Being a neighbor of Afghanistan, Pakistan has suffered a lot as a result of events in that country. Whether it was the Soviet invasion or power struggles of various factions of the Taliban or the US intervention after September 11, 2001, Pakistan had to pay a very high cost.
Any disturbance in Afghanistan makes many of its people flee into Pakistan, which has hosted up to 5 million Afghan refugees. No other country has accepted such a huge number, while Pakistan, a country with meager resources and a weak economy has accommodated them.
Pakistan was in the past a very tolerant and peace-loving, balanced society, but during the 1980s war against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, Pakistan suffered extremism, intolerance, terrorism, a gun culture and drug culture.
For four decades, war in Afghanistan pushed Pakistan to give highest priority to its defense and ignore other sectors such as education, health, science and technology and innovation, as well as the social sector and developmental sectors. As a result, the nation was pushed backward.
In the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s Pakistan’s economy was performing very well – it was one of the most rapidly developing countries in South Asia. Singapore, South Korea and Malaysia wanted to learn from Pakistan and its development model. The Pakistani passport was well respected in the world, with many countries offering us visas on arrival.
But since December 25, 1979, with the Soviet invasion, the situation in Afghanistan has impacted Pakistan. Terrorism reached extreme levels and bombings, suicidal attacks and insecurity were witnessed everywhere.
After a school attack on December 16, 2016, in Peshawar, Pakistan formulated a National Action Plan (NAP). With the implementation of this program, Pakistan has achieved significant improvement in the country’s overall security landscape in recent years.
This has been achieved primarily thanks to comprehensive counterterrorism operations culminating with Operations Zarb-e-Azb and Khyber and other measures taken by the government under the framework of the NAP, and the sacrifices of the security forces. This has resulted in a major decline in the number of terrorist attacks as well as the casualties suffered.
However, while Pakistan is successfully fighting the terrorists on its soil, it also expects the US, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Afghan forces to do the same in Afghanistan.
Pakistan continues to be a target of terrorism, including state-sponsored terrorism from its immediate neighbors. The conflict and instability in Afghanistan remain an impediment for regional peace, security and development. Pakistan, because of its proximity and historical connection, has faced the most serious consequences of war in Afghanistan, ranging from security to socio-economic.
Hosting millions of Afghan refugees has not only burdened Pakistan’s economy but also put additional stress on its internal security situation. Pakistan continues to face terrorist attacks from terrorist hideouts in Afghanistan.
Successful counterterrorism has played a critical role in creating a conducive economic environment whose results have started to appear in terms of growth across various sectors of the economy. As a result of these efforts, the total losses incurred, both fiscal and human, have been declining.
Pakistan has suffered heavy losses of precious lives due to terrorism, and the overall economic loss is estimated at up to US$250 billion. The intangible loss is much more and beyond one’s imaginations.
With this background, Pakistan is the first country wishing for peace in Afghanistan.