Tongue-lashings likely to get sharper

Published: September 21, 2011
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Pakistan's Minister of State of Foreign Affairs Nawabzada Malik Amad Khan (R) shakes hands with former Afghan President and chief of a new peace council Burhanuddin Rabbani (C) at the foreign ministry in Islamabad. PHOTO: REUTERS

Pakistan's Minister of State of Foreign Affairs Nawabzada Malik Amad Khan (R) shakes hands with former Afghan President and chief of a new peace council Burhanuddin Rabbani (C) at the foreign ministry in Islamabad. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: 

There was little hope when Afghan President Hamid Karzai last year tasked his predecessor Burhanuddin Rabbani to broker a peace deal with the Taliban.

Both Islamabad and Washington apparently endorsed Karzai’s choice but remained sceptical about Rabbani’s ability to galvanise support for the reconciliation due to his controversial past.

His death on Tuesday had not only dashed the fragile hopes for peace in the region but is also likely to exacerbate Pakistan’s tense relationship with both Afghanistan and the United States.

(Read: Talking peace in Afghanistan)

Experts warn that the assassination of the former Afghan president would have far-reaching impact on Pakistan and its long-standing ambition to seek strategic depth in Afghanistan. Islamabad would come under more pressure from Washington to act against the Haqqani network, the deadliest of all Taliban groups which, the US believes, is based in the North Waziristan tribal region.

“This will mean more pressure on Pakistan to go after the Haqqanis,” said Rustam Shah, Pakistan’s former ambassador in Kabul and an old friend of Rabbani.

“It has been a pattern in recent months that every attack in Kabul is blamed on the Haqqani network by the Americans,” Shah said.

(Read: America’s SPECTRE syndrome in Afghanistan)

The pressure is expected to pile up on Pakistan after Rabbani’s assassination.  “It will make things much more complex for Pakistan,” said Brigadier (Retd) Muhammad Saad, a Peshawar-based security analyst who has met Rabbani several times.

Rabbani, an ethnic Tajik, became Afghan president in 1992 with the fall of Mujahideen and ruled till 1996 when the Taliban led by Mullah Muhammad Omar took over the entire country except the non-Pashtun north.

(Read: Profile – ‘Man of peace’)

That was the reason, Saad added, the Taliban had never considered him an honest peace broker and continued to suspect him, leaving little room for any headway in his initiative.

“That was a non-starter…he was sometimes frustrated when he occasionally talked to him,” said Shah, who spoke to Rabbani last week by phone.

“Pakistan-bashing will continue,” was a brisk remark by former interior minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, who has been actively involved in backchannel talks to seek an end to the war in Afghanistan.

Sensing tough times ahead, Pakistan top political leadership was quick to condemn the killing, describing it as martyrdom and calling his killers ‘enemies of  peace in Afghanistan’.

Both President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani expressed extreme ‘anger and shock’ over the assassination of a “visionary leader who was actively pursuing peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan”.

“The most important thing is ‘who has done it?’ If the Taliban are behind it then the Qatar initiative will be in danger in the short run,” said Saad.

“Those in the administration in Washington who want a peaceful solution in Afghanistan will find it increasingly difficult to convince the war-mongers that the peacemaking is still possible,” he added.

“And what is more dangerous is the long-term impact on Afghanistan. A simmering Pashtun-Tajik divide can result in a high intensity civil war there, similar to the one the country faced in the 90s,” he added.

Fears are that efforts to make Kabul administration acceptable to all can face a serious setback, drifting the country deeper into ethnic clashes which ruined Afghanistan over decades.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 21st, 2011.

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Reader Comments (14)

  • Babloo
    Sep 21, 2011 - 7:42AM

    Who is in the storage room ?
    The answer comes,
    No I have not stolen anything.
    Pakistan’s denials and Haqanni’s statement that he is no longer in Waziristan , sound similar to the above story.

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  • BruteForce
    Sep 21, 2011 - 7:55AM

    If you allow safe havens for the Territories in the land you claim as sovereign then this has to happen.

    Pakistan has a Million strong Army what is it waiting for? India is not going to attack Pakistan. It has never. You can take those troops on the Indian border and use them for this.

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  • Aftab Kenneth Wilson
    Sep 21, 2011 - 9:04AM

    Strange circumstances are now taking over backdoor channels. Is it not time to enter the “Valley Of Death” before UN gives green signal to NATO troops “Get Em”. Recommend

  • AnisAqeel
    Sep 21, 2011 - 9:06AM

    Some people must come out of compulsive gambling habit to save the country created after historic sacrifices.

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  • ovais tauheed
    Sep 21, 2011 - 9:36AM

    anything pakistan supports in afganistan is dangerous for america.sheer hypocracy.can you believe american version,haqani recently in an interview said they feel unsafe in north waziristan and have relocated to afganistan due to drone attacks which has been pinpointing them out.besides pakistan has been cooperating with america.remember the demands from america will not seize but will grow more.after haqani they will want you to go after quetta shura which is like a mirage in desert.so on do more do more and pakistan will be no more. .besides pakistan has been cooperating with america.remember the demands from america will not seize but will grow more.after haqani they will want you to go after quetta shura which is like a mirage in desert.so on do more do more and pakistan will be no more.

