With Kabul’s fall to the Taliban forces on August 15, Afghanistan’s Ghani regime collapsed and the Kabul elite including the former president himself fled from the country. While this development is suer-significant in changing the entire geo-strategic scenario in the region, it is very important for Pakistan itself that is always the first neighbour to face any challenges emanating from the impossible terrains of Afghanistan.
Afghanistan has never been stable in the past two decades despite a government with weak democratic credentials in place in Kabul with the help of United States and NATO forces and allies. As for a sovereign government, with thousands of US troops and NATO forces present engaging in military combat against the Taliban who themselves are Afghans, the sovereignty of the installed regime was nothing but a facade who was dependent on foreign powers’ both financially and militarily to sustain itself in Kabul. That said, Pakistan did recognize the Kabul government as legitimate government of Afghanistan but always believed it to be severely confined and least sovereign in its decision-making due to Indo-American indispensable assurance for its survival.
Pakistan, despite being a Non-NATO ally in American war in Afghanistan, continued to stress on a stable Afghan government soon after Pervez Musharraf’s regime came to an end in 2008. In the past decade, Pakistan’s emphasis has been putting an effective end to war in Afghanistan via reconciliation in a bloodless manner. For this reason, Pakistan kept engaging key stake-holders in Afghan problem including the Taliban, Tajik, Uzbek leaders and the Ghani regime. Pakistan also played a pivotal role in bringing Taliban to negotiation table on US request as it was in communication with all stake-holders. With Taliban’s bloodless blitzkrieg in Afghanistan and fall of Kabul to their forces after Ghani’s escape and surrender of the US-trained Afghan National Army, war in Afghanistan is over.
Afghanistan is now on its way towards a stable, sovereign and inclusive Afghan government while all foreign troops, most of which have already been evacuated from Afghanistan, are bound to leave by the end of August. True that, Taliban are negotiating with the stakeholders including opponents like Karzai, Abdullah Abdullah and Hekmatyar with power of Kabul in their hands, but it shows that the future government is going to be inclusive and not exclusive to the Taliban members. Taliban’s swift bloodless victory is a testament to their decade-long policy of recruiting non-pashtun members in the North of Afghanistan too which has made the group ethnically diverse despite still being majorly Pashtun. Taliban also enjoy popularity in most of rural Afghanistan where people do not even know about democratic credentials and where Ghani government never had roots.
In Pakistan, the ultranationalist Pashtuns have to make a decision at this critical juncture regarding their identity and their association. Whether they belong to the state of Pakistan or the now defunct and collapsed state of Afghanistan whose government leaders have already fled their own state. They have to decide whose national-interest do they prefer, the state of Pakistan or the defunct and fallen regime of Afghanistan that was headed by Ashraf Ghani before August 15. If they want to associate themselves with the former regime of Afghanistan and prefer that regime’s national interest which in fact is Kabul elite’s national interest to the national interest of Pakistan, then they should openly do so. If they really are opposed to Pakistan’s role as a state in brining peace to Afghanistan which they believe is their home too, then they should think of going to Afghanistan and oppose the both the states, i.e. Pakistan and Afghanistan altogether in whatever capacity they like, be it non-violent political struggle or a militant resistance.
It is unfortunate that the ultranationalist Pashtuns in Pakistan have been pledging allegiance to the former Afghan regime and associating with it despite knowing that the regime never really represented Afghanistan or the Pashtuns of Afghanistan. Had it been the case, Taliban could never capture Kabul within 6 days and they would have faced resistance from the local Pashtuns. But since, the rural Pashtuns supported Taliban, the ultranationalist Pashtuns took them out of their equations and never talked about whatever happened to them in the past twenty years. Since 2001, US and its allies have been dropping daisy cutter bombs, conducted air strikes and carpet bombing on Afghan villages resulting in severe civilian casualties but the Pakistani ultranationalist Pashtuns never spoke a word against US atrocities and human rights violations because they believed US was doing Kabul elite a favour by eliminating those who opposed them. Such has been the level of their hypocrisy.
Now that the foreign troops are gone and an inclusive Afghan government is on its way to be formed with the engagement of all Afghan stakeholders including Non-Pashtun leaders, the ultranationalist Pakistani Pashtuns express their fear of a ‘genocide’, ‘ethnic cleansing’ which, much to their chagrin did not take place as little fighting took place between previous regime and the Taliban en route to Kabul. Last but no the least, the ultranationalist Pashtuns are playing the rights card, which they now think are being violated as the government is in transition. They should think where were they when the US forces was raiding homes of Afghans and the US Air force was dropping ‘Mother of All Bombs’ on their houses resulting in civilian casualties including women and children. They should ask themselves why they kept silent when Amnesty and Human Rights Watch were saying,
Afghan soldiers and warlords have been accused of rape, murder and kidnap almost since fighting began in late 2001.Human Rights Watch, 2003
Obama’s refusal to prosecute anyone for pursuing the policies of torture, as well as the potential complicity of the U.S. in crimes committed by Afghan warlords and the Afghan military, undermines any argument that Washington might now make that the ICC should simply let the allegations against U.S. forces be investigated through American courts. President Trump shows no desire to hold U.S. forces accountable, as evidenced by his November 2019 decision to pardon two U.S. soldiers convicted by U.S. courts of war crimes in Afghanistan.The Conversation Report, March 19, 2020
This is just the tip of an ice-berg of how the US forces and the Afghan National Army along with warlords under their support committed human rights violations. Sure the Taliban did commit human rights violations too including attacks that resulted in civilian casualties in Afghanistan, but if the Pashtun ultranationalists could see only one side of the picture, it was deliberate. Not that they did not know, but they kept silent because all the other human rights violations were committed by the powers they were backing in the war in Afghanistan so that the Kabul elite gets to establish its authority in Afghanistan and a “greater-Afghanistan” could be formed the term for which in Pashto is “Lar-o-Bar You Afghan”.
It is time for ultranationalist Pashtuns to decide whether they want a stable and sovereign Afghanistan or not. Whether they want peace or bloodshed in Afghanistan. India is faced with the options of either engaging with the Taliban led government or destabilize Afghanistan by fomenting trouble via warlords that are for sale. If they pick the later just because the Kabul elite is now out of Afghanistan’s power corridor, then they should continue serving the Kabul elite’s interests but candidly denying Pakistani citizenship and association with the state of Pakistan. If they pick the former, which I hope they will, then they should support an end to violence and support the state of Pakistan and Pakistani people who still host millions of Afghan refugees with open heart. A choice has to be made!
About The Author
Abubakar Farooqui is the brains behind Rationale-47. He Studied International Relations at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. His areas of interest include National Security of Pakistan and International Politics, particularly of Afghanistan and Middle East. He tweets @AbubakarTweets
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of Rationale-47.