There has been much jubilation in Pakistani strategic circles over the US volte face on Taliban. A desperate US are now ready to deal with the fundamentalist force like Taliban. The Taliban have long been nurtured by Pakistan as its proxy. The idea is to have a pliable regime in Kabul that will do Pakistani biding vis-a-vis India and offer depth to deploy Pak air assets there so as to be out of reach of Indian air power. Pak would also like to use Afghan territory for basing anti-India militant groups there and use the surplus Jihadis in Kashmir.
Pakistan seems to be oblivious to the lessons of recent history. The Afghans have defied mighty Soviet union in the last decade of 20th century and the sole super power, the US in the 21st century. It is indeed a pipe dream if Pakistan thinks it can succeed where the two super powers failed.
Once well established in Kabul, the Taliban are bound to rake up the issue of ‘Durand Line’. The Durand line was established by the British colonialists that took away Pakhtoon dominated parts of Afghanistan (the NW Frontier province) and attached it to Punjab. In addition to the long standing Afghan sense of grievance over Durand Line, new fault lines have emerged in Pakistan between the Punjabi dominated army and government and the tribesmen of North and South Waziristan.
For last several years Pakistan has been using fighter jets, tanks and heavy guns against its own people in Waziristan. The civilian casualties have been kept hidden from public view with a very strict censorship.
Pakistanis need to remember that Mirzali Khan, commonly known as Faqir of Ippi, resisted the British power successfully from 1936 till independence. He finally died in 1960. Pakistani army’s campaign in Waziristan has given birth to several Faqirs of Ippi like leaders. In time to come, Pakistan’s Punjabi dominated arms and state will surely come to grief as the British did in 1940s. The 16 December 2014 attack on Army Public School in Peshawar, showed the intense hatred the tribals have towards the Pakistanis.
Ever since that attack, every time there is a terror attack anywhere in Pakistan, the local police have been known to target the Pakhtoons and other tribals. The simmering anger amongst them has found an out let through the PTM (Pakhtoon Tahafuz Movement) wherein lakhs of people have spontaneously carried out peaceful protests. If Pakistan fails to take remedial action, it is doubtful if the protests will remain peaceful. A secure Taliban govt. in Kabul will have natural sympathies towards its kinsmen tribals.
Pakistan has had a taste of this bitter medicine when in the 1990s, the Taliban leadership showed its utter disdain towards its Eastern neighbour. Irrespective of its ideology, any regime in Kabul will incline towards friendship with India in order to balance Pakistan. This is compulsion of geo-politics.
But the greatest danger to Pakistan is that a Taliban regime in Afghanistan will encourage fundamentalist organisations in Pakistan itself. Thus rather than Pakistan controlling Taliban, it may end up being Talibanized itself. With its nuclear arsenal, it will then be a danger not just to India but even the rest of the world. Success in Afghanistan is thus likely to be pyrrhic victory for Pakistan in the long run.
But one consequence of Taliban victory is certain – it will boost the morale of the Jihadist forces all over the world. One should expect many more terror attacks in the West as well as in India. It is doubtful if Trump’s America has factored in this psychological effect.