Wednesday December 01, 2021

Double trouble

October 18, 2021

While the Taliban may have taken over control of Afghanistan, there is a question over how tightly they control the country, and what they can do about the situation. In the first place, they face a threat of economic collapse as the world refuses to recognise the Taliban government. But an even more dangerous threat may lie within the country, with the Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) carrying out two bombings targeting Shias in recent days. In the attack during last Friday prayers at a mosque in the southern city of Kandahar 41 persons were killed, with the customary sights of mourning relatives seen once again in a country that has faced endless war, endless strife and endless tragedy. Hospitals were overwhelmed as they attempted to treat the wounded and maimed. A week before this in another attack dozens were killed, again Shias, in the northern city of Kunduz. It is quite obvious that IS-K is determined to show it is able to rival the Taliban which it sees as a bitter enemy.

The situation is an obviously dangerous one. In the first place it throws Afghanistan once again into a state of virtual civil war. We know that IS has the ability to carry out a full scale terrorist war as it has done in other countries. We also know that the minority community in Afghanistan can never feel safe while this war is on. Shias make up about 10 percent of the Afghan population, and have been targeted in the past, with the Hazara ethnic and religious minority, who are mainly Shias, suffering worst during the past decades in Afghanistan.

The Afghan Taliban say they want peace. They have promised protection for minorities and women as well. However, there is doubt over whether this will be possible, especially given the activities of the Islamic State which wishes to challenge Taliban rule in Afghanistan. And for Pakistan, there is an additional danger. There has been activity by IS in our country and within our borders as well. With the IS taking a firmer hold in Afghanistan amidst the chaos that has followed Taliban rule, there is a danger that Pakistan too will fall victim to this group in one way or the other. The IS-K is a hardline, extremist group not known for its regard for human rights or for basic humanity. The question is whether the Taliban can stop it and how Pakistan can help with this, in logistical terms, in terms of strategy, and perhaps with practical assistance in terms of at least ensuring its own borders are kept secure and the IS can be driven out of an already troubled region as quickly as possible, given the havoc it is capable of creating.