age of google, many Pakistanis believe that India has 12,16,24,32 consulates in Pakistan.

    It may surprise you that these numbers are multiples of 4. Because India has only 4 consulates in Afghanistan, just as many as Pakistan has.Recommend

  • bhushanparimoo

    why to compartimize , see through very narrow angle canot we live in peace where ever we areRecommend

  • Ahmed

    India and Afghanistan are connected by history….a country born out of India by mistake cant negate these relations…Afghans know their history very well…the gandhara one..the buddhist one…which was the most peaceful time of Indian subcontinent….than came sickness and it brought pain..pain of 7th century rules…killing each other in the name of religion..considering oneself superior..although no invention ever done by these outside people for better life of human beings…..the region can only become peaceful if everybody accept their true history regarding who they actually are and who were their forefathers and how they got to this stage with sword on neck….those who forget their history…history dont forbids them……..Recommend

  • Asad

    Thank you very much for the visit and the great article. Much appreciated :)Recommend

  • Biased

    Those 4 consulates spawn small, nondescript educational outreach centers that dot Afghanistan border regions. Lately, Ghani is trying to limit them. And were more than a multiple of 4 by last count. So no obfuscation please, boldly admit what is going on.Recommend

  • Biased

    Whats with the rambling nonsensical comment-maybe you are a mistake! As for your Buddist harmony, why is it not working in Sri Lanka with Tamil hindus, or in Burma with rohingas? Afghanistan has NEVER had that storybook peaceful time. It has been a battle ground for Persians, Genghis Khan & Mongols, Greeks, Arabs, Turkmen, Russians, British and now NATO. The original religion of Afghanistan was a form of Shamanism/Zorastrian. As for your Indian Subcontinent construct, India is the name given to land across the river Indus by the Greeks: Subcontinent was coined by British to make their conquered land appear bigger and more important. What is the real indigenous name for this mystery land of peace- do you know?
    Stop reinventing history.Recommend

  • Biased

    Feroz, good to hear and understand young Afghan point of view. Now please go home and counter the anti Pakistan propaganda being spread by those who financially benefit from the continuing turmoil and are being egged by outsiders. Afghanistan needs a harmonious relationship with Pakistan to grow, develop and become part of trade routes and energy corridors. Good fences make good neighbors, as long as Afghan politicians keep threatening to erase Durand as border and claim half of Pakistan-it is difficult for Pakistan to work with such rented politicians.Recommend

  • Kushal

    Misconceptions about Indo-Afghan cooperation and friendship are spread by the Pakistani deep state, who still view Afghanistan as their own backyard or strategic depth. If it hadn’t been the case then Pakistan would not have found any issues with the developmental work India is carrying out in Afghanistan.Recommend

  • stevenson

    The only reason India exists now is because of British so you want to say India is born as a mistake! Don’t forget your history about how subcontinent was ruled. Why don’t you tell Afghans about how Hindu Rajas ruled at Kabul in ancient history and how extremist Hindus consider ancient Afghans as part of their culture. This is before Islam came to the region. As long as Afghanistan is a puppet of India, they will always suffer. Most Pakistanis don’t care what Afghans do or don’t think about Pakistan because we know they are always going to be used by Indians. The only thing which bugs Pakistanis is that there are millions of Afghan refugees who wish would go home or go to India or go to Europe to claim asylum. India can spend all the money it wants in Afghanistan but everyone knows the real reason why there are so many Indian consulates in that country. Remember Chuck Hegel, former US Defense secretary said India uses Afghanistan as a base to do cross border problems in Pakistan. Pakistanis welcome genuine visitors and those who want to learn more about our history and culture but we are tired of millions of refugees who are a burden on our society. If there is a big wall / fence like Hungary is making in South or US is making along Mexican border, then only controlled movement will happen and peace can happen.Recommend

  • Farrukh Aryan

    Historic relation? Do you mean Hindu Kush mountains massacre, Third battle of Panipat Massacre, Sikh holocaust of 1762, Ranjit Singh killing of Afghans etc. Were all brotherly acts Recommend

  • Brutus

    Mark my words young man, your positive impressions about Pakistan are not going to stay in your mind for long. Or, go to social media to find out the amount of hatred ordinary Pakistanis hold for Afghans. An institutional, planned and pre-organised tours can’t give you a real picture of a certain country.Recommend

  • Hameed from UK

    “Feroz, could you please – for the sake of Pakistanis, not all – clarify how many consulates does India have in Afghanistan?”

