Asif Haroon Raja
“We are all brothers and sisters under the skin and above it . . . it’s super important that we stop lobbing bombs over the top of the wall and start trying to dismantle it, so that we can say ‘hi’ to whoever is on the other side, whether the divide is religious or nationalistic or politic or economic.” – Roger Waters
The western world is bent upon teaching a lesson to the Taliban for their audacity to degrade the sole superpower and NATO. Calculated steps are being taken to crumble Afghanistan’s economy and to make it a failed state. Apart from freezing their foreign exchange reserve and directing the IMF and World Bank to suspend financial aid, the US is pressuring the international community not to recognize the new regime in Kabul. Without recognition, humanitarian aid cannot be galvanized.
Instead of bailing out the new Taliban regime in Kabul from the economic crisis by providing humanitarian assistance and according it diplomatic recognition, it is accentuating its melancholies. It will provide assistance based on conditions that aid will be distributed by its NGOs and 2600 Afghani agents who were evacuated by CIA. Fake news are being spread by Indo-western media and sponsored protest marches for women rights organized in Kabul and other big cities to debase the Taliban.
Upset by the growing rapport between Pakistan and Taliban, the US wants to penalize both by using the tools of diplomatic isolation, economic war, proxy war, hybrid war and sanctions. Dollars are pouring into Pakistan to destabilize the political situation, weaken the economy and possibly bring about a regime change.
The USA being the biggest war monger and violator of democratic and human rights is demanding from the Taliban not to violate human and women rights, promote girls education and to form an inclusive regime of its choice.
Ironically, massive human rights abuses committed by India and Israel against the Kashmiris and Palestinians, and both involved in ethnic cleansing to change the demography have never bothered the biased US leadership.
India’s undiminished bellicosity
Egged on by the US and Israel to intensify bellicosity against Pakistan, Indian media has intensified fake propaganda by claiming that Pakistan is behind the incidents of target killings of 9 Indian soldiers and some others in occupied Kashmir, as well as the attack by rebellious Sikhs against the RSS thugs in India, who are brutalizing minorities especially the Muslims. Hype similar to the post-Pulwama incident in Aug 2019 has been created and demand for surgical strikes has reached a crescendo. India’s Home Minister Amrit Shah has hurled a threat in this regard.
To up the ante, Indian anchors are screaming and straining their lungs over the incident of the Indian submarine saying that Pakistan’s claim of detecting it and forcing it to trudge backwards is false. Another threat was tossed to cancel the India-Pakistan T-20 cricket match due on Sunday. Earlier on, India was behind the cancellation of cricket series in Pakistan by the New Zealand and British teams. These bullying tactics are not new and have always been used to hide the genocide and rapes of the Kashmiris, and to placate Indian masses fed up of price spiral, growing poverty, rising cases of rapes and crimes and groaning under the misrule of fascist Modi regime.
Desperate to return to Afghanistan, India is making concerted efforts to win over the new regime in Kabul and is offering extensive humanitarian assistance. Moscow’s help to convince the Taliban has also been sought.
IS-K pitched against Taliban
The IS-K which was imported from Iraq and Syria in 2015 has been propelled to carryout suicide and bomb attacks in the major cities of Afghanistan and foment sectarianism to create insecurity. The CIA Director had stated last August that the best way to fuel trouble would be to make the Shias fight against the Sunnis as had been done in the Middle East. Sectarian game is being played with a dual purpose to show to the world that Afghanistan is an insecure country and it is beyond the capacity of the Taliban to control them. Secondly, justify the US air intervention.
The two most battle hardened and ideologically driven Sunni groups (Deobandis and Salafists) have been pitched against each other to once again engulf the war-ravaged country into another round of civil war. While the hardline IS-K is war monger, and has an international agenda of change, the reformed Taliban desire peace and friendship with all the countries. They had given ample chance to the militants led by Ahmad Masood in Panjshir to settle the matter through dialogue and when Masood refused, the valley was forcibly wrested on Sept 6. Tajikistan and Iran are feeling uneasy with Panjshir coming under the control of the Taliban.
Time is not far when the Taliban would be forced to launch a full-fledged offensive to eliminate IS-K, which is also posing a threat to Pakistan. Earlier this menace is eliminated from the Af-Pak region, better it will be for the overall peace and security of the region.
It was held on Aug 24 by video to discuss the Afghan situation. The EU members were more concerned about the safety and evacuation of their nationals and their Afghan loyalists from Afghanistan. They promised one billion Euros humanitarian aid for the Afghans but so far the amount has not been received.
