The Taliban’s moderate façade has crumbled overnight with their announcement of a hardline interim government in Afghanistan. The all-male Cabinet features UN-designated terrorist Sirajuddin Haqqani, who has a $10-million US bounty on his head, as the interior minister. Sirajuddin is the son of warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani, who founded the Haqqani Network (HQN) — an insurgent group based in North Waziristan, Pakistan. Sirajuddin’s uncle Khalil Haqqani has been appointed as the acting minister for refugees. In 2012, the US had designated the HQN as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation because of its links with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and its role in attacks on US military personnel and civilians as well as on western interests in Afghanistan. The HQN also figures on the UN sanctions list under Resolution 1267, wherein it is described as a group ‘responsible for suicide attacks and targeted assassinations as well as kidnappings in Kabul and other provinces of Afghanistan’. With their patronage of this entity, the Taliban have cocked a snook not only at the US but also at the international community.
The HQN’s ties with the Pakistani security establishment are an open secret. The group is counted among the major proxies that are backed by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in the Af-Pak region. Sirajuddin’s elevation has clearly revealed Pakistan’s influence on the Taliban’s decision-making. The government formation has ruffled many feathers in America, with the Republican Study Committee, the largest conservative caucus in the US House of Representatives, calling it ‘a government of terrorists, by the terrorists, and for the terrorists.’
The developments make it imperative for India to up the ante against Pakistan’s interference in Afghanistan and engage more cautiously with the unreliable Taliban. The upcoming summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in Tajikistan offers New Delhi an opportunity to call out Islamabad for its machinations that threaten to destabilise the entire region.
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