Autumn is stepping in and soon hills in Pakistan and Afghanistan will be covered with snow. This will make battles difficult. From last five months gradually Taliban has been expanding its control over large parts of Afghanistan. Taliban is fighting a multi directional battles. On one side is US and other is ISIS and ANA. Nevertheless, some hard battles are expected before some headway is made in the talks with Taliban. In the regional and global complexities, finding a way through negotiations is a hard task. After snapping Doha talk by Trump stillness prevailed and one could find strategic jigsaw and quietness in diplomacy. But there is something amiss.
Taliban leadership was in Islamabad a couple of days back. They had meetings with all the important people and also with IK. Coincident? Zalmay Khalilzad was also in Islamabad after visiting Kabul. Was he part of parleys? Apparently yes. When all this was happening, House Speaker Nancy Polesi was in Kabul too meeting all the important people and groups and with Ashraf Ghani, though election results have not been announced. US media did not give enough coverage to her also. During this period General Austin was also in Islamabad, meeting with COAS and other functionaries. Not sure he was also part of Taliban talks. Every one is tight lipped. Last week Taliban leadership were again in Moscow. Thus between China, Pakistan, Russia and US behind the scene information sharing and consultations are going on to find some consensus. For Trump such a deal is extremely important from coming US presidential especially in the Mideast of impeachment inquiry going on in Congress. Apparent deal was earlier snapped by Trump after killing of US soldier, which Zalmay Khalilzad is trying to revive. Thus two players are really angry, Ashraf Ghani and Modi. Will India pack its bags if such a deal occurs, that too in Islamabad? Certainly not, especially when Kashmir issue is changing from intifada to armed resistance if not all out guerrilla war. Indian RAW, has played well by creating Modi-Madni alliance, JUI-F, a twin sister of JUI (Hind) is already in Islamabad obviously raising slogans for new elections and resignation of IK, a totally undemocratic demand, especially when NA and Parliament, so as Election Commission, are there to redress their grievances of any malpractice. No, the agenda is different. Destabilise the region, India quietly tightening its grip in Kashmir by abolishing any semblance of Kashmir as separate special status region on one side, on the other if not scuttle delay any agreement between Taliban and US.
Link attack in Jalalabad Pak consulate, increased violation on the LoC, firing incidents and casualties on Pak-Afghan border, burning of train in South Punjab, in this background GUI(F) Dharna carry a sinister message. Presently verbal attacks on institutions and establishment if escalated into demand of resignations, arrest of PM from his house, is music to India and other anti-Pakistan forces that are bent upon to create disturbances. Watch the glee in Indian media. What ever appeasement policy of governance, spectrum of demand will be anted up Dhrna people. This is a very serious strategic scenario and while Pakistan is embroiled in its internal turmoil, an adventure from India cannot be ruled out. All parties, for their vested interests, supporting totally anti-democratic activity beware of danger lurking and they not only may disrupt democratic system but also put the physical security of the country at stake.
Silver lining is there, Trump, embroiled in impeachment inquiry, will desperately try to have deal with Taliban to save his political stake in the coming election and may not like to see South Asia in the grip of war-like situation. Same with China and Russia watching the situation keenly. At the same time, politico tactical move and quantum of flexibility is warranted from government. Also end decisions hitting common man for a while.
—The writer, a retired Brigadier, is decorated veteran of 65 & 71 wars and a defence analyst based in Lahore.