    What is it to you? You are interfering in internal matters of Afghanistan and exactly what the Afghans don’t like. Afghans owe you no explanation unless you can prove there is any issue from their land over which they have reasonable control. The world is still for that so called evidence of Indian interference that you have so far failed to provide likely because it does not exist proving you guys to be liars.Recommend

  • Tech Student @ the bay! SF

    Excellent article Feroz! I’m glad I read your well written story, and was delighted with your perceptions of the loving engagement between the two nations people. As a fellow Pakhtun; Its very important for us to always remember our people live together among these two nations. And perhaps while others may not know; our Pakhtunwali code always keeps us strong.
    We are but one, ror.
    Thanks :)Recommend

  • Eqbal Khan

    The writer has good points and arguments and he rightly identified common interest. However, he has made blanket statements about India-Afghanistan and India-Pakistan relations. First, Problem inside Afghanistan is not an international one right now, it was in the past, but it is not now. It is a problem of internal issues and conflicts. Afghanistan is not one monolithic society. It has a collection of groups with commons interest, formerly known as Northern Alliance and now runs Government in Kabul. This group does not include other groups, i.e., Pushtoons etc. It is mostly Persian speaking. Current Government is more inclined to relations with India than any other Country. Reasons, Northern Alliance leaders have homes, properties, businesses and much more in India. The government in Kabul has a powerful component of War lords, like Dostum who is famous for switching sides. The major income source is opium, which in turn fuels violence. The Taliabn and others are excluded from the power structure, because of contempt that Northern Alliance has against them. As long as they are excluded, there will be no peace. Second, Afghanistan Pakistan relations have always been bad. Afghanistan has historically demanded that all Pustoon areas belong to it and did not accept Durand Line as international border. Pakistan took most of the Afghan Refugees and Government in Kabul still unable to take them back but will always put out statements against Pakistan. Afghan Government cannot govern Afghanistan but must say something about Pakistan. Anything and everything that goes wrong in Afghanistan is blamed on Pakistan. Why would Pakistan not become suspicious? Third, Pakistan helped Afghanistan because it was Muslim Country. However, Afghanistan showed contempt for Kashmiri people’s struggle? Afghan do not think of good for Kashmiris an issue dear to every Pakistani. On one hand Afghanistan wants help from Pakistan on the name of Religion but at the same time religion has no value when it comes to Kashmir, Indian Hindu Government has priority. Afghanistan and Afghans never think through as to why India is so interested in Afghanistan? Religion? No, common borders? No, Economics? No, then why? Its Pakistan. Imagine there was no dispute between India and Pakistan or Kashmir issue is resolved tomorrow? Where would Afghanistan stand? The argument of historical relations does not gel as well. Historically, Afghanistan fought against British India. Right After attack on Peshwar Air Base, NDS’s former head tweeted tit4tat. In this scenario what Pakistan is supposed to do? and what should Pakistan think?Recommend

  • DudeFromDC

    I haven’t read a better prop like this in a long time. Recommend

  • Jayman

    There is a whole bunch of Pakistanis who follow Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and Zaid Hamid. They never let truth come in the way of their narrative. They believe India has about 12 consulates in Afghanistan.Recommend

  • shah

    take your Hindutva gibberish elsewhere.Recommend

  • JP

    Nope, only one question. Simple one.
    How much did Vishwa Hindu Parishad paid the author to write this blog?
    Rs. 50?..Rs. 150? High end going rate is Rs. 150 + one idli/dosa coupon.
    Could be there was a bidding war between RSS? Shiv Sena? Bajrang Dalis,
    maybe even the Vermilion Lord, The Butcher of Gujrat, stepped in to up
    the ant ? To Rs. 150.75?
    Author made one mistake..he forgot to mention he lives in Afghan Basti in Karachi. Near Sohrab Goth. And claims a refugee status, just like 4 million
    other Afghan refugees in Pakistan. Who will now be facilitated to go back, or
    move on to IndiaRecommend

  • Vishnu’s Uncle’s Father

    You mean not counting the 16 that are in Afghan cities near
    Pakistan’s border? To facilitate RAW to supply arms, training
    and money [US Dollars only, please] to extremists/terrorists
    operating in Pakistan. Who are, fully supported, aided and
    abetted, by India.Recommend

  • Qasim57

    There are bigger cultural forces at play here.

    The Afghan state has been hostile to Pakistan since Pak’s creation, but the Afghan people feel right at home here. Perhaps this is what unnerves their rulers.

    That “wheel” symbol at the center of India’s flag, is one of Chanakya’s symbols(old Indian philosopher), and his philosophy rivals Europe’s Machiavelli in deception and statehood. Chanakya advocated making friends with the other neighbors of your neighboring states, to pressure your neighbor together. And with Pak, this policy’s been the most successful with Afghanistan.

