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Are Pakistanis really happy about the Taliban takeover?

The world has been viewing Taliban’s victory a win for Pakistan more than Pakistanis themselves

By Amjad Mahmood Khan |
PUBLISHED August 22, 2021
KARACHI:

The advance of Taliban to Kabul within days can be easily regarded as the most shocking military maneuver in recent military history. Not only did it startle the Kabul regime but also created a paralysis of analysis for policy-making offices, think tanks and intelligence estimating desks. Historians may term it more mesmerising than the German Blitzkrieg of World War II.

During the past few days, brief social media scanning reflected a strange trend. The world was viewing Taliban’s victory a win for Pakistan more than Pakistanis themselves (till the last three to four days). Scapegoating Pakistan was also visible in international media but barely given any serious attention at home as this has been a norm for the past decade and a half. However, the question which was visibly circulating widely on Pakistani social media displayed a clear division in views where a majority (Group A) showed vibes of happiness while few (Group B) reflected dejection. To make it easier to understand, Group A comprises mostly segments of society that are opposed to anti-government, pro-status quo, anti-Pakistan ideology, anti-intelligence/security agencies, believe in Pakistan’s potential and have a religious tendency. Group B is the opposite but a smaller minority.

Talking of averages, most of Pakistanis are happy on the recent developments in Afghanistan. The dejected group of society has their own reasons for not celebrating the event. They equate Afghan Taliban with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and consider both entities as segments of a single tribe, while Group A sees the equation much differently. A smaller segment within Group B also base their unhappiness and uneasiness due to sectarian preferences and often was found challenging Group A to shift to Afghanistan, as Islamic Sharia may rule the neighbourhood.

However, the majority of Pakistani public do have a sympathetic view of Taliban as they reflect a certain religious tint, a perception of rag tag soldiers fighting the most advanced military might of the world, an equation not in the favour of the under dogs. This is a situation which has been commonly found in history of Muslims where they were always outnumbered and would still win the day; a kinetic romance with a miraculous victory is still visible. On the other side, a confusion did exist on whether the Taliban fighting foreign forces in Afghanistan were really the same as TTP, an organisation which was locally placed but foreign sponsored. It was notorious for many terrorist attacks and was able to bring Pakistan on the brink of devastation not very long ago. Similarly few fear a Taliban advance in to mainland Pakistan not realizing that unlike Al Qaida, Taliban have never shown desire for a global agenda.

Pakistan had suffered a lot in past two decades, with controversial political leaderships in place, weak foreign policy, a terrorism onslaught, a disinfo campaign network active 24/7, unstable political environment, dwindling economy and a rise of domestic influencers (from various fields) the government was never confident about itself and lacked that will to exploit the potential to its advantage. Pakistan shifted gears almost two years ago when Pakistan under a new confident and revolutionary mindset in Islamabad struck chords with a renewed self-belief. This self-belief was never easy to be gained in the face of stiff resistance and criticism by segments of domestic media, activists (various categories), judiciary, political rivals, hostile states and international pressures through various global forums etc. Against all odds, Pakistan was able to facilitate the peace process, which led to today’s development and environment. The world and US must thank Pakistan for the positive role it played and any further scapegoating it will only be a self-mocking exercise. The world needs to understand that the vibes of failure after futile 20 years of war and a trillion plus dollars expenditure was bound to resonate, even if Afghan security forces would have resisted.

However, the bigger question remains that are a majority of Pakistanis really happy on Taliban’s victory? The answer is yes, but for entirely different reasons than what the Group B or the world thinks. Pakistanis do not really care about Taliban in essence, despite the huge sympathy they feel as explained above. Whichever group rules Kabul is irrelevant to Pakistani public and would not really matter. Despite high expectations which have yet to materialise, following can easily pass as few major reasons for the support Taliban’s victory have received from Pakistani public.

  1. Reduction of foreign /extra-regional physical presence from neighbourhood.
  2. Erasure of Indian influence in Kabul and a major blow to Modi’s arrogant anti-Pakistan foreign policy (the most dominant factor in optics).
  3. No more support to NDS / Indian sponsored anti-Pakistan elements i.e PTM, BLA etc.
  4. Reduced terrorism in Pakistan from Afghan soil.
  5. Hopes of better environment for CPEC and access to trade routes to Central Asia.
  6. Closure of social media houses thus limiting fake / false social media trends and posts.
  7. A new regional order likely visible in which Pakistan is an important country.
  8. Subsiding danger of two front war.
  9. A western, peaceful and recognised border.
  10. No more “Do More” mantra.

In all probability, Pakistanis would have celebrated any group that would ensure or at least maintain intent to stay on course as per aspects mentioned above. While world regards Afghan debacle a monumentally embarrassing end to a two decades old adventure and still is recovering from the shock and awe, this time delivered by Taliban, Pakistanis celebrate the end of terrorism, instability on the western border and see progression and peace returning at a faster pace.

Surprisingly, Taliban have wrecked all analysis and fears of civil war, genocide, fierce fighting and mass killings (equally feared by Pakistan) as they entered Kabul. With general amnesty to civil servants, announcements ensuing peace and safety for residents they have signaled a new policy. Hoping, that victors of Kabul not only live up to the expectations of the world of being the Newly Reformed Taliban, but also ensure a peaceful, stable, progressive and friendly Afghanistan towards its neighbours.

Historians will write that the world changed on 9/11, on 15/8 it changed again never to be the same in future. Today marks the emergence of the process that will establish a new world order, which will also have Pakistan at its core.

The writer holds a Master degree in Strategic Studies and has interests in regional geopolitics and flying. He can be reached on [email protected] and tweets @Flyingtastic