General Zia ul Haq after taking over the reins of the government in Pakistan after a coup in 1977, vigorously embarked on a drive towards the Islamization of his country. He started this by amending the liberal nature of the constitution, introducing Islamic Laws, Islamizing the education system. However, the biggest and the most consequential change he introduced was the radicalization of the army- the defacto ruling apparatus of Pakistan. The motto of the Pakistan army, which was “ittehad, yaqeen aur tanzeem” (unity, faith and discipline) was with one stroke of the pen changed to “imaan, taqwa, jihad fi sabilillah” (faith, piety, holy war in the path of Allah).
The icing on the cake was when Imran Khan, the Pakistan Prime minister was recently seen imploring the world to trust and support Taliban in Afghanistan, in an address to the UN general assembly.
It was just not the change of motto of the Pakistan’s Army but it actually reflected the altered the weltanschauung of, if not complete, then at least,a consequentially large section of the Pakistani society. Taliban owes its birth and origin to Pakistan. They were vigilantes, trained in the most hardline interpretation of Islam in the Madarsas in Pakistan and then trained to fight alongside and provide radical Islamic guidance to the Mujahideens opposing the soviets in Afghanistan.
The arrests of serving and retired Pakistan army officers for their association with various terrorist tanzeems has been commonplace in Pakistan. Many radicalized officers and men of the army have quit the army due to the conflict of their religious ideals with the collaboration between Pakistan and the crusader US and have trained their guns on their fellow serving officers. In 2011, A retired lieutenant colonel of the special service group (SSG) was arrested for supplying among other weapons, grenades 14 missiles to a terrorist tanzeem.
The news of the death of Shahid Aziz, a retired lieutenant general of Pakistan army, while fighting for ISIS in Syria in 2019,though received with feigned surprise in the military circles of Islamabad was actually the culmination of this long process of radicalization of the state and the society. The icing on the cake was when Imran Khan, the Pakistan Prime minister was recently seen imploring the world to trust and support Taliban in Afghanistan, in an address to the UN general assembly.
No wonder then, Pakistan army has very devotedly worked at promoting, training and managing various Islamist groups not only in Afghanistan, India and its neighborhood but all around the globe. The Islamist zeal combined with a myopic and flawed strategic perspective led Pakistan to become the US vendor providing Mujahideen services in Afghanistan. Fast forward to the balkanization of USSR and the US loosing interest in Afghanistan, Pakistan made Afghanistan its vassal state under the Taliban. In 2001 after the 9/11 World Trade Centre attacks, the US put Pakistan on notice through the often quoted, “Be ready to be bombed back to stone age” statement attributed to Richard Armitage, the US Assistant Secretary of State for State.
President Musharraf, sensing an economic opportunity in this adversity did an incredible somersault and became an ally of the US in the global war on terrorism (GWOT) codenamed operation enduring freedom. The aim of this operation was the neutralization of the terrorist leaders and their cadres of the Taliban- Al Qaeda combine, destruction of their training camps and infrastructure in Afghanistan, however, this could only be achieved partially owing to the role played by Pakistan. When the coalition forces bombed Kabul in 2001, the Taliban leadership fled Kabul and regrouped in other cities and towns. As the pressure build against other cities by the US backed Northern Alliance and situation became desperate, Pakistan swung into action to evacuate its army officers working as advisers and the crucial Taliban- Al Qaeda leaders. It sent helicopters to Kunduz and Mazar e Sharif for this evacuation operation.
The Afghan political leaders starting from President Hamid Karzai have been quite blunt in condemning Pakistan for its duplicitous role in the GWOT in Afghanistan.
The situation in Afghanistan initially showed improvement but within five years rather than improving started deteriorating due to the perfidious role played by Pakistan. The terror groups’ leaders and the training infrastructure relocated to Pakistan with the approval and complicity of the Pakistan government. Pakistan’s intelligence agencies that claimed to be part of the GWOT and knew the ground realities better than the Americans actually played up the US Forces and orchestrated the escape of Osama Bin Laden from the mountains of Tora Bora to the tribal areas of Pakistan. The Pakistani Frontier Corps that was tasked to seal the border between Tora Bora and the unregulated tribal areas of Pakistan to prevent the escape of Osama Bin Laden may have actually facilitated his escape.
The remnant Taliban- Al Qaeda elements started conducting hit and run attacks against the US led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from across the border in Pakistan. Numerous US commentators and analysts have, on various occasions decried Pakistan for the dubious role it has played as a US ally in Afghanistan. Under President Musharraf, while Pakistan was able to cozen the US to reap huge benefits in the form of financial aid; whenever, there was any talk of Pakistan not doing enough for the GWOT, it would resort to sometimes cajoling and sometimes issuing veiled threats.
