The dangerous duality

AFRASYAB KHATTAKThe death of Taliban leader Akhtar Mansour in a US drone strike on May 21 in a remote part of Balochistan has dramatically underlined the terrorist challenge that Pakistan still faces, and of which Pakistan is still living in denial of, as the official response to the latest drone attack has amply demonstrated.

It has been almost an open secret that the leadership of Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan is based in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s Sartaj Aziz, adviser to the Prime Minister on foreign policy, removed every doubt in this regard a few months back when he publicly accepted the fact that top Afghan Taliban and their families reside in Pakistan and enjoy certain facilities.

Probably using Pakistani passports for international traveling has been part of these facilities.

Since the Taliban “ Emirate” revolve around their Ameer (the leader) so the main center of their system is the place where their Ameer lives.

We all know that after the public confirmation of the news about Mulla Omar’s death the succession ceremony was held at Kuchlak, a small town outside Quetta where Akhtar Mansour was appointed as Ameer to replace Mulla Omar.
Reports about the presence of Molvi Haibatullah Akhunzada, their third and latest Ameer, in the area had appeared in the media more than once during the last one year.

Not only that, but the main decision making council of Afghan Taliban is called Quetta Shura because this body is based in Balochistan capital for the last many years.

Interestingly this practice has continued even at a time when Taliban are supposed to be controlling areas inside Afghanistan.

The problem with Pakistan’s Afghan policy for long years has been its dangerous duality.

The powerless foreign office and civilian leaders talk about friendship and good neighborly relations with Afghanistan, but security agencies of the country that actually formulate and implement the policy are hell bent on imposing the Taliban on Afghanistan.

Many people in Pakistan do not realise that Afghan Taliban are for Afghanistan what TTP is for Pakistan because the state narrative has fed a distorted picture to them for a long time.

Confused by distortions and disinformation many people in Pakistan do not realise that Taliban have not only attracted the induction of international troops in Afghanistan by stationing foreign terrorists there but they have also successfully subverted the plan for withdrawal of ISAF forces from Afghanistan with a cut off date by the end of 2016.

But they could not have acted differently because the anti-state fight has been part of their very design.

Taliban ideology on both sides of the Durand Line is aimed at fighting all forms of modern state system.

By now it is quite clear that liquidation of the Afghan republic and imposing a totalitarian system is their main agenda.

It should not have been difficult for Pakistanis to understand this because that is exactly what Taliban did in Swat and FATA when they controlled these areas.

Bringing down the Pakistani flag was the first thing which they did after achieving ascendency in these areas.

But spreading the official narrative Pakistani media, the electronic media in particular, has focused on projecting Afghan Taliban as “heroes of the resistance movement “, and different from the Pakistani Taliban.

They simply hide their common ideological roots and their common oath of allegiance to the same Ameer.

This obfuscation is continuing, otherwise how could Sarfaraz Bugti, the Provincial Interior Minister of Balochistan have used indecent language against hapless Afghan refugees without explaining his position on the presence of Taliban Shura in Quetta under his nose.

Most of the drone attacks in the past had taken place in FATA but that area was regarded by all and sundry for historical and geographical reasons as a natural extension for the military conflict in Afghanistan.

The US drone attack on Akhtar Mansour in Balochistan, the first of its kind, represents the end of Balochistan as safe heaven for Afghan Taliban.

It is difficult to say whether this significant shift in US policy is registered in Pakistan or not.

Interestingly there has not been any talk about an investigation into the presence of Afghan Taliban leadership in Pakistan.

Although social media has been full of criticism of the pro-Taliban policy of the security establishment of Pakistan, mainstream media has not seen the type of debate about the dangerous duality in the country’s Afghan policy, which one would have expected in the wake of such a debacle.

This is particularly so because there is almost a general consensus among political parties about normalising relations with neighboring countries.

But at the same time the political leadership seem to have totally given up on the country’s Afghan policy.

This should be a matter of concern for all sensible people in the country as the aforementioned Afghan policy has not only politically isolated Pakistan but has also put her on a collision course with a number of countries.

It is only due to this policy that Pakistan is regarded a hub of terrorism despite the large-scale heroic sacrifices given by Pakistanis in the fight against terror.

The pro-Taliban policy has no future for obvious reasons but the question is will Pakistan change it before the country suffers irreparable losses for blindly pursuing it?

Writer: Afrasiab Khattak

The writer is a retired senator and a leader of Awami National Party (ANP). He tweets    @a_siab 

THE PASHTUN TIMES

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