By Ashis Biswas
Not surprisingly, influential political circles in Pakistan have slammed their caretaker government for recently ordering the expulsion of lakhs of Afghan ‘refugees’ at short notice. Their criticism, among other things, is predicated on the fear that India may take advantage of the sudden downturn in Pak-Afghan ties.
Some Pak leaders have expressed their concerns to international news media, which have been providing a detailed coverage of rising tensions within a politically volatile region at the best of times. They have not explained why India, not even remotely involved in the matter, would be tempted to leap into a major political conflict involving two of its traditional neighbours — both strongly armed, to boot!
Caretaker or not, Pak authorities are primed to carry the bitter debate over the unceremonious pushback of lakhs of mostly poor refugees to the next higher level. . A major component of this exercise will be an all- out diplomatic campaign in major West Asian capitals, portraying Pakistan as the (somewhat gormless?) victim of a sustained political aggression launched by the ruling Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
Islamabad circles are hopeful that the international isolation of the Kabul-based administration already hard hit by major western sanctions, should work in their favour.
Ironically, the authority of present caretaker political leadership in Pakistan, with Mr Anwar ul Huq Kakar as the acting Prime Minister, seems to be enjoying a probational status at best, even at home, among opposition parties!
Nevertheless, Pakistan blames Kabul-based Taliban leaders for the present deterioration in relations, following a flurry of terror attacks and incidents, involving major killings of people, officials and destruction of assets. In recent media briefings, Pak officials have claimed that since their rule began in Afghanistan in 2021, the number of terrorist attacks had gone up by over 60%, with suicide attacks alone rising by a staggering 500%, while at least 2000 people have been killed!
The worst and most serious attack allegedly sponsored from within Afghanistan occurred on Sep 6 this year at the Chitral district in the northwest region. Armed miscreants helped by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants launched a major attack on armed forces and civilians, killing at least 7 people on the spot, apart wounding many others! Even an air base at Mianwali was attacked by a team of terrorists.
Despite repeated requests made by Pakistan, Islamabad authorities have stressed, Kabul-based Taliban leaders did not stop their assistance and other support provided to the TTP. Within Pakistan, the TTP had played havoc, uniting and recruiting armed militants to carry out its selected terror campaign against all established authority. Their activities had led to a virtual loss of official control for the administration especially in areas bordering Afghanistan.
All reports confirmed that some TTP elements stayed within and operated from Afghanistan itself, making it difficult for Pak authorities to take effective measures. But somehow, Kabul always rejected such allegations made by Pakistan and apparently, took no action.
The September attack and other major incidents forced Islamabad -based authorities to take some hard decisions. All unregistered Afghan people staying in Pakistan for years were asked to leave. Originally, their number was estimated at just over two million. However, following the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, around 680,000 people have left Pakistan on their own, according to some reports.
As expected the virtual high-handed expulsion badly hurt the common mostly poor Afghan refugees staying in Pakistan. Kabul authorities were not happy to receive hordes of women and children with winter coming on, while the sanctioned national economy still faced acute problems !
Taliban Defence Minister Mohammad Yaqoob warned that such unilateral decisions would certainly impact existing ties between the two countries. Calling upon Pakistan to reconsider its decision, he said it would be difficult to stop militants from taking matters into their own hands and targeting people they regarded as their opponents, which could lead to more violence. Pakistan would have to face the consequences of its own policies, he added.
Meanwhile India-baiting leaders in Pakistan, as stated earlier, once more aired their doubts about the possibility of India playing an opportunist rule, operating within the troubled ambit of Kabul/Islamabad discord. While no evidence of any Indian interest was presented, one leader darkly reminded the media that India had earlier used Afghanistan to advance its own geo-political interests, acting against Pakistan!
The caretaker Pak government also faces the ire of civil rights leaders and activists, in addition to the criticism of opposition parties. The decision to give marching orders to hard pressed refugees including many women and children, with the harsh winter season round the corner, HR activists alleged, was in itself a violation of fundamental rights. It was strongly condemnable, especially as the present lame duck administration did not have any authority by constitution defined, to order such a drastic move that could impact long term bilateral ties between two countries not always on the best of terms, located in a troubled region.
Pak government sources countered this strongly, pointing out that as the ruling government recognised legally, it had every authority to take major, even sovereign decisions. (IPA Service)