Consolidating gains | Malik Muhammad Ashraf

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After inflicting military defeat on the US, culminating in the exit of all invading forces and eliminating resistance in the Panjshir valley, the Taliban now hold sway all over the country. However, their transition from a fighting force to a governing entity to consolidate the gains of military victory is undoubtedly going to be an arduous and challenging task for them. Forming an inclusive government in the tribal set-up characterised by a multiplicity of ethnic groups and building a national consensus on running the affairs of the country is going to be much more difficult than winning the war.

After days of waiting, the Taliban announced an interim government on Tuesday, mostly consisting of its own leaders, which does not give any semblance of an inclusive governing body that they have been promising to install. However, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid, while announcing the formation of the government, said that they would also take people from other parts of the country, adding that it was an interim government.

Some western leaders have expressed scepticism. However my considered view is that the Taliban do realise that the policies which they pursued during their previous stint of their power would no longer work in the context of the situation. The Afghanistan of today is quite different from the old days when nobody could question their way of ruling the country. Protest rallies by women in Kabul and other parts of the country where people demanded upholding of human rights affirm the reality that it would not be easygoing for the Taliban if they fail to fulfill their promises made to the international community in regards to human rights, particularly the rights of the women, besides banishing the terrorist outfits from the Afghan soil.

Setting things right in a country which has witnessed four decades of chaos is not an easy undertaking. The international community will have to show patience and remain engaged with them to encourage desired transformation in the political, economic and social domains. Rehabilitating the internally displaced population and lifting the Afghan masses out of abject poverty are also formidable challenges facing the Taliban. According to a recent UN refugee agency report, more than a quarter million people have been forced to leave their homes since the beginning of this year, and over 90 percent of Afghans are believed to be living below the poverty line. Afghanistan also needs colossal humanitarian assistance. It will not be possible to cope with the challenges without the support of the international community and regional countries. The Taliban are surely aware of that.

It is in view of the foregoing realities in the post-withdrawal period of US troops and the fall of the Kabul regime that Pakistan launched a diplomatic offensive to make the international community aware of the need for remaining engaged with the Taliban, support and nudge them towards fulfilling their commitments and lend them humanitarian and economic assistance to be able to stabilise the country and eliminate the security threat to the region. In this regard, Pakistan held a virtual meeting of special representatives of regional countries on September 5. It is also hosting a virtual meeting of the foreign ministers of China, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to review the evolving situation in Afghanistan and to address common challenges and realise emerging opportunities to ensure regional stability and prosperity.

Pakistan is right in orchestrating a regional approach in helping the Taliban to surmount the challenges that they confront. Pakistan and regional countries have been badly affected by the turmoil in Afghanistan and terrorism emanating from its territory. Peace in Afghanistan is not only pivotal for peace and security in the region but also beyond it. That provides all the more justification for regional countries as well as the global community to remain engaged with the Taliban.

Pakistan has also played a pivotal role in bringing the Taliban and US on a negotiation table which culminated in the signing of the peace deal as well as the commencement of the intra-Afghan dialogue before the situation took a dramatic turn. That role has been appreciated by the international community. The Taliban have also thanked Pakistan for the efforts that it has been making to end the conflict in Afghanistan.

Thankfully they have also rubbished the Indian propaganda of Pakistani interference in Afghan affairs and the clamour by the Indian leaders and the media with regards to Pakistani forces having assisted Taliban in achieving victory at Panjshir. The Indian media had shown video game footage instead of real videos to propagate that Pakistani planes had taken part in hitting targets in the valley. The Indian falsehood was also exposed by the BBC and western media. Pakistan stood vindicated.