The attacks on border security checkposts in Chitral, on August 27, 2011, by the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Swat renegades from their sanctuaries in Nuristan and Kunar was the latest of six attacks that have been launched by these groups from Afghan soil. Our ISPR statement on the incident said that the raid had been organised with assistance from local Afghan authorities. Other reports suggest that assistance came from local Afghan Taliban. In either case, this is a sinister development. In one case it suggests that the Afghans are retaliating for Pakistan’s failure to curb insurgent movement from Pakistan into Afghanistan. In the other case it suggests that the Afghan Taliban are working in tandem with the Pakistani insurgents to destabilise Pakistan. Neither is a welcome development. Only peace in Afghanistan can prevent this sort of escalation. So Pakistan, despite the formidable obstacles, must support reconciliation as the first step towards making Afghanistan a stable country. What form should such Pakistani support take? The Afghans have made it clear that they expect Pakistan to help the Afghan administration in establishing contact with the insurgents and to persuade them to adopt a stance that would enable a successful conclusion of these negotiations. Should we assume that it is for us then to determine who the insurgent representatives should be or should this be for the Karzai administration and its backers — the Americans — to decide? President Karzai and his people and the American intelligence operatives know whom they are fighting, but do they know who can speak for the movement? The successful impersonation of a Taliban leader by a Quetta shopkeeper suggests that neither is well acquainted with the Taliban hierarchy. Even The Tayyab Agha episode suggests that there are gaps in the American knowledge of the Taliban leadership. We may be better informed with regard to Mullah Omar and the Kandahar-origin Taliban movement and I think that Karzai would appreciate advise on who we think he should be talking to.
But does the necessary trust exist? Much was made-up in the western media about Pakistan’s refusal to hand over Mr Ghani Baradar, Mullah Omar’s second-in- command, to Afghanistan after he had been arrested in Pakistan because it was alleged that Pakistan did not want him to enter into negotiations with the Karzai administration on behalf of the Taliban. There is a great deal of murkiness surrounding Baradar. He was arrested by Pakistan but only after the CIA had established his whereabouts. Neither the CIA nor the ISI seemed aware of his identity or his importance when he was arrested. Certainly neither seemed to know that he wanted to negotiate with Karzai or his people. The true position is difficult to establish but there is no doubt that the Afghans have asked us to hand him over and we have not done so. Why? Similarly, in the Tayyab Agha episode the Pakistani intelligence officials made it known to the western press through informal briefings that they were unhappy at “being kept out of the loop”. Why?
Do we want to dictate who should represent the Taliban? If so, two questions arise. What is the end we have in mind and second, would the Taliban or the other side accept this? The answer to the first should be that we want reconciliation on terms that both sides find acceptable and that brings stability to Afghanistan and relieve us of the many burdens that we have borne for so long. The answer to the second would appear to be to let the decision lie with the Taliban leaders
Today, there is much talk of the fact that the Taliban in various informal contacts, thorough intermediaries, have told the Karzai administration that they would like to set up a Taliban office in a neutral country where they can, without Pakistan’s heavy hand bearing down on them, negotiate with the government. Whether this charge against Pakistan is true or not, we should let it be known that we would have no objection to such a process and that it would be for the Taliban to decide who will represent them.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 3rd, 2011.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