By Sankar Ray
The prompt air-dash by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence director-general,General Faiz Hameed to Kabul on Sunday immediately after the announcement by Ameerul Momineen Sheikh Hibatullah Akhunzada, supreme commander of the Taliban on the formation of the government of new Emirate of Afghanistan , naming Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund as Raees-e-Jamhoor, or raees-ul-wazara head state- carried a hint that the process of formation of new power centre will be far from being smooth.
The ISI chief rushed as a sequel to an armed clash between the followers of the proposed second-in-command of the new government, Mullah Baradar Akhund, co-founder of Taliban and supporters of Haqqani network which refuses to recognise Haibatullah as their leader. Baradar Akhund received injuries, unnerving military high command of Pakistan that dictates the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-insaf government in Islamabad. The emissary of ‘miltablishment’ of Islamabad is to see that the new ministers take oath on Wednesday and start functioning immediately thereafter. Any delay will be harmful not only to the Taliban top brass but Pakistan’s plans.
The hyper-activity of ISI is crystal clear. Panjshir Kamaluddin Nezami has conveyed a message through satellire phone that their positions were bombed by drones several times on Monday. Ex, Samangan MP Zia Arianjad confirmed this.The denial by the Taliban is hardly acceptable.
Apart from Baradar, Hibatullah Akhunzada, based in Kandahar, the birthplace of Taliban, has chosen Mullah Abdus Salam as another deputy on par with Baradar. Among others named are veteran Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani, head of the Haqqani network, as federal interior minister, among others, proposed by Hibatullah, are Mullah Abdus Salam Yaqoob, son of Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar, as defence minister and Mullah Ameer Khan Muttaqi as the new foreign minister. Haqqani has been authorised to nominate governors for the eastern provinces, from where the Haqqani Network used to draw its force , namely, Paktia, Paktika, Khost, Gardez, Nangarhar and Kunar. Nevertheless, in ruling the landlocked country Taliban is to face up to series of hiccups in the beginning.
Hameed’s sudden entry into Afghan political proscenium belittles the stature of Taliban in the Islamic world which may turn sceptical towards the new rulers in Kabul– as if the new emirate will dance to the Islamabad’s military band. In a bantering tone, Michael Rubin, Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, observes, ‘Hameed’s dream would be keeping the illusion alive long enough to gain control over Afghanistan’s $9.4 billion reserves’ Moreover, the ISI stands exposed – rather confirmed as a collaborator of Taliban-planned terrorism.
The factional tension intensifies inside Taliban who feign themselves as Afghan nationalists while to shore up its influence, the ISI’s infiltration of ethnic Punjabi Taliban to protect its interests is like to create more problems than overcome then. A unitary Taliban, Islamabad, realises is illusionary.
Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, head of the Taliban’s powerful decision-making body, Rehbari Shura (leadership council) has an image among the rank and file of Taliban as a religious leader respected for integrity and devotion, not known as a military leader. He has been close to Hibatullah Akhunzada for two decades before 2001, he was foreign minister, subsequently Deputy Prime Minister. Mullah Mohammad Rabbani Akhund was then the Prime Minister.
The grim reality is that aid-dependent economy has been additionally afflicted due to abandonment of peace process by the Taliban whose leadership is bitterly feud-ridden, evident in the armed clash. Already wrought by conflict, pandemic and drought, suspension of foreign aid, severe liquidity crisis, slapped on the new emirate a trembling financial system which ‘has been the beating heart of its economy, upon which vital formal institutions which fuel and supply much of the rest of the informal, cash-based economy rely. Over half of 38 million people is under poverty level. And a huge chunk of the country’s skilled workforce fled Afghanistan.
The tearing hurry, sought by ISI, to help Taliban go ahead draws flak from many Pakistanis.
Islamabad seems staging an absurd political play. It’s Ex-Pakistani Senator, Farhatullah Babar, representing Pakistan’s People’s Party, tweeted,’ Conquerors of Afghanistan haven’t yet formed government despite declaring to make it on Friday last. Internal power tussle Haqqanis and Mullah Baradar the likely cause. Haqqanis must be happy with some visitors visiting Kabul’.
The growing nexus of Pakistan’s ISI and Haqqani network is no more a secret. This bonhomie was in the way of elimination of Al Qaeda hideouts under Haqqani patronage. Furthermore, Sirajuddin Haqqani, who used to control the day-to-day operations of the insurgenc(y) was always for the conflict, while Hibatullah Akhundzada was in favour of peace talks with Kabul. And unlike the Haqqani network, the Pakistani Taliban, also known as Tehreek-e-Taliban wants to overthrow the Pakistan government and push the US out of the region.
The bloody truth is that the Taliban have never been an indigenous movement at all in Afghanistan. They were co-opted by the Pakistan during the late 1980s and mid-1990s for training them for a potent terrorist insurgency. The ISI boss too knows well that left to their own devices, some within the movement would turn their backs on Pakistan’s ‘miltablishment’, their former patron, notwithstanding some factions remaining loyal to the Taliban.
Afghanistan is linguistically, and religiously diverse. Although Pushtuns are the largest ethnic group within the country, they represent only 38 percent of the population. Pushtuns living across the border in Pakistan Khaiber-Pakhtunkhwa province are numerically almost the same as the former in Afghanistan Ethnic Tajiks are one-fourth of Afghan population. Then there are Hazaras, comprising nearly one-fifth of the population 19 percent. There are Aimaks, Turkmen, Baluch, Uzbek,etc.
There is an increasing chagrin of Pak intelligentsia towards the PTI government under the Prime Minister Imran Khan for what a pro-left academic termed as ‘total subservience to the disdainful dreaded ISI’. With growing opposition to patronage to war with neighbour India among common people, there is general apathy towards the doings-on in Afghanistan
A distressed peacenik in a major town of Pakistan in a message to this writer stated in utter frustration, ‘There are TV anchors & commentators on electronic media who are simultaneously presenting soft image of Taliban 2.0 and also honking on US defeat. But real people are deeply worried about its ramifications into Pakistan. Neither enmity nor friendship with Islamist forces is in our favour. Crux of anxiety: we have lost more than 70000 lives fighting these elements that exceeds the too far than the losses in wars at Eastern border’ Huda Raza, in an opinion piece in The News International today cautioned her Pakistani brethren that the Taliban’s capture of power is ‘just like a Tom and Jerry game. And for Afghan women, this game is harrowing. (IPA Service)