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Pakistani military plays game with the West in Afghanistan

By Ehsan Stanizai - posted Tuesday, 15 January 2013


Amid a nation-wide surge in anti-state violence, Pakistan released eight Taliban prisoners, including former justice minister Nooruddin Turabi in order to facilitate a peace process in neighbouring Afghanistan. The release of the new bunch of Taliban is part of the "Peace Process Roadmap to 2015," drawn up in secret by Kabul and Islamabad recently. The idea of 'peace' sounds virtuous in a war-ravaged country like Afghanistan, however, the question now is whether these good-faith gestures are red herrings or true covenants?

Earlier on November 18, the Taliban prisoners were released but the real game-changer, the former deputy leader of the Taliban, Abdul Ghani Baradar, remains in custody in Pakistan. He was arrested in Karachi in 2010 after he tried to start negotiations with the Kabul government without a prior endorsement of the Pakistani authorities.

The four-page roadmap document contains four major provisions: securing a lead role to Pakistan by mediation between Kabul and the Taliban, holding direct talks with the Taliban in Saudi Arabia in the first half of 2013, declaring a ceasefire between the warring sides and the transformation of the Taliban into a political party and their participation in the 2014 elections. The two sides also planned to hold a conference in Kabul in order to use religious scholars (clerics) from both countries to persuade the Taliban to join the peace process and renounce suicide bombing as un-Islamic.

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Besides saving Pakistan from international isolation since the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden in a safe private residential compound on May 2, 2011, the roadmap provides prospects for Pakistan to achieve its key objectives in Afghanistan. The roadmap allows Pakistan to decide the future of Afghanistan and select its future rulers from amongst the favourite Taliban. Likewise, once Taliban is in control of Kabul, Pakistan will avoid responsibility for any transnational terrorist activity emanating from Afghanistan, because al-Qaida affiliated terrorist networks would have to be relocated to Afghanistan.

There is no mention of al-Qaida terrorism, Pakistan's safe haven, and it's reportedly financial and logistical support for the Haqqani terrorist network and women right in the terms of the negotiations. A report published by the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., found that the Haqqani Network "Continues to maintain close operational ties" with the Inter-service Intelligence (ISI).

The uncomfortable truth is, that the deal demonstrates that Pakistan is in no way in a position to change its 'strategic depth' policy in Afghanistan, even though Pakistan's strong man, army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani insists on December 23 in Islamabad that instability in Afghanistan poses a potential threat to the existence of Pakistan. As a key foreign policy tool in Afghanistan, 'the strategic depth' allows Pakistani military to inoculate itself against two potential threats: lingering Pashtun nationalism and Afghanistan's claim over the Pashtun tribal belt divided by an artificial border called Durand Line that was arbitrarily imposed by British before leaving the Indian subcontinent in 1947.

In the same way, the roadmap also facilitates Pakistan to justify its distinction between the good Taliban (those fighting inside Afghanistan) and the bad Taliban (those fighting the Pakistani state). While the Afghan Taliban is being released, Pakistani military has been engaged in a war with the Pakistani Taliban across the Pashtun tribal belt, which is still being governed by draconian laws of the British Raj. At least, fourteen people were killed when military fighter jets dropped bombs on two houses on Monday, 31 December in Khybar tribal district.In addition, nine bullet-ridden bodies of the Pakistani Taliban were found dumped in North Waziristan near the Afghan border. Calling Pakistani tribal regions a "legal wilderness," Amnesty International writes in a report on December 12, "Almost every week the bodies of those arrested by the Armed Forces are being returned to their families or found dumped across the Tribal Areas."

The government in Kabul receives the rough end of the deal. Apart from an opportunity to pose before photographers in foreign capitals, there is virtually nothing substantial for President Karzai in this deal. If accomplished, the deal, which excludes the United States and archrival India from the Afghan scene, would once again turn Afghanistan into a playground of Pakistani military to play ball with all stakeholders.

Furthermore, continuing a 'kill and dump' policy, ethnic cleansing, forceful migration within the Pashtun tribal belt bears evidence to the sad fact that Pakistan still is an unsettled country sat on occupied territories of the Pashtuns and Baluch. In order to confirm the existence of Pakistan, the country's military and its Gestapo like ISI carry on an uninterrupted barbaric genocide of the Pashtuns and the Baluchis ad infinitum.

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The Western double-dealing with the Pakistani military and fostering it by sending money and weapons for decades has created a post-colonial Frankenstein with nuclear teeth in South Asia. In former Yugoslavia, the West stood heroically by the side of Bosnian Muslims when they fallen victim to the brutal Serbian genocide. In South Asia, the West and the international community witness the extermination of the Pashtun and Baluchi nations by Pakistani military with blind eyes. Against all odds, a calamity to global peace is emerging from disintegrating Pakistan, if its military and ISI remains uncontained.

The roadmap termed by The Guardian on December 18, 2012 as "romantic fiction," begins and ends in Pakistani military headquarters in Rawalpindi. If there is one overarching lesson of the Afghan history, the departure of Western forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 will help the Pakistani military to usher in Chinese tanks into Kabul. Afghanistan has always been a transition territory for the emerging super powers.

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About the Author

Ehsan Azari is an Afghan born writer who is an Adjunct Fellow with the Writing and Society Research Group, at the University of Western Sydney (UWS).

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Ehsan Stanizai

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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