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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Afghanistan going back to its war-torn days?

After personally meeting with the Taliban, Muhammad Ijaz Ul Haq thinks that the Taliban have matured and are more aware of human rights, especially women's. However, he draws comparisons between Afghanistan today and during the time of the Geneva Accords. Since circumstances and situations are similar, serious infighting in Afghanistan is feared to erupt. In all this, Pakistan's role still remains critical.

Banning and barring soldiers from politics is a canon indeed but one can’t remain blind, aloof, and oblivious when it comes to the geopolitics of a region. Maligning Armed Forces for doing their duty is a favorite pastime with most of us. Therefore, it is alright and ok with everyone and anyone if he or she feels and desires so. But credit ought to be given where due. And here lies the prophecy.

It was as far back as 1967-1968 when General Ayub Khan, the then President of Pakistan, recorded in his personal Diary (published) that “in my opinion, Soviet Union will enter Afghanistan soon.” It happened in 1979. General Zia-ul-Haq, wedded to the profession as he was, had a critical and keen eye for geostrategic developments.

In July 1979, much ahead of the event itself, General Zia-ul-Haq wrote a letter to President Jimmy Carter of the USA drawing his attention to the happenings and happenings likely to take place in the region.

Read more: General Zia: The 10 Year Reign That Lost Pakistan’s Soul

He, in particular, urged him to take cognizance and stock of the Soviet designs and its unending hunt to reach the warm waters via Balochistan. Consecutive killings of Presidents Daud and Tarakai in quick succession were an eye-opener. General Zia too warned that “in his opinion, Soviet Union will enter Afghanistan, soon.”

It was actualized in December 1979 and showed the unison and exactitude as to how military minds meet, converge and coincide in tandem. Unfortunately, the US President couldn’t measure up to the challenge looming large. No reply was ever received from him.

On the eve of Christmas, Dec 25, 1979, the Soviet Army approx 100,000 in numbers, equipped with lethal war machines gunship helicopters, and tanks moved and marched into Kabul to occupy Afghanistan physically and forcibly.

Read more: Afghanistan: From Soviet occupation to American ‘Liberation’

President Zia’s strong stance for Afghanistan

After the invasion and seizure of Afghanistan, Mr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, a noted diplomat, and political scientist par excellence, the then National Security Adviser to the U.S President, visited Pakistan. In his meetings here, he stressed the need to strengthen and consolidate the Pak-Afghan border. The Soviets have a habit and history of subjugating their friends. Subjugating, suffocating, and strangulating a friend is a popular phenomenon with the Polit Bureau.

The Polar Bear has its jaws and paws too strong to spare or miss the catch. Poland, Czechoslovakia, and many smaller countries in East Europe are vivid examples.

President Zia conveyed to him with full conviction that we shall NOT leave our Afghan brothers and sisters alone to fend for themselves but will restore a non-aligned status to the country under Communist yoke. We will not only force the Red Army to withdraw but will beat them back across the River Amu.

Read more: ‘Tired of fighting’: 30 years ago, Soviets withdraw from Afghanistan

Recently my uncle and the youngest brother of General Zia-ul-Haq Shaheed, Mr. Izhar-ul-Haq, after a protracted illness, passed away peacefully. To condole and sympathize with the bereaved family, a six-member group, an assortment of mid-tier leadership of the Afghan Taliban, visited us in the last week of June 2021 to convey condolences of their leaders also.


Taliban now more mature and articulate?

Apart from condolences, the purpose of the visit was to discuss in detail the prevailing situation in Afghanistan, the post-US pullout scenario, and the Taliban’s reservations about Pakistan and other countries of the Muslim Ummah. As the Afghan issue is on the cards these days, I broached the subject. They were frank and fair enough to open their heart to describe the latest details and prevalent position, their apprehensions, difficulties, and demands.

They stated that the bond of reverence and respect for General Zia was still very strong, intact, long-lasting, and eternal. The Afghan people most of who are still staying in Pakistan are indebted for providing them protection and good care. Knowing the complexity of the issue, they apprehend and fear that wrong decisions/miscalculations would cause misunderstandings.

I wanted to know the fate of the inconclusive Qatar Talks and the role of Mr. Zalme Khalil Zad. According to them, efforts are afoot to sow differences between Emirate-i-Islami and Pakistan as well as within the Afghan Taliban also. They feared that a wrong impression is being created that the TTP and Afghan Taliban are cohorts and support each other. This is totally wrong.

Read more: How the Taliban have evolved through the years

They said that in fact it is the TTP, Daesh, and other such and similar groups who help each other, employ the same strategy and follow a common doctrine. To the reported rumor a post-NATO meeting at Kabul Airport in Afghanistan will be secured by Turkey, they replied that in the post-US era, if arrangements like this are to be in place without the consent of the Taliban, it will not be a wise step and may prove detrimental to mutual relations. In my opinion, 80 percent of Afghanistan is under the control of the Taliban and Emirate-i-Islami.

It is felt that after 20-long years of struggle the Afghan Taliban have matured and they are now articulate, more open, and alive to the women’s rights, the status of minorities, etc under the Islamic system of governance. In these areas, all administrative matters, including the Justice System, are being carried out to the satisfaction of the Afghan people. The minorities are living in peace, honor, and harmony.

Fanatical efforts were made by India to seek inroads into the Afghan Taliban. Delegates were sent to Kabul as well as Qatar to establish contact with the Taliban but so far it has failed to penetrate the process. India is trying to sow seeds of differences between Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban. However, the Afghan people know that they are being bombed by planes of Indian origin.

Read more: India supporting terrorists in Afghanistan to spoil peace process: Gulbuddin Hekmatyar

A word of caution for Pakistan

To draw a parallel between now and at the time of the Geneva Accord, it is clear that at that time seven major groups of warlords were in the field, each one fighting for his pound of flesh, whereas now it is the Afghan Taliban vs the Afghan National Army. With the support of the US Army gone after the pullout, the Afghan National Army will prove a house of cards and crumble, collapse and surrender to the Afghan Taliban.

The proposal placed before the Taliban to co-govern Afghanistan along with the present Afghan government or for both to withdraw from present positions and hold elections under a neutral government will not be acceptable to the Taliban as they already have 80 percent of Afghan territory under their control. The Qatar Dialogue so far remains inconclusive.

As such the role of Pakistan is of paramount significance and critical. Pakistan should endeavor and work for an arrangement by which the Taliban and present Kabul government remain engaged for a peaceful outcome for the post-US withdrawal era. Pakistan is again at the crossroads of history.

Serious infighting in Afghanistan is feared to erupt. Circumstances and situations are exactly what these were at the time of the signing of the Geneva Accord. Extreme caution and care by Pakistan can avert the danger of its fallout in the shape of more refugees.

Read more: Pakistan will not be responsible for Afghan peace failure: Khan govt tells the world

The writer is president of the PML-Z. The article was first published in The News International and has been republished with the writer’s permission. The views expressed in the article are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.