In interviews in the Afghan capital, political figures, experts and residents expressed strong negative opinions about Pakistan’s trustworthiness and Sharif’s political record and religious views, especially his support for the Afghan Taliban while he was prime minister in the late 1990s and his continued tolerance of armed religious groups in Pakistan.
“It is a mistake to test someone who has already been tested and failed you,” said Atiqullah Amarkhel, a retired Afghan army general. “Nawaz Sharif did his utmost to fan the civil war in Afghanistan. He was the main figure behind the disintegration of our army, and then he helped the Taliban.”
Sharif’s goals, Amarkhel said, will be “the same as previous Pakistani regimes — to keep Afghanistan unstable, weak and dependent.”
Sharif has said little about his intended approach to Afghanistan, in contrast with his numerous assertions that he wants to mend fences with Pakistan’s other problematic neighbor, India. Some analysts here said he will probably wait to see how events in Afghanistan play out in 2014, when national elections and the final pullout of NATO troops are scheduled to take place.
Afghan analysts also noted that other actors in Pakistan may have as much of a say in Afghanistan policy as Sharif, especially the powerful military and intelligence establishment that dominates foreign policy and appears inclined to support Islamist militant groups as long as they focus their crusade across the border.
Asked to comment on Sharif’s election, several Afghan residents and political leaders accused Pakistan’s major spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, of working to interfere in and harm their country, and they suggested that Sharif would be either unwilling or unable to challenge it.
“The ISI is the biggest enemy of Afghanistan, and they have had a key role in our deteriorating situation in recent decades,” said Mozhda Walizad, a journalism student at Kabul University. “Unfortunately, the ISI has influence on people, politicians and even the press. This is why civilian governments, including Nawaz’s Muslim League, cannot do anything against them.”
Pakistani analyst Ahmed Rashid, however, pointed out that Sharif’s sweeping electoral victory, combined with Pakistan’s need for international economic support, would give him the means and the motive to help Afghanistan by putting pressure on the Taliban to move forward on long-stalled peace talks with the Karzai government.