President Ashraf Ghani is on an unprecedented offensive after his recent meeting with General Qamar Bajwa, Pakistan’s powerful army chief. In an interview – that largely went unnoticed in Pakistan – with the German weekly magazine Der Spiegel, President Ghani offloaded his insinuations and anger and urged the global community to sanction the country if it doesn’t play ball in the peace process.
Although the Ministry of Foreign Affairs “has conveyed its serious concerns to the Afghan side by making a strong demarche with the Ambassador of Afghanistan in Islamabad on the recent irresponsible statements and baseless allegations made by the Afghan leadership,” the situation begs some serious consideration.
Let us first browse through some key points President Ghani made in his SPIEGEL interview:
– The (Afghan) Taliban are criminals. They kill innocent people.
-Pakistan operates an organized system of support for the Taliban who receive logistics, finances and recruitment possibilities there. There is a deep relationship with the state. They depend heavily on getting supplies and logistics through Pakistan.
-General Qamar Bajwa clearly assured me that the restoration of the Emirate or dictatorship by the Taliban is not in anybody’s interest in the region, especially Pakistan. Some of the lower levels in the army, still hold the opposite opinion in certain cases.
-The question of peace or hostility is now in Pakistani hands. This state has to make an important decision now. The US now plays only a minor role.
-Clear messages and incentives from Germany will help. Conversely, they should introduce sanctions if the decision goes in a different direction. Europeans should not see themselves as observers. They are a direct part of these events.
-A future security agreement between Afghanistan and Pakistan is key. But my goal is the neutrality of Afghanistan. We don’t want new protecting power, and we don’t want to be part of regional or international rivalries.
These are pretty serious allegations about a nuclear-armed country with the 6th largest army and raises serious questions about General Bajwa’s discussions with President Ghani in Kabul shortly before Eid.
-Did President Ghani talk about the Taliban support infrastructure in Pakistan during his meeting with Bajwa?
-Did General Bajwa really talk about the “opposite view” (on the restoration of the Taliban emirate) among lower levels of the Pakistan army? Or did President Ghani made wrong deductions from their conversation? This implies the army chief spoke of ‘rifts’ within the army on the issue of Afghan Taliban. If true, this is alarming.
-If General Bajwa did not indicate so, why has the GHQ (General Headquarters of Pakistan Army) kept quiet on these serious allegations?
-Will the GHQ – for the benefit of the general public – explain as to what did General Bajwa tell or ask President Ghani on the criticality of the Feb 29, 2020, US-Taliban deal? If the deal is not valid anymore, then what constitutes the foundation for the Taliban-Kabul dialogue at Doha?
-Will the state of Pakistan – being indicted and accused publicly in Europe for supporting ‘criminal Taliban’ – respond to President Ghani’s charge-sheet and question his demand for sanctions after what Pakistan has done to curtail the space on Taliban and their businesses in Pakistan? Will Pakistan explain to the world that it is not just the Taliban leaders running businesses here; friends and relatives of Afghan leaders (like Karzais, Gilanis, Wardaks, Hekmetyars) and several business tycoons maintain businesses as well as investments here in this country?
-Will Pakistan also respond to Ghani’s National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib, who in a recent fiery speech in Jalalabad dumped the blame of Dr. Najibullah’s assassination on Pakistan and its ‘agents’ – glossing over the recent Afghan history that is soaked with blood on the back of palace intrigues and tribal feuds. Bachai Saqao (Habibullah Kalakani), Mir Akbar Khyber, Hafeezullah Ameen, Noor Tarakai are a few examples.
The words of a young Afghan, Fahim Kolabi, are worth reproducing here:
“Afghan barbarism won’t stop if we keep blaming others for our own sin and crimes committing against each other in the past four decades. Remember, when Nader Khan sacked Shamali and Kabuli and Abdul Rahman massacred %70 of Hazaras, the country Pakistan wasn’t born yet.” – @ibnSamani, May 9, 2021.
It is time for Pakistan to speak up and categorically explain to the world the Pakistani efforts that have culminated in a face-to-face meeting among all Afghan stakeholders. It is time to flag the toll that its alliance with the US against the former Soviet Union and its pro-Taliban policy have taken on the Pakistani society, as the army chief explained at the Islamabad Security Dialogue on March 17, 2021.
The author is a security analyst and Executive Director of the Islamabad-based Center for Research and Security Studies.
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