“Violence is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding: it seeks to annihilate rather than convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.” Martin Luther King Things seem to be moving away from hostilities and, according to some optimists, towards peace in Afghanistan. But, does cessation of conflict necessarily lead to the advent of peace in a war zone and such other adjoining areas which may have remained gravely impacted because of prolonged bloodletting and violence? In one’s eagerness to embrace peace – and for good reasons – one is usually willing to overlook underlying thorny issues which need study and remedy. A conflict spread over four decades is not usually confined to a few people. It leaves whole generations deeply bruised and battered – this being a deep and lingering pain which is difficult to heal easily! So has been the pain in Afghanistan through the many phases and intensities of conflict it has endured over four decades. Multiple generations of people have known nothing but war, bombs, blood and death. They are referred to as the battleground children and no one knows the pain of conflict more than them. They realise the sufferance it caused and the grave tragedy it wrought in their lives. They still live it, suffering its multi-dimensional impact without interruption. It is a looming spectre they have to cope with. At some point last year, may be even earlier, President Trump decided it was time to quit Afghanistan. It may have been a consequence of his pre-election pledge with the American people, or the gradual accumulation of war-weariness over more than seventeen years with little to nothing to show by way of real-time achievement except dumping phenomenal sums of money in the war-ravaged country and sending considerable body bags back home. Left to him, the US would have been out by now. But, there were others who wanted an orderly exit. So, more time was secured from a usually unyielding president – a year, some said, that would allow for an exit strategy to be planned and executed. In one’s eagerness to embrace peace – and for good reasons – one is usually willing to overlook underlying thorny issues which need study and remedy. A conflict spread over four decades is not usually confined to a few people. It leaves whole generations deeply bruised and battered – this being a deep and lingering pain which is difficult to heal easily! At that stage, Pakistan was lying somewhere deep in the dumps. In a tweet on January 1, 2018, President Trump had spoken his mind out: “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than $33 billion over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies and deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe havens to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!” Around the same time, Pakistan itself was undergoing a change of guard – moving away from an unbelievably sick dispensation that had manoeuvred to survive through enacting one grotesque conspiracy or the other, or playing one dirty trick or the other. There was a new leadership in the offing. There was hope in the air with people sick of the perpetual talk of war and death alone. They wanted to move away from that and get on with improving the state of their lives, those of their families and coming generations. Imran Khan was the embodiment of that hope and he was promising a sea change in the way Pakistan had been – and people were eager to believe him! In the context of history, even at the height of the US-launched war on terror, he was the one leader who had spoken endlessly of the uselessness of conflict and had strongly advocated a negotiated settlement with the Taliban – a position for which he was much reviled and castigated. He was appropriately dubbed variously including as ‘Taliban Khan’ while his stance was generally confined to the dustbin of ridicule. Just as he had assumed the mantle of leadership in the country, President Trump decided to take him on by firing a barrage of tweets demonising Pakistan’s duplicitous role in the Afghan crisis: “We no longer pay Pakistan the billions because they would take our money and do nothing for us, bin Laden being a prime example, Afghanistan being another. They were just one of many countries that take from the United States without giving anything in return. That’s ending.” (To be continued) The writer is a political and security strategist, and heads the Regional Peace Institute — an Islamabad-based think tank Published in Daily Times, February 18th 2019.