Pakistan in a fix as deteriorating relations with Taliban-led Afghanistan, hits its own security hard India News Network 30 Dec 2021 Maj Gen Harsha Kakar

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Pakistan in a fix as deteriorating relations with Taliban-led Afghanistan, hits its own security hard India News Network 30 Dec 2021

          A report in the Global Initiative of 28th Dec discussing the scenario in Pakistan’s western provinces states, ‘Militants from a Pakistani insurgent group with ties to the Taliban, TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan), are forcing victims to pay exorbitant fees or risk facing mortal consequences.’ Simultaneously, talks between the TTP and the Pak government, brokered by the Taliban, have failed and the one-month truce has ended with increased attacks on Pak forces. It has been reported that the TTP is the lever employed by the Taliban over Pakistan. At the same time, the Taliban has accused the Pak army of backing the Islamic State (ISKP) which is responsible for attacks in different Afghan cities.  

There have also been reports of clashes between Pak troops and the Taliban along the Durand Line, where Pak was attempting to construct a fence. Videos emerging from the clashes show the Taliban warning Pakistan forces of dire consequences in case they engage Taliban troops deployed along the border and continue construction. News reports from Pakistan mention that the situation has been diffused, however further construction of the border fence has ceased.

          It is evident that the honeymoon between the Taliban, currently ruling Afghanistan, and their benefactors, Pakistan, is over. This is in sharp contrast to the happiness within the Pak leadership when the Taliban occupied Kabul. Imran khan stated, ‘Afghans have broken the shackles of slavery.’ Pakistan believed it has regained its strategic depth and the Taliban and Haqqani leadership would remain ever grateful to it for its support. For Pakistan, the Taliban victory meant that Indian influence in the country has ended. It had always claimed that Indian RAW and Afghan NDS were behind terror strikes in Pak. However, the situation in Pakistan’s western provinces has only worsened, post the Taliban takeover.  

Reality has begun dawning on the Pak government that the Pak-Afghan relationship is slowly moving downhill, though Pak attempts to project itself as the only nation seeking support for Afghanistan. The recently concluded OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) summit in Islamabad had just 27 of the 57 members of the group present, when Pakistan shed crocodile tears in support of Afghanistan. It has, till date, despite a request from the Afghan government, placed riders on movement of food and medical aid from India. Afghanis continue to starve while Pak plays games with movement of aid through its territory.

          The western world and the Taliban are on a standoff with the Taliban sticking to their interpretation of Islamic laws and refusing to grant rights to women as also adhere to global human rights. Pakistan has failed to convince the Taliban to change course. On its part, the Taliban, in a released video, claims Pakistan as an un-Islamic state.  As things worsen within Afghanistan, problems for Pakistan would increase. Afghans from a landlocked country have no option but to seek refuge in an economically collapsing Pakistan adding to its woes.

          The Durand Line, which separates the two countries can never be recognized by a Pashtun led Afghan government, most of whom are products of Pashtun Madrassas in Pakistan. This line was never accepted by Taliban 1.0, nor will it be to Taliban 2.0. Other nations in Kabul’s neighbourhood are also unhappy with the Afghan government. The recent killing of Hazara’s and ignoring of Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazara’s in a non-inclusive government has angered these nations. This may soon give rise to multiple groups challenging the authority of Kabul. Further anger stems from the fact that it was Pakistan which imposed the current regime in Kabul, ignoring moderates involved in Doha talks.

          Amongst all Kabul’s neighbours, it is just Pakistan which is running from pillar to post to obtain legitimacy and support for Kabul. This is because Pakistan had made multiple promises to the Taliban, in conjunction with China, when it created the government of its choice in Kabul. These included global recognition, inclusion into the CPEC and BRI, as also aid from China. As of now nothing has moved. The US blocked Afghan funds continue being inaccessible to Kabul, members of the Afghan government remain globally banned and recognition of the country is nowhere. China has refused to invest in a country where its finances may sink. Thus, not a single Pak promise is near fruitification. 

The desperation within Pak to fulfil some promises is the reason for it regularly holding international conferences with a single point agenda, ‘recognition of Afghanistan.’ The OIC, despite Pak requests refused to endorse the current Kabul regime. Even Pakistan has not officially recognized Afghanistan, fearing global isolation. The Humanitarian trust to be established by the OIC would be by March 2022, implying through the winters there would be no aid. The conference ended with no fixed financial support commitment. Further, Pakistan, with a crumbling economy and importer of food grains can provide neither to the Kabul regime.

          In the coming year, the trust between Islamabad and Kabul would deteriorate further. Increasing instability in Afghanistan would push greater number of refugees into Pakistan. The control which the Taliban currently imposes on the TTP would reduce adding to security problems within Pak. The CPEC would face attacks, irritating China. Opium, which Afghanistan produces in abundance, would be routed through Pakistan, adding to global concerns. Pakistan’s western province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would face the brunt of violence as the influence of the TTP and Taliban is high. For Pakistan, the honeymoon with the Taliban would end.   

          India, like most of the western world, is willing to support the Afghan public with food and medical supplies but is hampered by Pakistan’s twists and turns. At some stage, the Taliban would display their anger and turn against their own beneficiaries for its roadblocks. Ideally, India must maintain its distance from Kabul, letting it push Islamabad. Its offer of aid must remain, and it must regularly inform Kabul of its intent through international organizations letting it pressurize Pakistan.

Pakistan has begun to realize that supporting terrorist groups to take over a country is easier than pushing for its recognition. Finally, Pakistan will have no one to blame for its deteriorating internal security situation other than its own protégé, the Taliban, as neither the Indian RAW nor the NDS exist on Afghan soil.