Home / Pakistan Focus Analysis / Afghanistan: a rudderless ship!

Afghanistan: a rudderless ship!

China has offered to host a meeting between Afghan government and Taliban, but has declined to mediate. China’s special envoy for Afghanistan Deng Xijun called the Taliban “one of the main forces in Afghanistan’s political arena.” Earlier this year, China had facilitated a meeting between Afghan High Peace Council and Taliban in Urumqi. Deng said that the Chinese government wants early revival of Murree process. Deng has visited Pakistan and Afghanistan soon after his appointment as special envoy for Afghanistan. “We will support Pakistan to continue playing its constructive and crucial role in the Afghan peace process,” Deng said. To a question about the role of the United States in the peace process, he said there was an understanding between Washington and Beijing to push the peace process forward.
Like Pakistan, China opposes a military solution to the Afghan conflict, and favours intra-Afghan dialogue. “We think dialogue is the only way out for Afghanistan to achieve lasting peace and stability,” Deng said. “We have difficulties and obstacles when we have in such kind of things. We have many problems and challenges ahead but if we sit down, if we talk with each other, then I think the future is bright”, he added. He reassured Pakistan of China’s continued support in addressing common challenges faced by the region. Both Pakistan and China have convergent interests and shared goals with regards to Afghanistan.
On Afghan Taliban side, the leadership crisis has entered a divisive phase; those who had refused to accept Mullah Akhtar Mansoor as successor to Mullah Omar, have formally announced Mullah Mohammad Rasool as head of their splinter group. Dissident leaders met in Farah province of Afghanistan and elected new leaders. Presumably they have been in contact with the Afghan government and the Afghan officials facilitated their meeting on November 01. Now well-meaning elements are making efforts to ensure that both sides should desist from infighting—a tall order indeed! Many in the Taliban movement were unhappy the way death of Mullah Omar had been kept secret for two years — during which time annual Eid statements were issued in Omar’s name.
The dissident chief has claimed that differences surfaced as Mansoor was not ending contacts with the foreigners. “Our colleagues had been advising Mansoor to sever ties with the Americans, give importance to former Mujahideen and do not give positions to incompetent people,” Rasool told his supporters. “He did not accept our demands but removed competent persons, killed and detained some people,” Rasool claimed. He went on to say, “When Mullah Omar’s death was formally confirmed, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor and his three, four or five people, sat and held election. He is not our leader…Mansur is not our Amir-ul-Momineen”. He was not elected lawfully in accordance with Sharia to lead the group,” said Rasool.
The much talked about split that now stands formalized has added more complexities to intra-Afghan peace process. It could attract more hard-line fighters and make any future peace talks more complicated for the Afghan government. Most analysts warn that it bodes ill for any potential peace talks. Afghan politico-military culture is notorious for opportunism and shifting loyalties. It will take some time to ascertain about the sponsors of the splinter group and the motivation behind it.
Emergence of the new group is unlikely to threaten Mansoor, who has consolidated his position and has demonstrated this through a series of attacks on hard and soft targets that raised serious questions about the viability of Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). Most prominent of Taliban activity was stunning three-day occupation of northern Kunduz city. US-NATO troops and ANSF took fifteen days to re-take the city completely. First outcome of his group’s high military profile during this year’s fighting season was extension in the stay of residual US-NATO troops, till at least 2016.
Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz has said the time is not “opportune” for Pakistan’s role in the Afghan peace talks. “Reconciliation is in our view one of the best options but the pre-conditions for a successful outcome are required, and that requires some consensus among stakeholders,” Aziz said on November 02. “Afghan government and Taliban have to decide when meaningful discussions can take place. That is the time where our role comes. Right now I don’t think the time is opportune,” Aziz added. In the meanwhile Afghanistan continues criticising Pakistan, Afghan Interior Minister Noorul Haq Uloomi has accused Pakistan of “promoting insecurity” in Afghanistan. “Plans for subversive activities in Afghanistan are still being plotted in Pakistan,” Ulomi said.
On President Ashraf Ghani’s request, Pakistan had facilitated the first ever face-to-face talks between the government in Kabul and Afghan Taliban in July. The next round was about to begin in Murree; however, news about Mullah Omar’s death led to the cancellation of the dialogue. Later, President Ghani said he would not seek Islamabad’s role in peace with the Taliban, and Afghanistan will pursue it on its own.
In another development Afghanistan has resumed its relationships with India, it has picked up the threads from where Karzai had left. Afghanistan has acquired four attack helicopters from India to help it fight a growing Taliban insurgency; it is a small but significant deal marking a shift in Kabul’s search for allies. Pakistan, bordered by India to the east and Afghanistan to the west, sees India’s deepening military relationship with Afghanistan as part of an Indian plan to undermine its stability from the rear. Pakistan has maintained that India must limit itself to economic assistance.
A report by the ‘US Congressional Research Service’ published in October has revealed that India’s goals in Afghanistan are: to deny Pakistan strategic depth and the ability to block India from trade and other connections to Central Asia and beyond; India also wants to prevent militants in Afghanistan from attacking Indian targets in Afghanistan; it wants to prevent Pakistan from regaining “preponderant” influence in present day Afghanistan. Report added that “it (India) does not want to be saddled with the burden of helping secure Afghanistan” after the US departure. It says that Afghanistan also seeks close ties with India because it wants access to India’s large and rapidly growing economy – “but without alarming Pakistan.”
After the May 2013 border clashes with Pakistan, President Karzai visited India twice to buy Indian artillery, aircraft, and other systems to “better defend its border with Pakistan”. India reportedly “resisted the request in order not to become ever more directly involved in the conflict in Afghanistan or alarm Pakistan,” the report adds.
Apparently intra-Afghan battles of turf shall gradually come to an end and the peace process shall resume. Peace in Afghanistan is vital for the stability of the entire region. The underlying factor for resumption of Murree process is how long President Ashraf Ghani takes to calibrate the extent and limits of his political outreach with Taliban. Extension in the tenure of foreign forces limits the chances that during next fighting season the Taliban could over run urban centres one after the other; while at the same time, it also limits the Taliban to not to finalize a political deal before at least end 2016, on the pretext of presence of foreign forces. Until then, pot is poised to keep simmering—patterns would will continue jockeying between fighting and talking seasons.
Anything that would reduce the level of insurgency and infighting in Afghanistan would be welcomed by Pakistan. Pakistan has invited 25 countries, including India, to the Heart of Asia ministerial meeting on Afghanistan on December 7-8. This Conference is convened to discuss the current situation in Afghanistan with particular focus on helping country’s economy.

