PM Shehbaz Sharif has called an in-camera meeting of the parliament’s National Security Committee (NSC) at the PM House on Wednesday, 22 June 2022. The meeting has been called primarily to discuss the progress of the recently held talks in Kabul between the Government of Pakistan and the Pakistani Taliban (TTP). According to the media reports, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, COAS, and General Nadeem Anjum, DGISI will give a briefing on national security issues at the meeting.
On 18 June 2022, the last round of talks between the Government of Pakistan and the TTP concluded in Kabul. Zabihullah Mujahid, the spokesman for the Afghan government, confirmed that his government was playing the role of mediator between Islamabad and the TTP. Reportedly, the TTP has demanded a reversal of the merger of Pakistan’s erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) into KPK and restoration of the status quo. TPP also seeks the release of its 30 key commanders detained by Pakistani authorities. The Afghan Taliban claim that, though they are facilitating the talks, they have no control over the TTP.
Read more: Talks with TTP continue as ceasefire agreed
What is the reality?
The Afghan militants and their various mutations (including the TTP)owe their existence to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The Afghan Mujahideen were raised by Pakistan, aided by the US, during the Cold War period to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan. Strictly speaking, they were not a liberation army in the sense Viet Cong was in Vietnam, but a conglomeration of prospectors who had joined in a gold rush in the treacherous mountain terrain of Afghanistan. This was the best Zia could achieve since raising a resistance through a liberation army was not possible in Afghanistan’s tribal society.
Afghanistan was not a nation in the modern sense but a tribal confederacy strapped together precariously through a monarchy. Zia had been quite astute in dealing with the Mujahideen. It was Zia’s shrewdness, matched by the single-mindedness of General Akhtar Abdur Rehman, the ISI spymaster, that the Mujahideen circus was kept going and under the leash.
As the war proceeded, the Mujahideen, with the warlord sitting on top, grew in strength. In due course of time the seven main Mujahideen groups, each of them having many auxiliaries would be transformed into mafias which, besides fighting against the Soviets, were also engaged in their favorite tribal pastime – kidnapping, extortion, and drug trafficking. Like the Knights Templar of the infamous crusades, each warlord created his cult. As long as they were fighting against a well-defined, common enemy, their prejudices and hatred for each other remained generally subdued. However, with the war coming to a close, the differences between the warlords started accentuating. They had served their purpose during the war and had to be curtailed after the Soviet withdrawal.
The rape and murder of boys and girls from a family, traveling to Kandahar, mujahideen bandits, sparked Mohammed Omar (Mullah Omar) and his students to vow to rid Afghanistan of these criminals. The first major military activity of the Taliban was in October–November 1994 when they marched from Maiwand in southern Afghanistan to capture Kandahar City and the surrounding provinces, losing only a few dozen men.
Understanding more about TTP
The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), commonly known as the Pakistani Taliban, is an umbrella organization of various Islamist armed militant groups operating along the Afghan–Pakistani border. Formed in 2007 by Baitullah Mehsud, its current leader is Noor Wali Mehsud, who has publicly pledged allegiance to the Afghan Taliban.
The TTP, which morphed out of the Afghan Taliban, filled the vacuum created in the wake of the collapse of the civilian authority in FATA during the US invasion of Afghanistan. Since its inception in 2007, the TTP has been trying to form a string of fiefs all across the Durand Line, particularly in the erstwhile FATA region. They need these fiefs, or emirates, as they prefer to call them, as firm bases for the fruition of their long-term goal of integrating KPK into Afghanistan.
TPP had already established its emirates in FATA’s North and South Waziristan agencies. These have since been dismantled by the Pakistan Army. Establishing the so-called emirates responds to a deep-seated psychological urge among these semi-literate and deprived people. Their vision does not extend beyond delivering summary punishments and beheading their opponents. Deep down, there is a Darwinian urge among the militants to wrest power from the state.
Pakistani politicians, civil mandarins, and military establishment are sadly mistaken if they think Pakistan will have a peaceful neighborhood while the Taliban are ruling Afghanistan. In their double-dealings with Pakistan, the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban are no better than the Afghan Mujahideen who were incubated, raised, provisioned, and trained by Pakistan with the US financial and military help, and then launched against the Soviet forces during Afghan Jihad.
What is the way forward?
While striving to maintain a balanced posture in Afghanistan, we need to guard against remaining oblivious to the ground realities. When the chips are down, the Afghan Taliban will always support the TPP in its fight against Pakistan. The earlier Afghan Taliban proclamation about taking action against TPP, if it failed to reach a peace agreement with Pakistan, was a strategic deception.
In the past, all the Afghan governments, irrespective of their ideological leaning, had felt more comfortable with India than with Pakistan. The Taliban militants are no exception. Having settled down almost a year after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, they now not only openly support the TTP, but are also secretly collaborating with groups like the National Democratic Movement (NDM) – the recent reincarnation of the Pashtun Tahhafuz Movement (PTM). In their endeavors, the Taliban have all along been supported by India.
Like the Taliban, both the NDM and the PTM before it, though not demanding outright independence, consider the Pashtuns living on both sides of the Durand Line as one nation. This has hidden connotations. The notion of Lar O Bar Afghanistan is not an empty slogan, its ultimate aim is to create a greater Afghan state incorporating both the western and eastern Pashtuns. Pakistan’s policymakers, while negotiating with the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, should not lose sight of Afghanistan’s revanchist claims east of the Durand Line.
Saleem Akhtar Malik is a Pakistan Army veteran who writes on national and international affairs, defense, military history, and military technology. He Tweets at @saleemakhtar53. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.