G-20 Extraordinary Conference
Pakistan and Iran, the two important immediate neighbors of Afghanistan were not invited to the conference by video held on Oct 12. Although the purpose of the conference was to generate donations for Afghanistan, no tangible results came out since the reps of western countries “wanted to tell the Taliban how to run their country and how to treat the women”, and laid down these terms as necessary conditions for doling out assistance. Russia and China wanted to follow the policy of non-interference. Another meeting is scheduled on Oct 30-31.
Russia hosted a summit at Moscow on Oct 14-15 to discuss the evolving situation in Afghanistan which was attended by reps from China, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, five Central Asian States and India. The US was absent. It was a follow up of the Dushanbe Summit of the SCO. A bombshell was dropped by Russia’s foreign minister Lavrov bluntly stating that the core burden of post conflict economic & financial reconstruction and development of Afghanistan must be shouldered by the USA-NATO occupying the country for 20 years.
While India and Tajikistan expressed their grievances, the Taliban PM Abdul Salam Hanafi argued that the current interim regime is already inclusive. 500,000 employees of the former regime have kept their jobs.
Vladimir Putin praised the Taliban efforts to tackle the threat posed by the IS-K and he said that there are 2000 Jihadis of this outfit, whose locations are known to the Russian intelligence and can easily snuff them if the Taliban gave a green signal. He also lauded Pakistan’s role, emphasizing that it was among the most important players in Afghanistan. It was decided to convene an international donor conference under the auspices of the UN.
The NATO summit of the defence ministers was held at Brussels on 19-20 Oct. The insensitive participants did nothing to help out Afghans except for giving sermons to the Taliban and holding them accountable for the ongoing acts of terror and alleged human rights violations in Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s endeavor for peace
Pakistan is making hectic efforts to provide relief goods to the stressed segments in Afghanistan and has assured Rupees 5 billion immediate relief, but is itself deeply immersed in a host of internal issues. It has been appealing to the neighbors of Afghanistan as well as the OIC for a collective humanitarian response and is also urging the world bodies including the USA to come out of their materialistic mode and for the sake of humanity, mobilize international assistance for the Afghans who have been living in hellhole for the last 40 years.
Their miseries would proliferate in the winter season, but egotism, antagonism, greed and bigotry is coming in the way of humanity. There is an urgent need for global convergence in Afghanistan to avoid the humanitarian crisis and coordinated efforts for the economic uplift of the Afghan people.
Pakistan has decided not to play into the hands of global powers like a hired gun to fight their wars and has opted to become a strong proponent of peace. It is in the backdrop of this change of policy that Imran Khan in reply to the question of the nosy western reporter asking him whether Pakistan will extend airbase facility to the US, had spontaneously retorted ‘Absolutely Not’. His curt response has not been received well in Washington. It is not reconciling with the policy of defiance of Pakistan and wants Islamabad to do as told to do or else get prepared for the consequences. The ruling regime is already feeling the heat of the external and internal fronts.
Domestically, the people are getting restive due to rising inflation and uncontrollable price hike. The global economic crunch and Covid-19 have severely hit the economies of the developing world. The energy crisis has soared the prices of oil, gas and coal. Pakistan’s economy which has been in the grip of the IMF since 1990 is tumbling and debts are surging. External debt repayment is $ 14 billion and internal debt Rs 2.7 trillion. Economist magazine has listed Pakistan’s inflation 4th highest out of 42 countries. Pakistan needs gross external financing of $ 51 billion in current and next financial year to fulfil its needs. The IMF is levying tough conditions which if implemented would further enrage the people. FATF has again postponed its decision of taking Pakistan out of the grey list till next February.
Under the prevailing grim environment and foreign agenda of a regime change, the possibility of coming out of an economic crisis is getting dimmer. Taking advantage of the unsettling trends, the PDM, PPP, Jamaat-e-Islami and the TLP have started flexing political muscles. They have embarked upon another round of protest marches and are hopeful to dislodge the government which they consider as incompetent. Their target is Imran Khan and they want to pay him in the same coin. Tough times are awaiting the rulers. What is urgently needed is political consensus and economic certainty as well as bridling up of paid media spreading gloom to ride out the brewing storm.
The writer is retired Brig Gen, war veteran, defence & security analyst, international columnist, author of five books, Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre, & Member CWC PESS & Veterans Think Tank.