Weakening Kabul, worried Pak, unhappy West : The Tribune India

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Weakening Kabul, worried Pak, unhappy West

Continued reprisals, forced home evictions, disregard for women’s rights and the puritanical nature of the regime add to Pakistan’s problems in garnering recognition. An added elephant in the room is the surprise appointment of a Pakistan-associated engineer, Najibullah, as head of atomic energy, adding a new dimension to the designs of the Taliban regime.

Weakening Kabul, worried Pak, unhappy West

Unstable: Inadequate demonstrable governance in Kabul poses challenges. Reuters



Vikram Singh

Former DGP, Uttar Pradesh

A shadow of instability looms over the Taliban regime, given the word ‘acting’ pre-fixed to all ministers of cabinet, which is oddly missing from the designations accorded to deputy ministers. There is no clarification from any official of the reason for such status, nor on who or what would make the government permanent, given the absence of a Sharia constitution or civil/criminal codes.

Districts and provinces are drifting towards their own interpretations and implementation, while lack of adequate demonstrable governance is making Kabul a weak centre, with rising chances of powerful dominions; a restive cadre of jihadi fighters; declining possibilities of global recognition; and weakening chance of release of its forex reserves, adding to its challenges.

As a result, a power vacuum has emerged in the regions, which will be force-filled by out-of-work and neglected local commanders. The heads of western and eastern Taliban military commissions, Sadr Ibrahim and Qayyum Zakir, respectively, had physically occupied the interior and defence ministries, but were forced to vacate for the more powerful military commanders, Sirajuddin Haqqani and Mullah Yaqoob.

Both Ibrahim and Zakirhad left Kabul, miffed. After much coaxing, they returned, but only as deputy ministers in the same ministries. Their depth of angst against those in control and the ISI will determine the nature of future dissent within the cabinet.

The ISI chief, on his ‘victory’ visit to Kabul, failed to inspire an inclusive cabinet. It took two public statements and a flurry of silent messages from Imran Khan for the regime to accede to appoint some Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks, most on deputy minister positions.

The inability of Pakistan to force the Haqqanis to formulate an internationally acceptable cabinet is its first demonstrated failure and the first sign of independence of the Taliban regime. However, such actions have made it close to impossible to delist any of the 135 UN-sanctioned Taliban or for the UN, SAARC or SCO to offer Taliban a seat at the table.

Continued reprisals, forced home evictions, disregard for women's rights and the puritanical nature of the regime add to Pakistan’s problems in garnering recognition. An added elephant in the recognition room is the surprise appointment of a Pakistan-associated engineer, Najibullah, as head of atomic energy, adding a new dimension to the designs of the Taliban regime.

In its relationship with the HQN and Taliban, Pakistan now holds no significant lever, except reminding the Taliban of its two decades of support, as evidenced by its Interior Minister reminding the Taliban that Pakistan had been the ‘custodian’ of Taliban’s leaders and “had taken care of them for a long time.” It is only the West that retains the most important levers — those of continued designations, extended travel bans and asset freezes, all being prerequisites to recognition.

With China, Russia and Iran remaining non-committal on recognition, Pakistan's victory remains short-lived.

The Pakistan minister's confessional statement on housing the UN-designated Taliban leadership has much larger implications for Pakistan, as it damages the credibility of UN designations and calls into question Pakistan’s sustained untruths at FATF meetings of not being able to locate any UN-designated Taliban leaders on its soil since 2018. It reduces the authority of entities like the FATF, which strictly focus on UN sanctions lists to rate the effectiveness of countries in countering terror financing.

Pakistan’s elation at erasing the Indian threat from its western border and ‘gaining’ control of a country may remain a pipedream, given the rising discontent of the West with Pakistan’s inability to keep its promise of ensuring control over the Taliban.

In turn, the Taliban would surely be asking Pakistan to deliver on its promise to delist its leadership. Pakistan’s dilemma now is the widening gap between its promises and delivery on both sides of the Doha table.

The Taliban regime’s desire for an image, independent of Pakistani influence, is another worry for Pakistan. Its desire for recognition and, therefore, independence prevails, though on its own terms. It shows itself as a regime willing to negotiate. However, strong countervailing forces exist. The jihad-centred cadre will soon become restive, with dodgy accommodation; unsteady or unpaid salaries; living away from home; and the absence of action.

A dangerous trend is the triumphant return of UN-designated al-Qaeda leadership, the Tora Bora ‘Black Guards’, Anwar ul Haq and Amin ul Haq, with a complement of fighters. They had engineered OBL's escape from Jalalabad to Tora Bora and Abbottabad in 2001. This was their fiefdom in the nineties and they are back to fill the vacuum.

Further, the HQN’s suicide bomber inventory manager, Taj Mir Jawad, is now the deputy head of intelligence. His first test would be to defuse his suicide bombers and/or turn them from jihadis into soldiers. The second is the sudden re-emergence of bombings in Jalalabad, and third the rise in TTP bombings in north-west Pakistan, which Pakistan could blame on the sanctuaries of the TTP within Afghanistan.

More worrisome is the release of thousands of violent extremists and radicalised individuals on August 15. Each detainee harbours a grouse against the US and will not rest until he extracts revenge. In the absence of gainful employment and an expected international squeeze on narcotics trade, the likely and easy option for them would remain the gun.

Another worry for the US will be the rising number of reports of local mosques being used by the Taliban to shift the blame for economic deprivation, scarcity of fuel, cash and food, from itself to the US.

Despite these worries, the regime remains defiant. Yet, the world has to live with it. It has gotten away twice with false promises — once by promising a ceasefire after the Doha agreement and second by promising an inclusive regime respecting women’s rights. This time, with the added intent of designs on atomic energy, recognition or delisting must be preceded by front-end delivery.


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