The Afghan political leaders starting from President Hamid Karzai have been quite blunt in condemning Pakistan for its duplicitous role in the GWOT in Afghanistan. However, it is important to note that not only the Taliban- Al Qaeda elements attacking the coalition forces in Afghanistan found refuge in Pakistan but various international terrorist plots including the 2005 Transit bombings in London and some other failed terrorist attack attempts were found to have their links to people, organisations and places in Pakistan.
In 2019, Hamdullah Mohib, the National Security Advisor of Afghanistan had called Taliban the proxy of Pakistan ISI. Dawood Moradian, senior policy advisor to the foreign minister of Afghanistan, in 2015, when asked by a journalist if Pakistan ISI is turning a blind eye to the activities of the Taliban in Pakistan’s territory, said that far from it the ISI has been providing strategic direction in choosing the targets and briefing the Taliban leadership on how to shape a favorable public opinion.
Some analysts have averred that Pakistan ISI has not only provided shelter to the Taliban but also funding, medical facilities, training, armament, equipment, supplies and tactical as well as strategic guidance through resident Pakistani military advisors. Naturally then, the ISI maintains an effective and powerful influence over the Taliban- al Qaeda- Haqquani combine’s field operations but also on the strategic thinking of the combine’s leaders. The visits of Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed, the director general of ISI to Kabul to adjudicate factional feuds in Taliban over allocation of ministerial berths in the then to be formed government further substantiates that Taliban, is in fact a puppet of the ISI.
The gains of last two decades in the fields of trade and commerce, education, health care, human rights, women empowerment and other metrices of human development index have all been reversed.
Prior to and all through the Doha negotiations, Pakistan has played an active role in shaping global opinion in favour of the Taliban. It has invested significant political and diplomatic capital in convincing the West that the Taliban today is no longer the fundamentalist, ultraorthodox Islamist organisation that it was in the 2000.However, the Pakistani efforts have borne little fruits. The spate of executions, public display of corpses and honoring of the kin of suicide bombers by Taliban has allayed any doubts that the western world harbored.
Thousands of Afghans including erstwhile political leaders, ministers, government officials, aides of the coalition forces and even common citizens have fled Afghanistan as the Taliban was making ingress towards Kabul and unleashed its reign of terror on hapless citizens. Thousands still remain in hiding fearing retributions at the hands of the Taliban.
The gains of last two decades in the fields of trade and commerce, education, health care, human rights, women empowerment and other metrices of human development index have all been reversed. Art and culture have been banned. Women empowerment is an anathema to the medieval thought process of the Taliban. Taliban ministers have called women shelters and women colleges dens of prostitution. Women have been barred from working. Taliban ministers have, on national TV, questioned and then unabashedly rubbished the need for women to be included in the cabinet of ministers. Singers and musicians are being executed. Taliban are becoming increasingly violent and barbaric against common Afghans and hanging of dead enemies at public places has become common.
Lacs have lost their livelihood, and ninety percent of the population is not getting enough food; number of families wherein people are skipping meals or giving food to children instead of adults is steadily growing exponentially by the weeks. Food prices which were already high due to a drought have skyrocketed since the takeover by Taliban. Many lacs could lose access to health care as facilities around the country have either gone into disuse or closed. Afghanistan is facing a perilous economic situation after Western powers suspended foreign aid, and the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund also halted payments due to the invasion of the country by the Taliban. Around US$ 9 billion of the Afghan Central Bank were also frozen by the Western powers.
The donor nations have pledged more than US$ 1 billion but at the same time expressed hesitation as well as concerns over how the aid will be utilized under the Taliban regime.
A humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Afghanistan. Even before the Taliban takeover around 20 million people which is roughly half of the entire Afghan population was in need of aid and now with the Taliban takeover the entire population of the country could slide into poverty in a matter of another six months. To tide over the situation an international aid conference of donors was held at Geneve under the auspices of the UN on 13 Sep 2021. The donor nations have pledged more than US$ 1 billion but at the same time expressed hesitation as well as concerns over how the aid will be utilized under the Taliban regime. They are circumspect that providing aid would amount to indirectly recognizing the Taliban government which no nation except Pakistan and China have done so far.
Secondly, the donors also apprehend that the aid could be usurped by the Taliban and may not reach the needy people. Secretary General Guterres, who hosted the meeting, said in his opening remarks that “the people of Afghanistan need a ‘lifeline’ during their most perilous hour. The people of Afghanistan are facing the collapse of an entire country — all at once”. During the conference, Heiko Maas, the German foreign minister expressed concerns about the aid agencies getting ‘proper access’ and the aid workers being able to carry out their work without fear of intimidation and tyranny by the Taliban.