During the post 9/11 era, relations between Afghanistan's new regime and Pakistan haven't been very amicable. Yet they have failed to undermine the fact that people on both sides of the border not only culturally identify with each other but are keen to collaborate and create a common future, based on mutual friendship and respect.
This was manifest in the Afghan-Pak Journalist Exchange Programme 2012, brought together by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES). The two-phase programme brought together 22 journalists from Pakistan and Afghanistan who were then tasked with working on join reporting projects. Most of these projects concerned issues pertaining to both countries, making them relevant to all the participants.
In the first phase of the project, Afghan journalists came to Pakistan. For them it was a very interesting experience. Writing at the ‘Understanding the neighbor’ blog, Faisal Malik Moonjazer who is an Afghan activist and has worked in newspaper as well as TV, writes in a post titled ‘I was born to hate Pakistan’:
“Friendship, kindness, good behavior, support, humility and honesty – these were all things I found in my Pakistani counterparts. Looking at the photos and recalling the good memories – every minute reminds me of their smiles and kindness. I urge the media from both countries to let us, the people, decide who is the enemy and who is the friend. Do not feed us with enmity from the day when we are born, instead, I request them to promote a culture of peace and friendship.”
In the second phase these journalists met in Kabul. Sundus Rasheed, who is a Programming Manager at CityFM89, Karachi, relates her experience of Kabul in a post at Pak Tea House:
“Even in a city as close as Karachi, Kabul is deemed ‘exotic’ and adventurous. As a Pakistani, it is closer to home than most of us would imagine. However, Kabul is not for tourists, it is for travelers. But there is a romance in the air that is unmistakable. If you are in Kabul, explore something besides the ruins and war relics.”
She then goes on to give a brief cultural outlook of the city, exploring popular foods, marketplaces, music and the people of the city. In another post on a food blog titled ‘Yummy Mummy and Me’, Sundus goes on to give a closer view of the Kabul cuisine and the notable eat-outs in the city.
The reflections and impressions of the Pakistani participants are recorded on the blog ‘Understanding the neighbor’ providing an eclectic mix of glimpses into Kabul's many aspects. Bari Baloch, a staff reporter for The Nation from Quetta, writes in a post titled ‘Pak-Afghan future inter-linked’:
“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.”
Whereas Pakistan can certainly lend a hand to Afghanistan in helping the country attain peace and continue its journey towards education and economic progress, there still remain certain elements in Pakistan who's rhetoric continue to be derived from the establishment's doctrine that Pakistan once deployed towards all things Afghan. One such example is a recent statement given by the emerging leader in Pakistan, Imran Khan.
In a recent statement, Khan termed the war waged by Taliban in Afghanistan as Jihad (holy war), eulogizing their efforts. Naturally, this offended the regime in Afghanistan which has worked hard and long to recreate an Afghanistan which is free from the shackles of religious warriors.
In a post titled ‘Afghan govt condemns Imran's Jihad comment‘, Ayesha Hasan, a sub-editor at The Express Tribune, writes:
“The reverberations of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan’s political gaffe are being felt across the Durand Line.”
The visit to Kabul also enabled journalists from Pakistan to get a first-hand view from notable Afghan scholars. Beenish Javed interviewed Zahid Hussain who is the author of ‘Frontline Pakistan’ and ‘The Struggle With Militant Islam.’ A video of the interview is posted below: