News & Views
The Afghan Taliban has installed a new leader after a US drone strike killed former head Mullah Akhtar Mansour in Balochistan. In an official statement, the Taliban named Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada as new leader. Sirajuddin Haqqani and Mullah Yaqoob son of Mullah Muhammad Omar have been named deputies of the new leader. “All the shura members have pledged allegiance to Sheikh Haibatullah in a meeting in Afghanistan,” the statement said. Akhundzada, from Kandahar, is believed to be around 60 years of age and a member of the powerful Noorzai tribe. He was a close aide to the Taliban’s founder Mullah Muhammad Omar. Anyhow, the Taliban retaliated and 10 people were killed and 4 wounded near the Afghan capital city, Kabul, in a suicide attack. The target was a mini bus carrying staff of an appeal court.
According to the US, “Mullah Mansour had refused to participate in peace talks with the Afghan government, intensifying fighting since he officially took control in July after Omar’s death,” but it is a blatant lie to justify the drone attack. Two days after the drone attack, Atta Mohammad Noor, Governor of the northern Balkh province, in an interview to Reuters said: “Fighting may well pick up in some parts of the country after the killing of the Taliban leader, with suicide and bomb attacks”. The statement that Mullah Mansour was against peace talks is absurd. Fact of the matter is that it was Mullah Mansour who had sent his team to participate in Murree talks, in which it was decided that substantive talks would take place in the next round. But that was not to take place.
The peace process was sabotaged by National Directorate of Security (NDS), which has many pro-Indian elements who were inducted during president Karzai era, by leaking the news of Mullah Omar’s demise. Another objective was to create fissures in the Taliban during power struggle and naming the new leader. Taliban commanders who were against peace talks were angry, and to appease them and to establish his credibility Mullah Mansour had to halt the peace process. There is a perception that the US targeted him in Pakistan instead of Iran or Afghanistan or in Dubai or Bahrain. His family reportedly resides in Iran and he has been frequently visiting Iran. The US also tried to convey the impression that Pakistan was on board with a view to creating doubts in the minds of the Taliban about Pakistan.
Last but not the least, another objective was to show to the world that Pakistan provides safe haven to Taliban leaders. The US is playing a dangerous game in liaison with India and northern alliance elements, who do not wish to see peace in for different reasons. Secondly, the US wants to keep the pot boiling to maintain presence of its forces in Afghanistan. Finally, Northern Alliance leaders have overwhelming majority in Afghan government, and they do not wish to share power with the Taliban. On the other hand, the US and Afghanistan have been pushing Pakistan to do more, despite the fact Pakistan military conducted operations in South Waziristan and more recently in North Waziristan and dismantled terrorist’s infrastructure and networks. They had pinned high hopes on Pakistan that it would bring the Taliban to the negotiating table on their conditions.
Pakistan has been telling them that it does not have the leverage to force the Taliban to accept Afghan government’s terms and conditions. In fact, even before Pakistan announced its support for the US-led military operation in Afghanistan, Islamabad’s relations with the Taliban government were strained because of its refusal to hand over several wanted members of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. During Musharraf era, then Pakistan’s interior minister General ® Moeenuddin Haider had gone to Kandahar and requested Mullah Omer to hand over Riaz Basra to Pakistan who was allegedly involved in killings of hundreds of Shias, including Shia doctors, policemen, lawyers, and in killing Iranian diplomat Sadiq Ganji in 1990, and a deadly attack on a gathering at a Shia cemetery in 1998. He was arrested in 1992 and sentenced to death for killing Ganji, but escaped from prison in 1994, and later crossed over to Afghanistan.
At the time of independence, Afghanistan was the only country that voted against Pakistan’s entry into the UN. Almost governments were not willing to accept the Durand Line as a permanent border between Pakistan and Afghanistan; and even Taliban government had taken the same position. Anyhow, Indian RAW and Afghanistan’s NDS continue with their propaganda campaign against Pakistan. They are concocting stories to denigrate Pakistan military. One can imagine from the news story prompted by Afghan intelligence which was aired on “1TV Afghanistan” last month that “Pakistani General was killed in North Afghanistan while fighting along with Taliban.” Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) staffers do not seem to be aware of the role of a general in the army. Can anyone in his right sense even imagine that a general of any army, especially Pakistan Army which is sixth largest in the world, would fight on the forefront in the battlefield?
From the above, one can understand the level of NDS, RAW and even CIA personnel who are out to defame Pakistan by hook or by crook. From articles and treatises by American and western authors and opinion makers, it is not difficult to conclude that the ultimate objective of the US is to completely neutralise Pakistan’s nuclear and missile program with a view to making Pakistan subservient to India. Pakistan’s nuclear assets are subjected to hostile propaganda linking them with psychologically premeditated threats to project them unsafe and perilous for the region. Pakistani nuclear assets, of course are under safe hands, and any propaganda against Pakistani nukes is based on ill-intention and pernicious designs. Anyhow, Pakistan’s decision to develop short-range-low yield (SRLY) nuclear weapons is a measured reaction to Indian adoption of dangerous nuclear doctrine to fight a limited war.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.