PESHAWAR -- An agreement between the Afghan Taliban and the United States has given many in Pakistan hope for peace in the region, but risks remain as the Taliban continue to attack Afghan government forces in breach of the historic deal.
After almost two decades of conflict in Afghanistan, the United States and the Taliban signed an accord February 29.
The pact signed in Doha, Qatar, would see the United States and foreign allied forces pull all their troops from Afghanistan within 14 months, provided the Afghan Taliban stick to pledges to open a dialogue with the Kabul government and guarantee Afghanistan is never again used by jihadist movements such as Al-Qaeda and "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) to plot attacks abroad.
"This is a very important deal that will have a very positive impact on the security situation of Afghanistan and Pakistan," said Peshawar-based security analyst Brig. (ret.) Mehmood Shah.
The agreement is a harbinger of peace in a region reeling from a decades-long wave of militancy and terrorism that has affected millions of inhabitants of both Afghanistan and Pakistan, he said.
The end of the war in Afghanistan will have a positive impact on development, the economy, infrastructure and the uplifting of those affected by war, Shah said.
The peace deal and the potential sharing of governance with the Taliban in Afghanistan will help stifle terrorists taking refuge in lawless areas of Afghanistan, according to Shah.
"The US-Taliban dialogue and ensuing peace deal are a very welcome happening that augurs well for the entire region," said Dr. Azmat Hayat Khan, the former director of the Area Study Centre at the University of Peshawar.
With the revival of peace, development and progress will take place in Afghanistan, he added.
However, challenges remain. Since the signing in Doha, the militants have ramped up violence against Afghan forces, casting a pall over peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban set to begin March 10.
Since Monday, the Taliban has conducted dozens of attacks across the country, killing and wounding dozens of security personnel and citizens.
In response, the US military launched an air strike against Taliban fighters Wednesday (March 4), and warned the Taliban that further escalatory violence against Afghan government forces would be met with more US response.
NATO also warned the Taliban Wednesday that Western forces will leave Afghanistan only if the Taliban make good on their commitment to reduce bloodshed.
A new era
The deal "is a good development for the peoples of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the continuation of the peace process will usher in a new era of development and prosperity in the region", said Zia-ul-Haq Sarhadi, a Peshawar businessman and former senior vice president of the Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PAJCCI).
The business community of Pakistan welcomes the agreement because peace will pave the way for more business in the region and improve living standards, he said.
Sarhadi also expressed the hope that, with the restoration of peace, the historic trade route between Pakistan and Central Asian countries via Afghanistan will revive, opening new vistas and opportunities.
Decades of insurgency and resulting lawlessness have created a long-term recession and cost thousands of workers in Afghanistan and Pakistan their jobs, he said.
Ismail Khan, an Afghan refugee who has lived in Pakistan for the last 40 years, expressed hope about the revival of peace in his native Afghanistan.
"Being Afghans, we want to go back to our homeland, but because of the precarious security situation, we cannot fulfil our longing," he said.
"We are telling our children that we have land and a palatial house in Ghazni Province of Afghanistan, but we have been unable to take them there because of security concerns," Ismail said.
If the peace pact takes hold, he might be able to take his children back to their actual motherland and show them the house and property of their ancestors, he said.