AAPI Convention 2022


Will Pashtun nationalism become Pakistan's Achilles' heel?

Support to the Pakistan Taliban and Afghan Taliban is rebounding on Islamabad as both Talibans don’t recognize Durand Line and want Pakistan to be Sharia-ruled, writes Lt Gen P. C. Katoch (retd.) for South Asia Monitor

Afghanistan-Pakistan border crossing point in Spin Boldak (Photo AFP)

Impoverished Pakistan, minus the politicians and military flush with money, is facing a multitude of problems. Saudi Arabia has given $3 billion to Pakistan. On December 22, Islamabad signed an agreement with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for a $1.543 billion loan to upgrade the energy sector, roads, civic and health infrastructure. Apparently, China is reviewing its investments in projects related to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) because of the deteriorating security situation. 

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has suffered a major setback in the local body elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK). Fawad Chaudhry, Imran’s Minister for Information and Broadcasting, has announced that the PTI has decided to dissolve its organizational structure. According to one Pakistani TV channel, the defeat of PTI has been engineered by the Pakistani military who are considering propping up Bilal Bhutto as the Prime Minister in the next general elections – another puppet! 

The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has resumed daily attacks with full force on the Pakistani security establishment and their supporters. Pakistan reneged on its promise to release some 200 TTP fighters from prisons during the month-long ceasefire which commenced on November 9. Apparently, Pakistan miscalculated in beseeching Sirajuddin Haqqani, Interior Minister of the Taliban Interim Government in Afghanistan, to broker the Pakistan-TTP ceasefire. 

Pakistan's proxy war

Pakistan wanted the Afghan Taliban to clamp down on the TTP but it failed in acknowledging that the TTP leadership has strong bonds with various Afghan Taliban commanders and groups who admired the TTP’s sacrifices in fighting against the US-NATO forces in Afghanistan. Why would the Afghan Taliban fight with the TTP when it already is fighting the Islamic State of Khorasan (ISKP)? 

Besides, TTP is getting foreign fighters to promote radical Islamic jihad while some Taliban cadres and leaders are joining ISKP to take revenge on Chinese genocide in Xinjiang against Uyghur and other Muslims.   

Pakistan continues its proxy war on India with regular terrorist attacks in the Kashmir Valley. The Ministry of Home Affairs informed the Indian Parliament that 1,119 militancy-related incidents and 360 infiltrations have taken place in Jammu and Kashmir between 2018 and 2021. A recent bomb blast in a court in Ludhiana also indicates Pakistani involvement, according to initial reports by intelligence agencies probing the incident. 

Pakistan-Iran relations remain tense after the shooting incidents astride the border during February-March 2021. Recent reports indicate that the Iranian state-sponsored hacking unit carried out a major attack on Pakistan’s telecom infrastructure and IT sector although there is no news from Islamabad on this issue. 

Afghan-Pakistan row 

In a new development on December 19, Afghan Taliban soldiers disrupted the erection of a security fence by the Pakistani military along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Despite the fact that no Afghan government ever recognized the British-drawn Durand Line, Pakistan has fenced most of the 2,600 km border. A video clip circulated on social media about the incident on December 19 showed Taliban soldiers had seized spools of barbed wire. One senior official told the Pakistani soldiers stationed at the nearby security post not to try to fence the border again. 

Enayatullah Khwarazmi, Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman, says that Taliban forces stopped the Pakistani military from erecting what he described as an “illegal” border fence along with the eastern province of Nangarhar. In another video clip, Afghan Taliban intelligence chief of the Eastern province of Nangarhar, Bashir is seen warning Pakistani soldiers on the Durand Line: “If you violate the boundary line, be ready for war with us. We love fighting you more than the Jews. We still have a lot of work to do." 

Interestingly the border incident happened the day Pakistan was hosting a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) in Islamabad to discuss the humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan. Taliban officials later told the foreign media that Taliban and Pakistani forces came face-to-face over the border incident and the situation was tense. They also said that following the incident there was cross border mortar fire from Pakistani territory further north along the frontier into Afghanistan's Kunar province on December 23. 

Pashtun nationalism

Pakistan has downplayed the border incident but it has the potential to ignite in the future. Pakistan was instrumental in raising and supporting both the Afghan Taliban and the TTP as also an ISKP brigade in Peshawar which Afghans used to call the “ISI Brigade''. The installation of Sirajuddin Haqqani as the number two in the Afghan Taliban was considered a masterstroke in bringing the Afghan Taliban and the TTP together. But later the TTP turned against the Pakistani establishment. 

In its pursuit of optimizing terrorism to further its nefarious designs, Pakistan forgot that Pashtun nationalism will not die down and ultimately become its Achilles' heel one day. The TTP is very clear in its aim that Pakistan must adopt the rule of Sharia and will not rest till that happens. The Afghan Taliban is no different; they would like Pakistan to be Talibanized.   

(The author is an Indian Army veteran. The views expressed are personal.)   


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