By Sankar Ray
Pakistan seems optimistic, pushing ahead with its policy of backseat driving to keep the Taliban 2.0 in good humour and under control. Not the Prime Minister Imran Khan Niazi, but Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence director-general, Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed has been assigned to play the principal role there. But the visit of the CIA Director William Joseph Burns to Islamabad for a secret meeting with Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa and to discuss sensitive diplomacy, keeping Pakistan’s career diplomats away on the sidelines sends a message of anxiety even to Pak intelligentsia.
Chevening scholar Amanat Ali Chaudhry in a post-editorial in a leading Pak morninger expressed worries over the Taliban’s breach of promise of an ‘ inclusive and broad-based representation from other political, tribal, ethnic, and women groups’ for which the undesirably assertive ‘miltablishment’ appears to be unconcerned.
Not only the PM and the ruling federal ministry, led by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, but Dr. Arif Alvi, President of Pakistan too has to implement directives from ‘miltablishment’ on every step of action about the Emirate of Afghanistan and the new Taliban government. There is not an iota of doubt that a different relationship between the USA and the Taliban is ahead. The US ruling brass cannot afford to give a walk over to China.
The UK too wants to remain a player in the global stage, envisaged by the new emirate. Richard Moore, Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, UK, also called on General Bajwa on 27 August. Pakistan reportedly assured cooperation with its international partners for peace in the region for a stable and prosperous future for Afghan people. The Chinese dragon looms large for the Brits as well. Beijing is strongly believed to have been siding with the Taliban during the last two decades. In 2007, BBC carried a report that the Taliban were in possession of HN-5 anti-aircraft missiles surface-to-air missiles, anti-aircraft guns, landmines, rocket-propelled grenades and components for roadside bombs – all China-make. And Afghan official disclosed this to the BBC.
Beijing cashes in on the tough line adopted by international donor agencies like the International Monetary Fund which stopped $400 million loan fund, slapping a severe foreign exchange crisis.. As a gesture, China extended its helping hand to the new rulers so that they can confront the severe financial crisis. It announced a $ 31 million-plus emergency aid and three million doses of corona vaccine to Afghanistan. This will help the Emirate to confront the financial strangulation by the western donor agencies which blocked foreign reserves of Afghanistan to the tune of $10 billion.
However, Islamic countries are now circumstantially more dependent on Islamabad than Beijing whose motive is ‘economic exploitation of Afghanistan, eyeing rich mineral and natural resources of the country. Qatar’s deputy prime minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani who is Qatar’s foreign minister, met with the Pak premier to exchange views on developments in Afghanistan and diversifying Pakistan-Qatar relations. Al-Thani had parleys also with the CIA director who visited Kabul in the fourth week of August and had a secret meeting with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in what can be called as a face-to-face encounter between the Taliban and Biden administration after the Taliban takeover of Afghan capital.
Baradar, unlike the extra-militant biggies of Haqqani network has been committed to the Doha dialogue. Undeniably, the Qatar Airways flight to Doha marked a breakthrough in the bumpy coordination between the US and Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers. Americans, US green card holders and other nationalities, including Germans, Hungarians and Canadians, were aboard, according to news sources.
Internationally looking at the matter, it’s advantage Pakistan. Islamabad is eventually the centre for international diplomacy following Taliban seizure of the war-ravaged country. But Pakistan is now compelled to honour a peaceful endeavour for the economic uplift, humanitarian relief and assistance to Afghanistan. Islamabad made a discreet diplomatic gesture by dispatching 30 ton food ingredients and medicines to Afghanistan, including flour wheat, cooking oil, and medicines at the Kabul International Airport through its Ambassador Mansoor Ahmad Khan. The Afghan situation is financially uncertain as multilateral donors have stopped funding of nearly $10 billion to the war-devastated and landlocked country. Islamabad can do very little here. At the moment, Pakistan’s trade deficit is $4 billion against remittances estimated at $2.5 billion..Islamabad is looking up financially to China and Saudi Arabia –both being cash-rich.
Pakistan right from the dictatorial regime under General Zia-ul Haq down to the regime under the premiership of Nawaz Sharif groomed the Taliban under full patronage of the US administration. The unholy love affair between Washington and Islamabad got a jolt after 2001. But Islamabad didn’t completely delink itself although feigned to cooperate with the international strategy to punish the Taliban. But without ISI assistance the Taliban militancy – a movement of Afghan religious students who were trained in Pakistani religious schools, since the late 1994 couldn’t grow, infiltrate Afghanistan and escalate. Pakistan liberally helped the Taliban by opening roads, disarming local warlords and brigands, and ending the practice of illegal ‘toll’ collection, promising peace and stability in areas under their control. True, the Islamic terrorists were initially welcomed by the Afghan people who were wearied of war and continued in-fighting of ethnic Afghans, under local fiefdoms.
Islamabad now is on an advantageous pedestal; and the Afghans in the long run will prefer the Pakistani to the Chinese. For India, it is time for restraint and diplomatic reconnaissance.(IPA Service)