Islamabad has a problem. Taliban won’t give up now – in Afghanistan or Pakistan
The United States is out of Kabul and the Taliban is inside. Afghanistan is waiting for a change of course. The Taliban are aiming for power and influence to form the provisional configuration that will then form the next Afghan government. Yes, but sadly, Pakistan is at the heart of the Herculean government-building process in Afghanistan and its acceptance by the international community.
Sources claim that at a private meeting of retired generals, journalists and diplomats, Pakistani army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa said he was in no rush to recognize a regime ruled by the Taliban until it is done by the international community or at least by some select states. The problem is that, so far, not all major states, including the Central Asian republics, feel confident to recognize the Taliban. He also spoke of his fear that Pakistan would be targeted by the United States and hit with sanctions, which he is ready to do. The last part of the statement is incorrect because Pakistan needs more funds than the Taliban. Pakistan is more of a state than an Afghanistan ruled by the Taliban. It will be a struggle for Islamabad to help Afghanistan recover, even though it believes the Taliban is a transformed entity and not the same as in the 90s.
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The Pakistani plan
Despite Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir’s claim that Pakistanis are not celebrating the Taliban victory, there is a lot of excitement at different levels for a variety of reasons. Generally speaking, there is an acceptance of the change of power next door. There is either a weariness with the Afghan war, which keeps the men in the streets, especially in the tribal areas, quiet, or a silent acceptance of change driven by a deep distrust of the West.
The Pakistani military establishment floats in the middle – trying to balance their enthusiasm in getting rid of Ashraf Ghani’s government, and deep thoughts on how to engage the world to accept the new political formula and make it work in the future. benefit of Pakistan. Taliban victory, which did not seem likely six months ago, reminded Islamabad’s special envoy to Afghanistan ambassador Mohamed sadiq from the saying of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin: “There are decades when nothing happens; and there are weeks when decades happen. However, the problem with decades that focus on weeks is that there is a lot to deal with. Pakistan certainly has a lot to do, ranging from regional and global response to Afghanistan and national impact management.
There is no point in hiding the reality that Islamabad expected and wanted this change. According to Iranian-American author Vali Nasr, former army chief Ashfaq Pervaiz Kiyani has warned Washington not to extend his stay in Afghanistan. From Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani military echelons knew that the United States would leave and wanted to accelerate the departure. Armed with this understanding, Rawalpindi invested primarily in the Taliban. Rawalpindi’s desire was to ensure a friendly settlement in his neighboring northwestern nation, which was not exploited against the interests of Pakistan, particularly by India. Former Army Chief Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg further explained the notorious concept of “strategic depth” in his latest book Power constraints means creating a group of states that have a common cultural and strategic ethic – that is, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran.
But the Taliban’s return to Kabul is not as easy as it sounds.
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All is not well for Pakistan
Policymakers in Islamabad need to think about three main questions.
First, how to develop international legitimacy for the new Afghan government. Rawalpindi wants the world to accept that business can be done with the Taliban. It is about building a new image different from the 90s. The Taliban have signaled to women that they will have the freedom to work and to learn as long as they respect the basic standards of the Sharia. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid recently announcement that the media were free to work and that they would withdraw their fighters from nearby media offices. The statement is a reminder of similar assurances on media freedom by Pakistani generals, which raises awareness of the ongoing effort to increasingly resemble a Taliban-led regime in Pakistan (or even Pakistan). ‘India): hybrid-authoritarian and hybrid-theocratic. Despite the propaganda, the behavior of the Taliban, so far, has failed to inspire confidence.
Second, the Taliban might not revert to their 1990s sharia governance, at least not throughout Afghanistan, to acquire the legitimacy necessary to acquire resources from abroad. The Taliban may be old, but the ordinary Afghan’s expectation of a viable state structure is new. A post-September 11 political system, although artificial, was managed by international financial aid. Over the years people have gotten used to it and would like their basic needs to be met. It is no longer just a matter of the Taliban using drug money to survive, but of feeding the people for whom international cooperation is needed. Kabul will have to behave and engage with global players for Washington to release $ 9 billion.
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Pakistan has no money to feed Afghanistan or even the refugees if they come back to the door. This means that the Taliban must behave during the US withdrawal process. It is essential that nothing untoward happens to the American public except the Afghans left behind by American and NATO forces. The speed at which General Bajwa convinced British Chief of Staff (CDS) General Nick Carter that the Taliban were “country boys” only wanting the implementation of Sharia law, which is confused with “Pushtunwali,” says the security of women and minorities may not be a strategic issue for long. Human tragedies are the flavor of the week but could be ignored in the long run. The real compromise on human rights was made earlier when US negotiators agreed to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners. The possibility of the world doing business with the Taliban remains as long as there are no future terrorist acts reminiscent of 9/11.
This also applies to China – it is cautious when investing in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s goal is to convince the world that Afghanistan under the Taliban is now a better place. It’s a risky route because it puts a lot more on Pakistan’s plate than it can chew on. In the event of an act of terror, Islamabad will be dragged over the coals including by China if the event takes place there.
Third, Pakistan wants to encourage the Taliban to develop a broad-based formula to include various national stakeholders like the Northern Alliance and other warlords under a new government. It may not be easy to convince the Taliban, confident in their victory, to make major adjustments. This is where the real problem for Pakistan begins: there is too much opacity around what Pakistan can offer and what it cannot. Even more serious is the degree of control Islamabad can exercise to ensure its security against Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) or other militant groups ideologically associated with the Taliban. The Afghan Taliban will not cut ties with the TTP, nor will they cease to inspire the religious right in Pakistan, which will now view with even more enthusiasm the possibility of Pakistan turning into a theocracy. Jamaat-e-Islami leader Sirajul Haq recently announced his support for the Taliban and called for a Sharia-based system in Pakistan. Nearby, Jaish-e-Mohammed expressed his enthusiasm in one of his recent publications on the Taliban and jihad in Kashmir.
The fact remains that, despite the ambition to soften the tone of religion in Afghanistan, Pakistan itself runs the risk of becoming more like its neighbor to the northwest – more religious and more authoritarian. None of this sounds good for China, which remains one of the few authoritarian but secular nationalist states in the neighborhood.
Ayesha Siddiqa is a research associate at SOAS, London and author of Military Inc. In Pakistan’s military economy. She tweets @iamthedrifter. Opinions are personal.
(Edited by Neera Majumdar)
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