The hidden hand

Once the ISAF forces leave Afghanistan, there is a feeling that the focus of the Taliban would move to that country.


Kamal Siddiqi November 03, 2013
The writer is Editor of The Express Tribune

The death of TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud in a drone attack one day ahead of the start of possible peace talks has led many to conclude that the United States is against any move for reconciliation. It also comes at a time when the withdrawal of US troops from this area in 2014.

Imran Khan has been quite vocal in his statements and has blamed the US government for consistently sabotaging any such initiatives in the past as well. His party has also threatened blocking NATO supplies to protest the killing.

The government, which had managed to cobble together a consensus for talks says that it will protest strongly to the US. Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, our hard working interior minister, says that ties with Washington will be reviewed.

Earlier progress on peace talks failed because of the death of a high-ranking military commander, Major General Sanaullah Niazi, in September. The Taliban claimed responsibility for that attack. Then in the same month, 78 people died in a suicide attack at a church in Peshawar. No one claimed responsibility.

Now Imran Khan has hinted that this may be the work of the hidden hand. If this is true, a possibility we may never be able to know for sure, one expects a fundamental shift in relations with Washington. More so because this can be cited as further proof that the US does not want peace within Pakistan.

This is a dangerous path to follow. Now every attack that remains unaccounted for will be blamed on the Americans. Possibly this puts the government of prime minister Nawaz Sharif in a quandary because his recently concluded trip to the US has yielded opportunities to work towards helping improve the state of our war-torn economy.

The question on everybody’s minds now is – what next? Will the government continue to push for peace talks? Possibly yes. Will the TTP respond with a resumption of dialogue? Again, a possible yes but we also know that there is a difference of opinion within the TTP over whether to talk peace with the government or not.

The first demand of that group is that drone attacks be stopped before any dialogue can take place. Given this, the key to resumption of talks once again is in the hands of others.

We are fearful that the TTP and other groups will seek revenge for the death of their leader. This will again lead to terror attacks within Pakistan. Already there is a somber mood prevailing, with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on high alert.

What options do we have? It is clear that peace should be given priority. Setting aside political differences, we should try and sort out issues in a manner that avoids bloodshed. One is tired of seeing dead bodies of innocent people – both civilians and military personnel – on both sides of the conflict.

Should we be thinking out of the box? Something like Musharraf’s points on resolving the Kashmir issue – which, incidently, weren’t even his but were credited to him so he could sell it better to his commanders. Is it time we gave some autonomy to some regions of the country as a concession to letting peace prevail.

The fact is that we are all tired of the conflict our country has been thrust in. It was initially not our war but now after thousands of deaths, it has become our own conflict. The problem is that we are squashed in between two or three parties. We are bearing the brunt of the fighting.

Should the starting point be the end of drone attacks? Or does that give the other side an upper hand? How does all this play into 2014, when American troops withdraw from Afghanistan.

As we know, Afghanistan will witness significant changes once the ISAF forces leave their country, leaving a token representation for boosting the morale of their Afghan allies. There is a feeling that once this happens, the focus of the action for the Taliban on either side of the border would move to that country.

The knives are already being sharpened to carve out spheres of influence between the regional powers. While China is mostly interested in economic cooperation with the post-2014 Afghanistan, other neighbours are looking at more meaningful gains. Time will tell who gets what.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 4th, 2013.

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COMMENTS (17)

Rex Minor | 8 years ago | Reply

@faizaan: You appear to have misread the history of Afghans; these people are named Afghans since they recognise no ones authority or will over them. If you do not accept this feature of their culture then you will never come closer to them.

Zalmai, You have made a point which in my opinion has cultural and historical overtones. Could you throw some light on this?

Rex Minor

Zalmai | 8 years ago | Reply

@ Faizaan

The Pakistani state narrative of Tajiks and their Indian masters in Afghanistan is a stale and outdated propaganda being peddled by ISPR.

No matter who is at the helm in Afghanistan, you can bet your bottom devalued rupee that Afghans unanimously and unequivocally oppose Pakistan and its dirty machinations.

The status quo in Afghanistan will be strengthened and solidified, especially after BSA is signed.

Afghans are just getting warmed up, and they are in no mood to allow regional geopolitics to derail the achievements of the last twelve years. Be warned, play at your own risk is the mantra in Afghanistan.

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