A new wave of deadly suicide bombings has shaken the Afghan capital, Kabul, and many Afghans are placing part of the blame on neighbouring Pakistan: Why? Because they accuse Pakistan of sheltering the Taliban insurgents who carry out these attacks. Fed up by the continued violence, some Afghan citizens have launched a boycott of Pakistani products.

The recent series of suicide attacks, the most deadly in more than a year, marked a decisive end to a two-month lull in the violence in Afghanistan. In a televised speech, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani accused Pakistan of offering “sanctuaries” to members of the Taliban who perpetrate attacks on Afghan soil. For years, Afghan Taliban insurgents have used Pakistan’s semi-autonomous border regions as rear bases. They work closely with the Pakistani Taliban, sharing numerous resources.

Despite the clamouring of many citizens, the Afghan government has yet to impose any sanctions on Pakistan, which is Afghanistan’s main trading partner. According to statistics from the Afghan Chamber of Commerce, Pakistani products account for 80% of Afghanistan’s imports. This includes food items as well as construction materials, medicines, and chemical products. Frustrated by this lack of action, some Afghans decided to take matters into their own hands and have organized a boycott of Pakistani products.

An Afghan woman pours a drink made in Pakistani down the drain, and calls on others to buy Afghan goods. 

Khan Jan Alakozay, the vice-president of the Afghani Chamber of Commerce, has said he supports this popular initiative. The protest gained momentum quickly and, soon, Afghan social media accounts were flooded with messages, photos and videos calling for a boycott of food items and other products from Pakistan.

"This campaign has popular support, but to be really effective, it would need support within the Afghan government"

Mokhtar Wafayi, an Afghan journalist, is participating in the boycott.

"Many Afghans are very unhappy with Pakistan’s actions – or lack thereof. Many officials at the highest levels of Pakistan’s government made public declarations condemning the recent suicide attacks in Afghanistan. But they don’t do anything. So there’s an upsurge in criticism of Pakistan every time there is a new wave of suicide attacks by the Taliban that are based in Pakistan.

Pakistani bills crossed out as a sign of protest. Pakistan's currency is used in certain parts of Afghanistan.

However, this is the first time that people have been using social media to this extent to express their discontent. The boycott campaign has gotten massive. I support the campaign and I’m even participating in it, though I have to say that I think that it’s an emotional reaction, and may not be effective. It has popular support, but it would need support within the Afghan government to really have an economic effect on Pakistan.

On social media, users share photos of products made in Afghanistan and urge others to buy them rather than Pakistani products. 

My fear is that this campaign will damage Afghan interests in the long-term. Afghans import a majority of products from Pakistan and, in some parts of the country, there are no alternatives. In certain parts of Afghanistan located near the Pakistani border — in Jalalabad and Konar, for example — locals even use Pakistani money to buy goods. If Afghan leaders want to give this campaign a chance, they first need to solve the problem of how to replace Pakistani products.

An Afghan man, wearing his country's flag around his shoulders, burns Pakistani bills. 

Before joining the boycott, I already made an effort to avoid buying Pakistani products whenever possible. And even when it’s over, I’ll still continue to support Afghan-made products.

A call to boycott Pakistan products, widely relayed on social media.