    Afghans had no problem when Britain controlled these territories, but as soon as a Muslim nation gained control from the brits, Afghans started creating problems. They insist that “half of Pakistan” belongs to Afghanistan – KPK and Balochistan. They even attempted to fuel an insurgency in Waziristan in the 50’s and 60’s, but the local Pushtun tribes arrested Afghan instigators and handed them over to the Pak authorities.

    That’s the thing – the Pakistani Pushtun is patriotically Pakistani, they’ve repeatedly sacrificed for Pakistan, they are a warrior race at the forefront of all of Pakistan’s battles. Azad Kashmir was liberated by Pushtun militias when the British officers of the newly formed Pak Army refused to follow Quaid’s orders. And in the 1965 war, these same tribesmen formed militias and volunteered to fight India. An interesting thing to note is, despite Afghanistan’s conniving with India against Pakistan, during the 1965 Pakistan-India war, Afghan rulers told Pakistan they could remove all their forces from the Afghan side and focus on India – Afghanistan stood with Pakistan when India attacked, and did not backstab(which would have pleased India).

    Even now, Afghanistan is in a state of flux. Their US-installed govt seems alot like the Soviet-installed Najibullah govt, both seemed good for a few years only. The modern “secular” Afghan hates Pakistan with a vehemence. They blame Pakistan for the destruction both superpowers unleashed, USA and USSR. Even though a big segment of Afghans themselves colluded with these superpowers. I’ve heard it said that Afghans can “make a brave stand in-front of enemy tanks, but not in-front of enemy dollars”.

    Sadly, that is true for Pakistan as well, if not much of the Muslim world. Pakistan should stop trying to be the “nice guy” who everyone takes advantage of. For our neighbor’s sake as well as ours, we need a foreign policy based on mutual respect and some fear in-case lines are crossed. We should seriously consider returning the millions of Afghan refugees we’ve kept in Pakistan, every other neighbor of Afghanistan returned refugees including Iran(and Afg is alot more polite towards all these neighbors).

    At the very least, Afghans should know that a few million Afghans would no longer be accomodated if push comes to shove. We should maybe return a token amount, like a few lakh, that their state feels the pressure and comes to see reason. Afghanistan is an independent state and Pak should help ’em, but we cannot tolerate an Afghanistan that India uses to fuel terrorism inside Pakistan.Recommend

  • abhi

    The title of the blog is very confusing. Recommend

  • wb

    No. I mean, including all those.Recommend

  • wb

    I love you. One day, I’ll propose to you.Recommend

  • wb

    So, according to brilliant Pakistani minds, an educational outreach center = consulate. Genius Pakistanis!

    If they are so nondescript, how did you even know it exists? Your imagination told you so?

    And what were more than 4? Consulates? And you accuse me of obfuscation. There’s a word for what you’re doing and you know it.Recommend

  • Time Is Up

    Can you please provide the location and addresses of such missions?

    Further please provide independently verifiable evidence – which links directly to events in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Time Is Up

    When it comes to India and its affairs anywhere in the world, Pakistanis constantly live in constant state of insecurity and think it as conspiracy against Pakistan.
    I cannot dispute that the establishment has done and still doing a great job, as there are still buyers for such theories. Such dire state!, since such people just cannot think independently nor do an objective research and get factual data. They are trained only accept what is fed by the establishment.

    Anyway. Good luck to all Pakistani brothers and sisters.Recommend

  • abhi

    If you care to learn you will know the names as well.Recommend

  • abhi

    and what about Taliban leadership protected and encouraged by Pakistan? Why don’t you boldly admit what is going on?Recommend

  • Nero

    Feroz dear, you are barking up the wrong tree. For most Pakistanis, India was created by British in 1947; Pakistan was created by Bin Qasim in 711 AD; and Afghanistan? What is that?Recommend

  • Gratgy

    One Indian consulate = 11 Pakistani Consulates hence India has 44 consulates in AfghanistanRecommend

  • Gratgy

    ” Remember Chuck Hegel, former US Defense secretary said India uses Afghanistan as a base to do cross border problems in Pakistan.”

    Nope he didn’t, read his statement again without twisting it

    “Pakistanis welcome genuine visitors and those who want to learn more about our history and culture”

    Like Mullah Omar, Osama and a thousand others who come to learn your “History” and “culture” at your terrorist camps and then go back to their home country to murder people

    By the way who is Steven?Recommend

  • Videlicet

    Good one!
    India’s aid to Afghanistan need not be construed as a conspiracy against Pakistan or as oneupmanship. India shares a historic bond with Afghanistan and also Indians are aware of the hardships faced in Afghani people. Pak and Afg. also share several cultural aspects and should let those feelings overrule suspicion.

