What do we want in Afghanistan? — II | Marvi Sarmad

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Pakistan has adopted the rhetoric of ‘we want to see peace in Afghanistan’ and repeats it so much that the slogan has almost started losing its meanings. What do we mean by ‘peace in Afghanistan’, is the real catch.

Our security analysts and retired army officers keep reminding us of how peaceful Afghanistan used to be under the Taliban in late 1990s. If that is still our definition of ‘peace’, then most of the world and Afghanistan itself don’t agree with it. An Afghanistan under Taliban is a thing of long gone past and doesn’t suit anyone including us.

Pakistan is now fighting its own battle against radical Islamism that we imposed upon ourselves because of the strategic choices we made in 1980s and then again in 1990s and yet again in 2000s. We have a border that is still called a ‘line’ and is considered as a ‘Berlin Wall’ by many on both sides. Nothing would be more suicidal than isolating own people having ethnic and historical affinity with people on the other side. An Afghanistan under Taliban might accentuate that affinity rather than diluting it.

Social media is inundated with evidence that fund raising campaign for ‘Jihad in Afghanistan’ is in full swing in FATA, Chaman and several other areas of Balochistan and Khyber Pukhtunkhwa
Keeping FATA insulated from the rest of the country just to support our strategic choices is no more possible. The fault line that we created in Balochistan in pursuance of precisely these ill-conceived strategic objectives is costing us dearly. Howsoever we may find a hundred more Kulbhushan Jadhavs, the fact remains that it’s us who brought the Baloch nationalists to this brink. When we tell the world that we have now washed our country of all kinds of terrorists’ sanctuaries, the world laughs it away.

No COAS and DG ISPR have ever clearly said that Haqqanis and Afghan Taliban have been pushed out. Whenever asked specifically by journalists, the usual response conveniently generalised the action as ‘across the board’ instead of naming these groups. We don’t want to burn our bridges with those who could assume power in the neighborhood when Americans would evaporate from this region.

It was earlier in June that Pakistan’s ambassador to the USA was invited to speak at an event by The Atlantic Council in Washington DC. Also on panel were Zalmay Khalilzad, former Afghan diplomat and Manish Tewari, India’s former Minister of Information. Aizaz Chaudhry repeatedly argued that there was no terrorist safe haven in Pakistan and that Mullah Omar had never left Afghanistan to visit Pakistan. That’s when the Washington audience burst into laughter, upon which the good ambassador got visibly irritated.

The bad news is what happens in Rome no more stays in Rome. The people, who used to tell how Haqqanis were comfortably lodged in Danday Derpakhail in North Waziristan throughout most part of 2000s, also told that the residential complex got emptied just before Zarb-e-Azb started in 2014. And they are again telling that the inmates of that residential complex have come back.

Moreover, social media is inundated with the evidence of how fund raising campaign is in full swing in FATA, Chaman and other areas of KP and Balochistan for ‘Jihad in Afghanistan’. Not too long ago, Pakistan’s key politicians including Imran Khan and PML-N’s sitting federal minister Gen (Retd.) Abdul Qayyum were saying that the violence in Afghanistan is not terrorism, but Afghan struggle against ‘foreign occupation’, thus legitimising the gory events that the state of Pakistan condemns in the statements issued after almost every major terrorist attack in Afghanistan. The sincerity of all these statements becomes suspicious when siting as well as former officials keep parroting these mixed statements, which not only damage Pakistan’s goodwill among the Afghan people and leadership, but also confuse our own masses.

After the Kabul attack of May 31 by far the deadliest one in past many years, the strategic elite in Pakistan started regurgitating a dubiously made announcement by ISKP of claiming the responsibility, alongside repeating endlessly that Taliban have denied it. The ISKP claim was never made through their medium Amaq, which is usually used for making such announcements. Taliban, on the other hand, being extra cautious about their public image, routinely deny the responsibility of the attacks when these attacks result in massive civilian casualties.

The faux pas on the part of the bombers resulted in massive civilian casualties, which might in all probability have prevented public-approval-hungry Taliban from claiming it. Probably this is why the Haqqani Network leaders had to make an unusual appearance to deny the responsibility.

Guess all this was not enough to deter us from picking sides while thinking no one would notice. Such subliminal messaging aimed at pleasing the uncomfortable comrades, ultimately goes to the larger Pakistani and Afghan populace alongside the entire world, making our claims of innocence laughable. Our continued penchant of keeping the goodwill with these comrades to secure an insurance policy in the remote possibility of their being in-charge in Afghanistan, might mar our present and future too. One wonders how many in Islamabad and Rawalpindi understand the dangers such a policy entails for our own graceful existence.

The writer is a staff member and can be emailed at marvisirmed@gmail.com, accessed on Twitter @marvisirmed

Published in Daily Times, June 22nd, 2017.