The Afghan attack of May 5th is not only a setback for Af-Pak relations but is also a symptom of an increasing deleterious Indian influence that is slowly but steadily spreading into Afghan relations with Pakistan.
In the run-up to the census, Pakistani authorities informed the Afghan government regarding its plans to carry out the census through multiple channels including dispatches from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, hotline contact between Pakistani and Afghan military personnel, and 2 border flag meetings.
Pakistani Army, being aware of the dense civilian presence in the area, kept their engagement minimal.
However, on May 5th, when Pakistani security forces entered Killi Jahangir to secure the area in preparation for the arrival of the census team, Afghan soldiers initiated firing on Pakistani forces. During the spontaneous encounter, it became clear to the Pakistani side that the Afghan border forces had even had a few houses evacuated and turned into bunkers.
The Pakistani Army, being aware of the dense civilian presence in the area, kept their engagement minimal to ensure least possible damage to lives. However, in response to this unprovoked hostility, Pakistan Army initiated retaliatory fire on Afghan border positions and border vehicles followed by a precise operation against hostile elements in the Afghan Border Police which has reportedly left 50 Afghan Border Personnel dead and over a 100 injured.
Social dynamics in the region
To understand the cause of this irrational attempt on the part of Afghan forces to disrupt Pakistan’s census efforts, the socio-political situation in the region must be taken into context.
If the Afghan government could exercise control over its border police force this incident would not have taken place because Pakistan had communicated its intent to carry out the census.
The villages where this event unfolded lie on the Af-Pak border. People on both sides of the border are connected to each other on the basis of tribal and familial bonds. Informed sources have told GVS that there is a significant presence of illegal Afghan immigrants on Pakistani territory in these villages. Census of the area would have revealed this presence and it can reasonably be concluded that this was one motivating factor behind the Afghan hostility.
Indian hand in Afghanistan
Pakistan had clearly communicated its intent to carry out the census to the Afghan government. At best, it can be assumed that Afghanistan has become increasingly decentralized and the Afghan government is not able to control what its own border security personnel are doing.
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It has been revealed to GVS that reports circulating in the security establishment indicate that Sajjan Jindal has been in close coordination with Ajit Doval
Sources reveal the role of India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) which has taken advantage of the Afghan government’s lack of control in the country and has brought the Afghan border forces under its influence. Ajit Doval, Indian national security advisor and author of the offensive-defensive Indian doctrine, is reported to be spending a significant amount of time in Afghanistan, he also has close relations with the Chief Executive of Afghanistan, Abdullah Abdullah. The power tussle between Abdullah Abdullah and President Ashraf Ghani has considerably weakened the mandate of the NUG and Ghani in Afghanistan. The recent escapades of Afghan border forces are proof of this Indian ‘induced’ dysfunction in the upper echelons of the Afghan government.
There are reports circulating in Pakistan which also indicate that Sajjan Jindal has been in close coordination with Ajit Doval and prior to his meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif he was in Kabul meeting with Doval. The objectives of his meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, have still not been clarified.
This alleged interference by the Indian establishment in Afghanistan, statements by Kulbashan Yadev and Ehsanullah Ehsan, clearly point finger at Indian interference in Pakistan and increasing desire to get involved in influencing Pakistan’s domestic political dynamics.
The reaction of influential local political figures to Afghan aggression in the region has been mixed.
Mahmood Achakzai, a key political figure in the Pashtun community, has maintained his silence on the Afghan aggression in the region. He is a vocal proponent of Pashtun rights but has remained silent on this issue. Last year in June 2016, he caused an uproar in Pakistan after his interview to the Afghanistan Times, in which he said “if Afghans are harassed in other parts of Pakistan, they should come here to KP, where no one can ask them for refugee cards because it also belongs to them.” It is a well-known fact that he has family connections in the Afghan Border Police.
On the other hand, Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, chief of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F), has come out strongly against the Afghan attack and has asked Afghan forces to respect the international borders. He has also praised the efforts of the Pakistan Army to provide security to the region.