Wednesday December 01, 2021

National consensus on Afghan policy

PPP and PML-N's demand of calling joint session of the Parliament on the fast changing situation in Afghanistan has not been heeded to yet by the leadership of the ruling party

August 23, 2021
File photo
File photo

Major Opposition parties (PPP and PML-N) demand of calling joint session of the Parliament to evolve national consensus on the fast changing situation in Afghanistan has not been heeded to yet by the leadership of the ruling party. It may reflect their inaptitude towards the Parliament and the democratic conventions even during such time when national security is at stake due to the volatile situation in the neighbouring country. These are challenging times for Pakistan as the backlash may embolden militancy in the country along with upfront questions of recognition of the new government in Kabul, engagement with regional countries, formation of the new government in Afghanistan, the influx of Afghan refugees, TTP’s regrouping and surge in the terrorist activities during this year. The forum of the Parliament may surely the best forum to evolve national response like National Action Plan (NAP-2015) in the past after the students’ massacre in Peshawar school by Taliban.

The anticipated dividends of national consensus may not be overemphasized. Undoubtedly, the articulation of the national policy by the foreign minister, rooted in national consensus, will carry considerable weightage in his diplomatic pursuits because then he would be speaking on behalf of the entire nation and not merely on behalf of the government. One fails to understand as why the ruling leadership is oblivious of the incredible advantages that could accrue if the government and the opposition are on board on such matter of extreme national importance having direct bearing on the national security. Party politics may be relegated to the back burner at this critical time, and the ruling elite should prove itself as sensible that takes the good advice sensibly and ‘not like the unwise prince who cannot be well-advised’.

Earlier, Pakistan ruling party leadership’s jubilation over the fall of Afghanistan to Taliban, describing it as like breaking the shackles of servitude, might be considered as utterly out of context of the country’s diplomatic and strategic imperatives. Its partisan’s insinuations in favour of Taliban might batter officials repeated narrative ‘no favorites in Afghanistan’ so far as Pakistan was concerned. It was indeed double jeopardy that might have solidified the world’s well-entrenched perception of the world that Taliban are the favorite of Pakistan. The reported jubilation of the prime minister over the victory of Taliban might be closer to his opponents’ synonymy “Taliban Khan’. The hoisting of flag of Taliban in Islamabad seminary and its immediate removal thereafter was the timely action that might certainly serve as a detrimental factor to prevent the potential misguided extremist elements and the political leadership from plying out their glee in public.

Afghan Taliban leadership is in the process of working out the modalities of transition of power after their stunning juggernaut leading to their victory over the entire country within eleven days as the three hundred thousand of well-trained and well-equipped Afghan troops surrendered without offering anticipated tough resistance. Recently, Taliban leadership had been meeting with the myriad representative leaders including Hamid Karzai, former president and Abdullah Abdullah, a key figure of the Ghani government, in order to form a broad-based government that might be acceptable to the international community and more so to the people of Afghanistan. An Afghan delegation of senior leaders also visited Pakistan after the fall of Kabul to muster support in favor of broad-based government that Pakistan also wanted in its neighbouring country as the best and the only option if Afghanistan had to progress in an environment of peace and security.

Admittedly, Taliban’s taking over of the country made the Doha peace agreement redundant meant to seek a negotiated settlement of the Afghan issue. It seemed that Taliban were not serious in the implementation of the peace agreement as their strategy seemingly had been revolving around “talk less and fight more” aimed at to gain time to continue to occupy more territories while the thinning of US military presence was in progress.

Taliban’s series of military victories evidently demoralised the Afghan military forces and the leadership too with corridors of power in Kabul started crumbling. The negotiated settlement was seemingly relegated to the periphery by the Taliban as they continued to mount military offensive on government forces instead of scaling down their fighting (ceasefire) reflective of their intent to pursue the political settlement of the Afghan imbroglio. They were rather tacitly focused to overtake the country first and then impose whatever the settlement they deemed fit. Now, they were engaged exactly as planned, to enforce the peace settlement on their own terms known as victor’s settlement and not the negotiated settlement under the Doha peace agreement. Taliban strategy, at the end of the day, worked brilliantly in all forms and manifestations so far.

The international community had seemingly accepted the naked reality of the Taliban victory, but determined to use its powerful leverage to prevent Taliban from enforcing the rule that was promulgated by them during their watch between 1996- 2001. Afghanistan was then an abysmal model of repressive regime led by obscurantists’ lot. It was also the bastion of international terrorists’ hordes and their outfits with the mission to launch a holy war (Jihad) against the rest of the world.

The world was well aware of the pre-9/11 period when international terrorist organisations and international terrorists affiliated to al-Qaeda found safe haven in the country to plan and execute terrorists’ attacks around the world including 9/11 in New York triggering the military intervention of the USA and the resultant ousting of the Taliban government. The international community today is susceptible of the return of the same type of rule and therefore will be reluctant to extend recognition to the Talban government if it is not inclusive, broad based carrying the support of the overwhelming majority of the Afghan people.

The international community wanted guarantees from Taliban of not harboring terrorist outfits in the country like in the past. The world also want that the new regime must not stop girls from going to school and the women empowerment should continue. Taliban leadership in its first media encounter has given categorical assurance to the international community that they are new Taliban with an amenable worldview that will address the concerns of the international community as per Sharia law.

There is some comfort level among the leaders of the world as Talban announced general amnesty seeking no revenge, women to continue to work, girls would not be stopped from going to schools, freedom of media as per Sharia, and most importantly they would not allow Afghanistan soil to be used against other countries. The international community had taken this announcement at its face value and would wait to see if they fulfill their commitments to their earnest or fall back to their obscurantist and regressive rule.

The biggest and immediate challenge for the Taliban government will be the obtaining of the recognition of the countries of the world to their government. Many important countries may surely withhold it making it contingent upon Taliban implementing their commitments entailing the formation of broad-based government, guaranteeing women participation and representation in national affairs, fundamental rights to the people including freedom of media and protection of minorities. The recognition issue is of paramount importance for the Taliban leadership because its acquisition may address the legitimacy problem of Taliban government that came to power at gun point. Also, legitimacy may surely give fillip to the newly formed government to consolidate its position within the country and beyond. However, denial of it by the US led allies or considerable delay in rendering recognition by the world, may surely be problematic for the new regime leading to its isolation with unintended dire consequences. The resultant isolation may surely bite the new dispensation both inwardly and outwardly in equal measure. It may seriously endanger the very basis of whole dispensation of Taliban with “existential threat” looming larger as US president aptly stated in the recent past.

The international donors and the international financial institutions will not come forward to extend financial assistance to the Taliban government while the recognition issue remains hanging in the air. New government when formed will be in dire need to get huge amount of money to build the country’s sick economy to improve the quality of life of the Afghan people to improve its standing among the masses. Without opening the wallets and hearts of the international community, the Afghan people may certainly be facing appalling miseries making the Taliban government increasingly unpopular rendering it redundant, worthless, archaic and obsolete.

The resultant backlash may force the people to take to the streets raising their voice against “Emirate “because hungry people are angry people with no-bars-hold when their subsistence is at stake. The tyranny of poverty and miseries perpetrated by the new alienated regime may surely prove as catalytic to overcome the fear of Taliban. They are already protesting against the “Talibnisation” of the country by replacing the flag of Taliban with the national flag -- the emerging symbol of resistance. The world may witness stunning peoples’ victory that may draw closer if Taliban resort to suppression and persecution against the people languishing under the piles of miseries and abject poverty.