    To the author, I read that the situation in Afg. is quite grave (to the extent that Taliban are being involved by the govt in talks!). I hope your country comes out of these trying circumstances and enters into development stride.Recommend

  • SAJAD

    “Ashraf Ghani said that relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan were not brotherly but like a relationship between two states”.

    “Mistrust and hostility: A Pakistani journalist in Afghanistan”

    http://www.dawn.com/news/1211118/mistrust-and-hostility-a-pakistani-journalist-in-afghanistan

    Needless to mention Karzai’s approach towards Pakistan.Recommend

  • VENKAT

    The wheel is called ASHOKA CHAKRA,a symbol of Emperor Ashoka the great,who was a warrior king but turned pacifist and became a buddhist.Chanakya and Ashoka are well known Indian historical figures,but they were poles apart.Recommend

  • Kushal

    “By the way who is Steven?”
    Name of the owner of the Mom and Pop store where he works.Recommend

  • Kushal

    “and Afghanistan? What is that?”

    Strategic backyard.Recommend

  • Kushal

    “That “wheel” symbol at the center of India’s flag, is one of Chanakya’s symbols”

    Genius Pakistani. That is not the wheel. That is Ashok Chakra. and each of the 24 spokes ( I dont even think you noticed it) represents a link of Gautam Budhha.

    “Afghans had no problem when Britain controlled these territories, but as soon as a Muslim nation gained control from the brits, Afghans started creating problems.”

    Two things. One is Afghans fought three wars with the Britain, current one not counted, and stopped British designs to bring Afghanistan within their control. So it is not that Afghanistan didn’t have problem with the British. By the way, Peshawar was always their summer capital till 1818. Entire KPK should go back to Afghanistan.
    Secondly it was Indian Muslims (your ancestors who supported Pakistan) who always made peace with the British and only came out from their homes demanding Pakistan when independence became imminent. Tell me how many times ML leaders went to British jail?

    Those Pakistani Pashtuns whom you are calling as patriotic Pakistanis were actually patriotic Indians before 1947 (Bacha Khan, Khuda e Khidmatgar).

    I am ashamed that our leaders left them to wolves in 1947 . We are presently correcting that mistake by extending our help to the war torn nation.Recommend

  • Gratgy

    Why would he name himself Steven son? Unless he took the meaning of “Mom & Pop” literallyRecommend

  • stevenson

    Steven was a Saint who was saint who was killed and in Greek it means “honour”. There are many people in Pakistan who know as well as anyone that India has long played a game of trying to destabilize Pakistan using Afghanistan as a puppet state. Chuck Hegel only said the obvious! You may not know that OBL and Mullah Omar were initially Mujahadeen who were supported by the US to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan. They were not only recruited by supported by arms and training until they went rogue and became criminals. The whole region was upset by the influx of violence but the simplistic Indian narrative of blaming Pakistan finds no takers outside of India. Watch Charlie Wilson’s War if you don’t have time to read to remind you about how the West came to support Muhajideen. Then read Afghan history to learn about how they have played to Indian tunes since 1947 and only got themselves burned in the process. As long as Afghans remain puppets of Indians, they will never learn to stabilize their own country and they will always be smuggling themselves into foreign countries and begging for asylum. Take a look at all the Afghans smuggling themselves into Europe. Why not take them all to India?Recommend

  • Brar

    And these consulates were there even before the USSR entered Afganishtan and debating with these people is hitting your head in wall they will have no logic but say the hare had four legs and always think only they are right .Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    You obviously did not get his sarcasm!!Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    Even if it is being done by India, what’s wrong in it considering the fact that you are home to Indian blood suckers like Hafiz Saeed.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    People like you inspire a lot of confidence among Indians who would want to see a Pakistan bleeding through its own axe.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    “If there is a big wall / fence like Hungary is making in South or US is making along Mexican border, then only controlled movement will happen and peace can happen.”

    What happened to the concept of strategic depth then, will you simply let go of it?

    “Pakistanis welcome genuine visitors and those who want to learn more about our history and culture but we are tired of millions of refugees who are a burden on our society. ”

    History is the last thing Pakistan should be teaching the world, whether its own or someone else’s.Recommend

  • Schumaila Khan

    I am to pleased to read your comment..Recommend

  • Schumaila Khan

    Feroze I am pleased to read your article. Trust me it felt like a fresh air to amind all those anti Pakistan state and Indian supported media/social media pawns. People like you are very rare and rarest of rare in Afghanistan. I welcome you and other positive Afghans like you to Pakistan. I wish and pray more people like you are born on that part of the land. God bless! Love and Cheers from PakistanRecommend

  • Qasim57

    Thanks, glad you enjoyed it :)Recommend

  • Schumaila Khan

    off courseRecommend