With the arrival of Taliban in Afghanistan, all existing narratives about terrorism have become redundant and the actors that were hitherto portrayed as terrorists have now emerged as the rulers of the country.
The war against terrorism has now turned into a war against freedom fighters, and Taliban’s ascension to power is seen as freedom from slavery.
Yet, this freedom came with a sight that was not very jubilant one – hundreds of thousand people were rushing towards Kabul airport, scrambling towards the exiting aircrafts, women officials of deposed the government going into hide, waiting for a miracle to save them from the wrath of the Taliban. This miserable pursuit of an exit from the country was shocking and heart wrenching but the Afghan Taliban explained it as a normal response of people who don’t want to lose an opportunity that can get them on to American soil.
Fear has been a dominating factor from the beginning to the end of the war on terror and even the freedom from slavery as defined by the prime minister, Imran Khan, carried no different scenario either. The US had unleashed its war on terror against the Afghan Taliban fearing that showing no retaliation to the 9/11 terror attack will encourage perpetrators to repeat their sinister designs again. Signing the peace agreement to end this war, the USA had a different form of fear that required assurances from the Taliban that they won’t attack US forces during their withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The unfolding crisis, while the US withdrawal from Afghanistan was ongoing, was of concern for Pakistan as well. Fear gripped Pakistan of a possible spillover of militancy from Afghanistan into Pakistan. To address this issue, Prime Minister Imran Khan took a position that he defined in an article published in Washington Post on June 22, 2021, saying, “…if Pakistan were to agree to host US bases for action inside Afghanistan, it would again be targeted for revenge by terrorists if civil war ensued.” Who he meant by terrorists is an unanswered question but knowing the main force that was poised to take the whole country under its control after US withdrawal, one can assume that it may be none other than the Afghan Taliban.
Soon after the Taliban took over Afghanistan, the terminology of ‘terrorists’ was dropped from their names and war veteran titles was assigned to them in recognition of their struggle of 20 years.
All the alliances made for the war against terrorism and the lives and money lost in that venture were dumped into the graveyard of oblivion and forgetfulness.
Taking a cue from this change in terminology, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) also issued a warning, refraining Pakistani media to use ‘terrorists’ terminology while referring to them.
Their concerns seemed valid as they don’t consider themselves separate from the Afghan Taliban in anyway. Even a senior security official has recently identified them as “two faces of the same coin.”
Fear struck the media community and the journalist body, PFUJ, raised its concerns on the threats to journalists that was hurled from TTP quarters.
Pakistan, in the past, used to complain about the inaction of the former Afghan government against the TTP militants who were using Afghan territory to mastermind attacks on Pakistan soil. This year too, Pakistan suffered seven attacks that were either claimed by TTP or their footprints were found by the police.
Two of these attacks targeted Chinese officials, leaving 9 Chinese workers dead at Dasu Dam and four Pakistani citizens at Serena Hotel in Quetta where the main target was the Chinese ambassador.
After Taliban’s ascension to power, it was assumed that, being in good relationship with Pakistan, their behavior will be different from their predecessors. This was not the case.
Appearing in an interview with Geo News, Zabihullah Mujahid in a very polite, gentle and diplomatic way ignored Pakistan’s request for applying any restrain on the TTP and said, “The issue of the TTP is one that Pakistan will have to deal with, not Afghanistan. It is up to Pakistan and Pakistani ulema and religious figures, not the Taliban, to decide on the legitimacy or illegitimacy of their war and to formulate a strategy in response.”
Presumably, it must have been an unexpected answer from the Taliban which, instead of addressing the concerns of Pakistan, had left it open or, in other words, pushed it back to Pakistan.
Zabihullah Mujahid in a very polite, gentle and diplomatic way ignored Pakistan’s request for applying any restrain on the TTP
Another aspect of this response from the Taliban is more frightening and disturbing when looked at closely. Ideologically, Zabihullah is right to admit that Taliban can’t deprive their counterpart (TTP) from continuing a sacred war they had waged to achieve a goal that is sacred to both of them – the implementation of Sharia Law in countries under their influence and beyond. He also identified Pakistani ulema and religious figures as the final arbiters to determine whether the holly war waged by the TTP has to be continued or stopped now.
Once the ulema make their decisions, Pakistan will have to draw their policies in line with that decision. The fear this suggestion creates is that, any adherence to it is tantamount to transferring the writ of Pakistan into the hands of ulema and legitimize the very outfit that was hitherto suspected of having its links with the former Afghan and Indian secret agencies.
How seriously Pakistan took this suggestion of Afghan Taliban is unknown but the two recent events may shed some light on a kind of mixed reaction the government exhibited towards the TTP.
Addressing a press conference, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry confirmed that the TTP was in disarray because India had stopped funding them.
To prove that they are still alive and kicking, the TTP claimed the responsibility for a suicide attack that was carried out in Quetta, killing four security personnel on September 6, 2021.
Three days after this attack, President Arif Alvi, while giving interview to a TV channel, said: “…the Pakistani government can consider an amnesty for members of the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) who are not involved in crimes and want to leave the ideology of the TTP and follow the Constitution of Pakistan.”
It was a new move of the government but not in conformity with the recommendations of the Afghan Taliban. Although the ideology of the TTP is the same as that of the Afghan Taliban, declaring it unacceptable was nothing but an admission that what suits Afghanistan does not suit Pakistan.
Lack of clarity mixed with uncertainty and unpredictability are the hallmarks of the newly found freedom from slavery in Afghanistan. No country, including Pakistan, has recognized the new Afghan government so far because every country is fearfully watching the performance of the Taliban government which is slowly drifting towards its past and reneging the commitments it made for inclusivity, tolerance, and fair dealing with women and minority community.
Writing about the failures of US policies in Afghanistan, a US journalist, Thomas L. Friedman, made this confession: “The US withdrawal from Afghanistan after a failed 20-year nation-building exercise has left many Americans and analysts saying, “If only we knew back then what we know now, we would have never gone down that path.’’
Pakistan has been taking a very cautious move in dealing with the affairs of Afghanistan but the rising trend of militancy in the country targeting mainly security forces, Chinese citizens, and minority communities need not to be ignored at the cost of our dedicated support to Afghan Taliban. Before the local militants turn the table in their favor, the government should take notice of this trend and save the country from repenting the way the US journalist is found repenting now.