Sultan M Hali
WHEN venom is combined with spite, it makes the deadliest poison. Unfortunately, Afghanistan, which should have friendly and normal relations with its neighbour Pakistan, spites it because its handlers the US and now India, a US ally and a new player in Afghanistan, urge it to do so. Dr Ashraf Ghani made a good beginning by visiting Pakistan immediately after taking up the mantle of the Afghan President. His outreach to the civilian government as well as the General Headquarters Rawalpindi, spoke volumes for his statesmanship and the years of grooming received during service in the World Bank. Neither India, nor the US approved of Ashraf Ghani’s overtures towards Pakistan, which had started paying immediate dividends and Dr Ashraf Ghani’s romance with Pakistan was short lived. Afghan Cadets had been accepted for training at the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) Kakul.
On April 18, 2015, while Chief of General Staff Afghan National Army General Sher Mohammad Karimi was reviewing the Passing Out Parade at the PMA (being the first and to date the only foreigner to be bestowed this honour), a deadly blast rocked Kabul. Detractors who could not stand the growing close relations between Kabul and Islamabad succeeded in poisoning the well. Pakistan was blamed for the deadly terror attack and falling prey to Indian and U.S. propaganda, Dr. Ashraf Ghani started leaning towards India. Narendra Modi welcomed him with open arms and even encouraged Dr. Ghani to blackball Pakistan. An ardent follower of Chanakyan dictums of guile and deceit, Modi has found an ardent pupil in Dr. Ghani, who is gullible to swallow the Indian propaganda plot and become an eager player to target Pakistan with barbs, scorn and false accusation. True that in the past decades, Pakistan had its own agenda in Afghanistan; it played favourites and sought the strategy of depth vis-à-vis its western neighbour. Pakistan believed that its investments as well as the sacrifices rendered during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (1979-89) gave it the right to do so. Since then Pakistan has learnt its lesson and dropped the strategy of depth ambition and is desirous of peace in Afghanistan since its own development projects like the TAPI oil pipeline, the CASA 1000 power project, transit trade with Central Asian States and even the mega project CPEC are affected by it.
What is worrisome is that in his endeavour to spite the face of Pakistan, Dr Ashraf Ghani is cutting off his own nose; he is hurting Afghanistan. In its latest faux pas, Afghan Ministry of Interior has leaked a letter on social media asking Afghans not to eat dairy products imported from Pakistan. The letter insinuates that the ISI and Pakistan have poisoned the dairy products to mass murder Afghans. Ironically, Afghans actually prefer to consume Pakistani products because they are halal and comparatively of high quality and cost less. More importantly, it is Chanakyan planning to use poison against your enemies. In his treatise of statecraft “Arthashastra”, Chanakya recommends the use of Visha Kanya (Poison girls), who were young women, fed on poison since childhood. They were used as assassins since their blood and bodily fluids were purportedly poisonous to other humans. Pakistan follows the tenets of Islam which forbid the poisoning of human beings even in war. It is unthinkable that Pakistan would poison its own Muslim brothers when at their peak, 5 million had sought refuge in Pakistan for over three decades and even now 1.5 million remain, in whose garb acts of terrorism are executed.
Perhaps there is method in the madness because Dr. Ashraf Ghani himself faces challenges emanating from his personal life. His wife Rula Ghani is of Lebanese origin, a Maronite Christian, who had raised quite a stir during her husband’s presidential campaign during the 2014 elections. Afghanistan has a conservative society and Dr. Ashraf Ghani’s opponents are openly critical of his secular views, ethnic approach and violations of Afghan values. Some doctored images had appeared of Ghani praying in a Church. Rula Ghani has apparently done well by campaigning for women’s rights but stirred a hornet’s nest when she supported the French government for banning the use of Niqab by Muslim women in France. She has appeared in the 2015 “Time” magazine’s list of 100 most influential persons but during her address in the west, Mrs Ghani has skirted volatile issue of women’s rights, declaring that the widely documented plight of Afghan women – including domestic abuse, forced early marriage, bride barter and imprisonment for eloping – has been unfairly exaggerated by the foreign press and aid organisations. Her predecessor, Zeenat Karzai was practically invisible during 13-year rule of her husband Hamid Karzai. Rula Ghani is accused of propagating Christianity, which may or may not be true but way West is showering accolades on her, makes it suspicious.
Both children of Ashraf and Rula Ghani, Tariq Ghani and Mariam have US citizenship and are known media and social activists. Mariam also works on visual projects with Indian origin artiste Chitra Ganesh and others. Recently, in a book titled “Pakistan’s Message” published by the government, more than 1,800 Pakistani clerics representing various Islamic sects declared suicide bombing to be forbidden or “haram” under Islamic principles. They also called for a complete ban on violence in the name of jihad by non-state groups. Nowhere in the book, was it mentioned that this fatwa is restricted to the boundaries of Pakistan but on January 18, 2018, Dr Ashraf Ghani questioned the Pakistani fatwa asking why Afghanistan has been left out? If he is so mindful of fatwas, he should pay heed to the one issued on December 29, 2017, in which Afghan Ulema in Kabul issued fatwas against Ashraf Ghani for his anti-Islam and secular stance in their last Friday sermons of the year. Pakistan has consistently expressed deep desire for a lasting peace in Afghanistan but Ashraf Ghani would continue to bite his nose to spite face since he is blinded in his hate for Pakistan fuelled by his allies and sponsors.
—The writer is retired PAF Group Captain and a TV talk show host.
Sultan M Hali