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  • Arindom
    Sep 21, 2011 - 9:40AM

    So you mean to say “Strategic Depth” has become shallower?
    Why can’t Pakistan just leave Afghanistan alone?

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  • Amir
    Sep 21, 2011 - 11:53AM

    @BruteForce:

    Afghanistan has 30,000 strong US army, why not use them to stop infiltration from safe heavens. If US has been unable to stop Taliban in Afghanistan why expect Pakistan to fight for you.

    You are sinking there and want to take Pakistan along ! Thats not going to happen dear.

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  • Feroz
    Sep 21, 2011 - 12:39PM

    The Afghan brothers have a long memory and are smart enough to have figured out who the trouble makers there are. Even a nincompoop carrying out a simple survey there will know who the Afghans consider their friends and whom enemies. More importantly they can also find out why so. Pakistan needs to save the country from itself before the World finds the situation too dangerous to be left unattended. Looking for dangers outside when the fissures that can break the country lie inside cannot continue indefinitely. Those who can exit with their family and funds may be already doing so which is bad news because the Economy can only slide further.

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  • Gooner
    Sep 21, 2011 - 12:40PM

    @Arindom- We sure would if they leave us alone.. We have been suffering for the past 30 years because of giving them our own homes to live in Recommend

  • Aamir
    Sep 21, 2011 - 1:01PM

    What is NATO and Afghan forces doing on their side of borders??? Sleeping?? I think they let it happened to pressure Pakistan. This seems a logical answer.

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  • syed imran
    Sep 21, 2011 - 1:18PM

    @ All

    If the US is so frustrated with Pakistan,why doesn’t it carryout Operation against the Haqqanis by it self, It will than realize how dearly they pay for it.
    Pakistan is already paying through daily bombings/suicide attacks in the backlash for its operations against the Talibans. Should it gets into Operations in North Waziristan, this country will be turned in to a hell and this is primarily what all these so called well wishers want.

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  • Khan
    Sep 21, 2011 - 6:25PM

    How naive of some people to say that NATO & US is losing and therefore making a scapegoat out of Pakistan. No matter what you people say about hypocricy of US etc don’t forget UN and other countries will only follow what the US ask them to and non of so called Muslim Ummah will ever come to rescue us if NATO along with US severe their ties and acted aggressively. To all myopic around here who don’t want us to get rid of these savages please answer these questions,
    1) Haqqani belongs to NWA then what does he has to do with another country across the border?
    2) IF Army & GoP are saying Haqqani is not in NWA then why not seal and fence border area and Install CCTVs on it if they really want to secure our country?.
    (They won’t spare a few billions for it but can let these criminals kill civilians at will and can afford the loss of Billions when incidents like Mehran happens and can also proudly say we have incur a loss of $67 Billion).
    3) Why does he send his foot soldiers across the border to another country?
    How would you like it if NATO send their fighter jets and hit all of NWA and other hideouts of these illiterate barbarians?
    4) Why do we have all these groups who can’t just be humane and take care of their own day to day business and have a family life and let other people live their own life peacefully?
    5) Why is GoP allowing groups like TTP, JeT, LeT, LJ, and gazillion of other groups, who are every now and then killing our civilians?
    Every one was against TTP in Swat, who’s leadership along with leadership of TTP in SWA went into hiding and are sheltered by the same people of NWA etc.

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  • BruteForce
    Sep 21, 2011 - 8:10PM

    @Amir:

    US has 30,000(a gross underestimation but I will go with it) but Pakistan has a Million strong Army and the aid of fighting from their homeland, not the Americans.

    By the way, infiltration is not being stopped by Pakistan also, remember. I’ll job your memory a little.

    http://tribune.com.pk/story/243483/taliban-kidnap-30-pakistani-boys-in-afghanistan-officials/

    US withdrew from some strategic areas intentionally when Pakistan refused to go into North Waziristan. Result: TTP fled to these very areas, from where it is launching attacks, like the one I provided the link for.

    Americans value their Soldier’s and Citizen’s life more than Pakistani Establishment does theirs and that is why such a strong reaction. If Pakistan had cared about its own citizens it would have launched into North Waziristan long back.

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  • Pawaka
    Sep 22, 2011 - 1:21AM

    Aha ! It just simply boils my blood, when I read the American mantra ” Do more do more do more”. Why “do more”, when the Americans are talking to the Taliban. Why cant Pakistan talk to its Taliban and negotiate peace.

    I know why the Americans want Haqqani & Co out, it is because they want to cut Afghanistan off from Pakistan and place it in the lap of India. Cutting Afghanistan off from Pakistan means no China in the region. Is it acceptable to either Pak sar zameen or China? I will leave it to you.

    And Pakistan will never ever succumb to these demands unless the Kashmir issue is resolved first.

    And finally there is no peace in this region unless and untill the Kashmir issue is resolved according to the wishes of Kashmiri people not the American or Indian intellegence.

    Recommend

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