Pak’s dream to have Taliban-controlled Afghanistan as its backyard is shattered

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Taliban on the streets of Afghanistan.
Taliban on the streets of Afghanistan. (File photo)

For disinterested political commentators, there is no surprise in Afghan Taliban turning their guns against the Pakistanis. Even during their battles against the Americans, the Taliban knew that Pakistan authorities were playing game. They never trusted them. Pakistani strategists always said they wanted space westward (towards Afghanistan border) because they feared India could at any time route them on their western front.

Seeking strategic space westward meant adopting one of the two options; either befriend the Afghans and make them collaborators against India or let Afghan Taliban win the war against the Americans and then impose hegemony on them.

India’s far-sighted policy in Afghanistan, essentially based on contributing robustly to the building of its vital infrastructure, has helped in building a strong pro-India constituency in that country. The Taliban did not forget it even when they were engaged in grim battles against the foreign forces.

Islamabad policy planners were gleeful when in the aftermath of re-capture of Kabul last year, India withdrew its embassy and halted work on many projects underway in various parts of Afghanistan.

Pakistan policy planners interpreted the political scenario as permanent departure of India from Afghanistan. They thought the expected vacuum had happened and now they had no hindrance in projecting their hegemony over the Afghan nation.

Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, the then ISI chief suddenly landed in Kabul one afternoon without announcing his mission. He played  the role of a mediator to bring about some understanding among the opposing factions of the Taliban over the issue of distribution of portfolios. He was able to make the Haqqani faction, a known protégé of ISI, accept the interior ministry portfolio.

In the days immediately following recapture of Kabul by the Taliban, Pakistan persistently implored the Taliban and even brought pressures via Haqqani group to efface all traces of Indian influence including putting a stop to all developmental works undertaken by Indian companies. They were gleeful about India’s total departure from Afghanistan.

But the Taliban Afghan knew what they had to do without giving any impression to the Pakistanis. The gleeful Pakistanis singing songs of religious fraternity with the Afghans, hardly knew how deep India’s influence was within the Afghan society. The Afghan Taliban leadership that had deep connections with India and had never broken these, was in constant contact with Indian friends.

When India declared she would send fifty thousand tons of wheat by way of gift to Afghanistan, Pakistan objected to overland transportation of the wheat. She was more inclined to perpetuate animosity with India than help overcome starvation of people in Afghanistan. The Afghan foreign minister Mulla Muttaqi had to come down to Pakistan to plead with Pakistani authorities to allow Indian wheat to be carried across Pakistan to Afghanistan. Pakistan delayed the decision and very reluctantly allowed the wheat trucks to move on. The Afghan Taliban could distinguish between a friend and a foe.

Kudos to the planners at India’s ministry of external affairs who decided to maintain normal relations with the Taliban despite bitter enmity from Pakistanis. India also sent about 15 tons of essential medicines which the Taliban government needed urgently. This was also a gift.

India opened the doors of her educational/professional institutes on Afghan students. India opened the doors of her hospitals with superior facilities for the needy Afghan migrants or refugees. India reopened negotiations with Tehran to restart work on Chabahar–Kabul road link. The Taliban government appealed to India to reopen her embassy in Kabul and committed full security to the Indian staff and only recently Kabul asked India to resume work on incomplete projects India had begun.

On the other side of the picture, Pakistani border security force obstructed the Taliban from conducting survey of the border line. They tried to fence the unfenced part of the Durand Line but the Taliban obstructed and said they never accepted the Durand Line. Pakistani Rangers tried to make a show of muscle power and when the Taliban retaliated, the Pakistanis ran for shelter.

Intermittent and unprovoked firing and shelling across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border has been the scenario for the last six months. Firing has resulted in casualties. Only three days back, there has been heavy firing by mortar and other arms across the Chaman border between the two sides. There was a attack on the Pakistani Consulate in Kabul. Islamabad summoned the Afghan envoy in Islamabad and handed him a note of protest.

The recent firing along Chaman border was of the level that Pakistan had to evacuate the civilian population living close to the border and declare border emergency. Chaman is an important border check post and a trading route across the border. It had to be closed for some time.

Pakistani leaders have been spitting fire on how the Taliban are treating Pakistan. They say that they made all the sacrifices for the Taliban because the Taliban are their co-religionists but the Taliban did not care a fig for it.

These developments will open the eyes of Pakistani leaders to the harsh but true reality that religion is not a binding force for the communities. The Islamic doctrine that there is only the Islamic ummah and no national territories has been disproved by the momentum of history. Bangladesh separated from Western Pakistan, Baloch are up in arms to separate from Pakistan and TTP has pledged not to rest till Pakistan is dismembered. Where is the Islamic ummah and fraternity?

Taliban are making recurrent attacks on the so-called Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Islamabad will never tell the people of Pakistan the real reason of Afghan aggression. Yes it is aggression, but a rightful aggression. The Afghans on both sides of the arbitrary boundary line never accepted the Durand Line drawn by the British Colonialists. They say the line divides thousands of Pashtun families and they will never allow it. This is also the stand of TTP. Islamabad wants to perpetuate the Durand Line for its political objectives.

Now that Pakistan’s perfidy against the Taliban has boomeranged and the Taliban have sent a clear signal to Islamabad that they will demolish the Durand Line, Pakistanis finding themselves against the wall have begun the old game of blaming India for everything that is happening on Afghan-Pakistan border. They are accusing India for supporting not only the TTP but also the Baloch freedom fighters.

Pakistan is not prepared to look inside and find out what they have done to their country by creating, sponsoring and abetting terrorism on their soil.

A new scenario is about to appear in Pakistan in near future. Like the Afghan Taliban, the extremist jihadi terrorist groups which Pakistan Army has raised on its soil will follow in the footsteps of Taliban and turn their guns against the Pak Army and the pro-military civilian government. This process has already begun in PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan. In a recent meeting of the Pakistani Prime Minister in Muzaffarabad, the PoK Prime Minister did not allow Shahbaz Sharif to complete his speech. He was forced to stop half way and leave the stage in disgust. Massive demonstration all over PoK including Gilgit-Baltistan have sent clear signals to the Chinese that their projects running through PoK territory are unsafe and will not be allowed to be completed. China is upset by the stiff warning of Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh that PoK is part of India and shall remain so. Indian army commanders say they are ready to implement the unanimous resolution of the Indian Parliament of taking back the part of J&K illegally occupied by Pakistan. Naturally, India will also take into account the support of Kabul in effacing the arbitrary Duran Line.

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