About admin

Check Also

Blasphemy issue needs a permanent solution

The good sense has prevailed, an imminent catastrophe has receded. In a written statement issued on August 30, Geert Wilders announced "not to let the cartoon contest go ahead.” The contest was to be held at the tightly guarded offices of his Party for Freedom in the Dutch parliament building. Meanwhile, the Netherlands government had been at pains to distance itself from the contest. Prime Minister Mark Rutte questioned Wilders' motive for organising the contest. Pakistan’s foreign minister congratulated the nation and Muslim Ummah on their moral victory and termed the cancellation of the contest a victory for Pakistan on the diplomatic front. Cancellation announcement came within days after Prime Minister Imran Khan issued a statement saying the act was hurting the sentiments of Muslims living all around the world. Condemning the blasphemous cartoon competition in the Netherlands, Prime Minister Imran Khan had blamed the recurrence of such incidents a collective failure of the Muslim world, saying he would take up the matter at the United Nations General Assembly’s upcoming session. After the publication of Salman Rushdi’s blasphemous book ‘Satanic Verses’, it has become very easy to malign Muslims in the West, the prime minister said. “And they have been successfully doing it.” If they [Western countries] feel pained discussing the Holocaust, why haven’t we been able to convey to the West how much we feel pained when they do blasphemous things against Islam and our beloved Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him)?” Pakistan’s foreign office is undertaking a hectic diplomatic campaign to avert the exhibition of profane cartoons in November. Hopefully the good sense would prevail. Time and again, Western Christian countries purposefully hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims through public display of profane audio-visual and print material about Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), under the pretext of their so called doctrine of freedom of expression. In a stark contradiction, same very European States immediately imprison anyone questioning the veracity of ‘Holocaust’, while Muslims and their religion don’t get the similar preferential treatment. While earlier such incidents in Netherlands were an act of non-state actors, this time parliamentary permission to hold the forthcoming exhibition inside parliament premises had made the government of Netherlands a party to this nefarious act of religious extremism. Opposition leader Greet Wilders has a track history of airing anti-Muslim sentiment. In December 2017, he proposed that European countries should adopt Donald Trump-style travel bans to counter a wave of Islamisation, according to him, sweeping the continent. Wilders also urged Europe to adopt Australia’s tactics in turning back migrant boats and to build new border walls, as Trump had vowed to do along the US frontier with Mexico. Wilders is the parliamentary leader of his party in the House of Representatives. During his election campaign, Wilders had published a one-page election manifesto calling for a ban on all asylum seekers and migrants from Islamic nations, and urged his country to leave the European Union. Wilders also stands for banning the Quran and closing all mosques and Islamic schools. Political environment in Netherlands is quite murky and thoroughly mired in populist rhetoric, where both the government and the opposition are, more often than not, competing to appear more racist and exclusionist. Wilders was defeated in March 2017 elections by Mark Rutte. According to Guardian “cost of latter’s victory against Geert Wilders’ anti-EU, anti-immigration, anti-Islam Freedom PVV party was a pyrrhic victory”. Mark Rutte’s VVD party had adopted the very rhetoric of Wilders to beat him. Rutte had said: “something wrong with our country” and claimed “the silent majority” would no longer tolerate immigrants who come and “abuse our freedom”. Close to end of his previous tenure as Prime Minster, Rutte thought that being tough on Turkey would fetch him more votes, therefore he “happily sparked a mini-international crisis for the sake of votes”. While during the electoral campaign, Rutte said stopping Wilders was about stopping the “wrong sort of populism”. Situation is akin to India where both BJP and Congress compete to articulate more pro Hindu rhetoric to encash Hindu vote bank. Pakistan had approached Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to lodge a protest against this planned cartoon competition in Netherlands. Former caretaker Foreign Minister Abdullah Haroon had set the dice rolling by writing a letter to the OIC Secretary General seeking his leadership for a collective action to register a protest of OIC countries with the Dutch authorities, who in turn had written to the Dutch foreign minister, on behalf of 57 Muslim countries, protesting against this abominable event. It is not the first time that the Netherlands is holding such competition. In the past also such acts have frequently been committed by this country with a malicious intent to target the noblest personality of the Holy Prophet (Pbuh). Pakistan has called upon the Dutch Ambassador to Pakistan and the EU Ambassador, who represents 28 European countries, to register the protest. “We have conveyed our condemnation of this deliberate attempt to vilify Islam. Such incidents should not go unpunished,” Foreign office spokesperson said. Pakistan’s new government had taken forth the process. During its first meeting, cabinet decided to take up the matter at bilateral level. Pakistan lodged a strong protest with the Netherlands over an announcement of holding a competition of blasphemous caricatures. “The charge d’affaires of the Kingdom of the Netherlands was summoned to the Foreign Office on August 13, and a strong protest was lodged”, Foreign office stated. Deep concern was conveyed at this deliberate and malicious attempt to defame Islam. “Pakistan’s ambassador in Hague has been instructed to forcefully raise the issue with the Dutch government along with ambassadors of OIC member states,” the Foreign Office went on to add. Foreign minister Shah Mahmud Qureshi also spoke to his Dutch counterpart. Pakistan’s permanent representatives to the United Nations in New York and Geneva were directed to take up the matter with the UN Secretary General, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and other UN bodies and procedures. The issue would also be discussed in the forthcoming meeting of the OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers, scheduled to be held on the side-lines of forthcoming 73rd ministerial session of the UNGA. Though the triggering issue is behind us, OIC should not lower its guards, it should firm up an action plan if any individual or government attempts such a misadventure in future. During this meeting the Muslim countries should send a loud and clear message that the despoliation of Muslim holy personalities is not acceptable to them. The silver lining is that there have been saner voices from within Dutch civil society. Demonstrations were held by Dutch nationals to show solidarity with Muslims. During March 2017, Dutch citizens gathered at a mosque in Amsterdam, to show solidarity with the country’s Muslim population. People representing a broad coalition against racism gathered at the central Al-Kabir mosque to show opposition to anti-Muslim sentiments in the country. “We as a Muslim community pose no danger whatsoever to society,” said Najem Ouladali while addressing the gathering. “We believe that what Wilders is doing is very dangerous to our society,” Ouladali added. Najem was one of the organizers of the gathering. Pakistan should continue to work closely with all the OIC member states to find a permanent solution to this recurring issue. Matter should be persistently raised at the relevant international fora until a sustainable way is found by the international community for preventing such abhorrent acts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *