It has only been two years

  • Rauf Klasra
  • Nov 10, 2023

One wonders whether to laugh or cry over the fact that Pakistan has realised, after forty long years, that supporting factions in Afghanistan under the guise of ‘strategic depth’ was not fruitful. Now the entire strategy is being undone because the results turned out contrary to what we expected. The strategic outcomes of these forty years can now only be seen in the form of our painful screams with our national security at risk. Yet, it has only been two years since the beloved Taliban became rulers of Kabul.

On one side, PM Kakar accuses the Kabul government of allowing their soil to be used against Pakistan, while on the other, the Taliban have everything but good things to say about Pakistan. We complain that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is receiving support from Afghanistan and since the Taliban rose to power, Pakistan has borne more attacks than it did during the republic days of Ashraf Ghani. Yet, it has only been two years.

Pakistan thought that the Taliban taking over Kabul would fizzle down the TTP issue by magically settling them down there, securing our western border forever. The idea drove our policy of intervention in Afghanistan for forty years, and it was so evident that Pakistani officials were globally being dubbed the godfathers of the Taliban.

During Zia’s support for Mujahideen against Soviets with the help of America and Europe, we were told that after conquering Afghanistan, the Soviets would turn towards Pakistan because they needed access to warm waters. Therefore, to save Pakistan, open support of the Mujahideen was necessary.

Russia did not come to Pakistan, but the Taliban armed with weapons did. Further, three million in Afghanistan were forced to take refuge in Pakistan, many of whom later made identity cards, passports, bought properties, and started businesses here. It led to cultural conflicts with locals as well as created grave law and order issues in Pakistan with Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Quetta, Islamabad, and Karachi most affected.

We all remember a smiling DG ISI, Faiz Hameed in Kabul Serena, to everyone’s surprise, right after the city was taken over by the Taliban. This appearance came at a time of shock for the world that was puzzled by the sudden disappearance of a whole standing Afghan. The Americans were licking their wounds and looking for an excuse to blame someone when that victory sign was being made for cameras.

This not only aggravated hatred for Pakistan in the hearts of the Afghan youth and people who were against the Taliban but also turned sentiments of governments and individuals, from America to Europe, negative towards Pakistan.

General Faiz sipping tea in those pictures was not even liked by former Pakistani army officers and a former DG ISI who thought dealing with the Taliban in that manner wasn’t just too soon but also reflected very badly on Pakistan.

But the celebrations were multifaceted. If on one hand, Faiz was doing what he did, on the other hand, the then Prime Minister Imran Khan was congratulating the Taliban for capturing Kabul and calling it a journey from slavery to freedom. But the duo was not alone in the untimely celebrations.

Throw Army Chief General Bajwa in the mix, and a decision was reached that is still almost impossible to comprehend for many – bringing back thousands of TTP fighters and their families back after they had fled to Afghanistan following the many large-scale military operations. No heed was given to the public protests in Swat, Mingora, Malakand regions against their return. Protests that were held by the very victims who feared that the Taliban would create the same problems for them that had in the past. Even press conferences held by parents of the APS martyrs were shunned.

The people of Swat who had comprehensively voted for Tehreek-e-Insaf saw their favourite leader bring back the guerrilla fighters of the TTP, along with the traumatic memories. After their return terrorism has re-emerged in Pakistan, and suddenly news of bombings and attacks have become a norm that is new but not so new. After high profile attacks like the one on the Mianwali airbase, it is certain that the Taliban, after conquering Afghanistan, have now turned towards Pakistan.

The credit goes to Imran Khan, General Bajwa, and General Faiz who brought these Taliban back from Afghanistan ‘with proper arrangements’ so that they can live here ‘peacefully’.

Even mourning the intelligence won’t be enough to comprehend the naivety of the thought that after the Afghan Taliban conquered Kabul, the Pakistani Taliban would throw down their weapons and become good kids? Or that the Afghan Taliban would help Pakistan to eliminate the TTP. How could the Afghan Taliban, who had been involved in similar acts, be expected to prevent the outfits that have pledged allegiance to their leader to follow in their path?

Even a blind person could see that after the fall of Kabul, the morale of the TTP and other similar entities will increase with the thought that if the Afghan Taliban

 could fight America for twenty years and capture Afghanistan, why couldn’t they do the same in Pakistan?

Pakistan looks like it has given up on the Taliban and is taking stringent measures by repatriating illegally residing Afghans from Pakistan, blocking fake CNICs, curbing smuggling through the borders and perhaps, in Kamran Yusuf’s words, will no longer be bearing the burden of justifying the Taliban’s policies on international forums. In short, perhaps for the first time ever, the Taliban are not being considered friends.

Could the words of former American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton be resonating in the heads of our policymakers that if you raise snakes in your backyard thinking that they will only harm your neighbours, be assured, they will bite you one day? After all, it has only been two years.

Klasra White

Rauf Klasra

The author is a senior Pakistani journalist and anchor. He posts on X as @KlasraRauf

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