Rising militancy and Afghanistan’s attitude
IN the backdrop of increasing militancy in the ex-tribal regions and Malakand Division; a massive and successful protest was held in Mingora Swat, against the killing of a school van driver.
In the same attack, two school boys were seriously injured. After the incident, likely carried out by a faction of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the enraged people of Swat and adjoining areas took out a mammoth rally in Mingora.
Prominent politicians known for anti-militant and anti-Taliban views also addressed the rally.
Well known amongst these politicians were: Manzoor Pashteen of Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement; veteran politician Afrasiab Khattak; Awami National Party (ANP) KP President Aimal Wali Khan and Jamat-i-Islami (JI) Senator Mushtaq Ahmed Khan.
The speakers said that once again, the much hard earned peace in Swat and other parts of KP was being disturbed.
The speakers asserted that this time, the Pashtuns would not be deceived, nor would they allow any hidden hands, to install terrorists on their lands again.
The speakers correctly reflected the rage of the people of Swat, who have been through the worst implications of militancy during the 2007-9 time period.
The speakers called upon the security agencies of the state, to provide security to the people.
The speakers concluded that if the state did not provide security to the people of Swat, the Pashtuns will take things into their own hands and Pashtuns; from all over KP would stand with their brothers in Swat.
As I have alluded to the fact in my earlier articles also, the present wave of militancy and the increased presence of militants/Taliban activity in the ex-tribal districts and Malakand Division have markedly increased after the formation of the Taliban Government in Afghanistan.
Local journalists say that some of these militants/Taliban claim, off the record, that they have come back as per negotiations with Pakistani State and Security Agencies.
The Advisor on information to the KP Chief Minister denies this claim. He gives the wishy washy explanation that the militant actions are taken by Taliban groups, opposed to the negotiations.
This explanation does not hold much water because the TTP is an amorphous organization of various groups, who only get to-gather for specific tasks, and are not a hierarchical and disciplined force.
The government established by the Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan is clearly in the state of confusion and frustration.
They could clearly not meet the commitments which they made with the international community.
The most important commitments made by the Taliban regime, were the guarantee that their soil would not be used as a launching pad by terrorists and militants.
Secondly they had promised women in Afghanistan would be given equal rights and opportunities, and that girl’s education would not be curbed at any cost.
This has clearly not happened. As a result of these measures, the international community is not happy with the Taliban regime, and so for not a single country has recognized the new regime in Afghanistan.
Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif recently warned the international community in the UN General Assembly about the active presence of foreign extremist organizations in Afghanistan, including those that have been targeting Pakistan.
Many other Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia through its foreign minister Faisal bin Farhan, called for cooperation among all countries to stop Afghanistan from becoming a centre for the growth and perpetuation of terrorism.
The Taliban regime, showed unprecedented verbal aggression against Mr. Sharif’s speech. Deputy Foreign Minister Sher Abbas Stankzai issued an extremely belligerent statement against Pakistan, accusing it of profiting economically off the Afghan conflict.
The most concerning part of Stankzai’s statement was that the Taliban had proof of Pakistan’s manipulative role in Afghanistan and his threat; that: “if we rise against this, no one will be able to stop us.”
This threat by the Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister is indeed painful for Pakistan, in view of the tremendous assistance that we have provided to them, in various forms for the last four decades.
But it seems that Afghanistan is taking out all the anger and frustration on Pakistan, which it faces from the international community.
Pakistan on the other hand, is perfectly justified in accusing Afghanistan of not taking firm action against TTP, as it had promised, but rather telling Pakistani authorities to negotiate with the TTP which is clearly not producing positive results for Pakistan.
On the other hand the Afghan Taliban complain that the international community should appreciate its efforts in dealing with terrorist organizations like the Islamic State of Kharasan; the TTP; the East Turkistan Islamic movement and the Islamic movement of Uzbikistan.
It is a fact, however, that contrary to the initial claims of the Afghan Taliban, these militant organizations have been more resistant and damaging for the Taliban regime and world peace.
The Taliban regime’s increasing bitterness towards Pakistan is badly impacting bilateral ties between the two counties.
International community and human rights watchdogs have been closely monitoring the situation.
For them girl’s education is an issue of extreme importance. In spite of getting bilateral and humanitarian assistance the Taliban regime cannot fully stand on its feet till diplomatic recognition is given to them by the international community.
According to some analysts both the Afghan Taliban and our security agencies suffered from certain common shortcomings also.
Afghan Taliban as well as our security agencies could not achieve inclusivity. The Afghan Taliban because of their narrow ideological and literary interpretation of religion could not include groups or ethnicities having diverse thinking.
Similarly, our security establishment, in spite of repeated advice, not to put all their eggs in the Taliban basket, did just that.
As a result Pakistan lost leverage with other groups and governments in Afghanistan. Pakistan has not achieved much in return for its absolute and exclusive support to the Afghan Taliban.
The key interests hoped to be achieved were: Border security; elimination of terrorist networks and trade and connectivity with Central Asian States.
Even today some architects of the Afghan policy believe that the Afghan Taliban, after overcoming their immediate challenges, will prove to be Pakistan’s best allies.
The basis for such hopes and claims seem very dubious. But if these apologists of the old Afghan Policy are correct, they should bring their supporting evidence to the public realm, and especially share it with our parliament.
—The writer, based in Islamabad, is a former Health Minister of KP.