Despite all exhortations of “mutual cooperation,” a common enemy that transcends borders can be tricky; or so Islamabad feels when it comes to its relations with Kabul, over the Taliban.
Pakistan is wary of the Afghan influence over the process of lifting of sanctions against Taliban leaders by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), according to a highly placed source familiar with the issue.
Pakistan raised its eyebrows when it realised that Kabul has been assigned a central role by the UNSC Taliban committee in the listing and delisting process, with a new criterion that suited the Afghan government, the source added. Removing an individual from the list requires unanimous support from the Security Council.
“Pakistan is concerned that it will appear as the only villain in the proceedings of the Taliban committee,” the source said.
“On the recommendation of the Afghan government, the pro-Kabul Taliban are being delisted, while the pro-Islamabad [Afghan or Pakistani] Taliban are not,” the source added.
The UNSC decided last year to split what was previously a joint list of Taliban and al Qaeda figures facing sanctions. There were 486 people on the committee’s sanctions list of whom 138 were associated with the Taliban till June 2011.
“There is a possibility of the Taliban sanction regime becoming a Pakistan-specific regime in terms of individuals and entities listed therein,” the source said.
“The Taliban who have addresses in Afghanistan are being delisted to make a point that only Pakistan-based elements are causing instability in Afghanistan. The Afghan government is likely to propose listing of Pakistan-based elements to divert the attention of the international community from its domestic issues like corruption, bad governance and narcotics trade,” the source added.
Cleaning up the list
The UNSC’s al Qaeda and Taliban sanctions committee removed 14 former Taliban members from its list in July last year, as part of a move to induct the group into talks with Kabul on a peace deal in Afghanistan.
The move came in response to a request from Kabul to take off the list a number of former Taliban figures that the Afghan government believed had given up militancy.
Afghan officials had asked the Security Council to lift sanctions against around 50 Taliban figures, including four members of the High Peace Council set up by Afghan government in 2010 to pave the way for peace talks with the Taliban.
According to some sources, the UN committee has so far delisted 22 Taliban at the request of Karzai administration.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, in his address to the UN General Assembly last month demanded the UN further delist Taliban members.
“To help facilitate the peace process, I ask the UN Security Council to extend its full support to our efforts. In particular, I urge the Taliban’s Sanction Committee to take more active measures towards delisting of Taliban leaders as a step to facilitate direct negotiation,” he said.
Kabul has been seeking negotiations with the Taliban through the High Peace Council whose delegation is expected to visit Pakistan this month.
The High Peace Council has, so far, not been able to convince Afghan Taliban to join peace talks and all its previous attempts to negotiate with the armed group have failed, partly over their insistence that foreign troops leave the country first.
Edited by Gulraiz Khan
Published in The Express Tribune, October 18th, 2012.