The way out for Taliban
Abid Ullah Jan
Frontier Post (Article)
On the occasion of crucial talks between the Taliban and their rival Northern Alliance, due to begin tomorrow in Ashgabad, demands for a broad-based government in Afghanistan sound quite fair at the surface. However, reality of and motives behind transmitting different proposals and sending "fact-finding missions" in this regard are far deeper and sinister than we can comprehend from the sympathetic calls for it.
Every party having a finger in the Afghan pie has a different version of broad-base government in its mind. America's idea, in particular, means establishment of a Taliban and Ikhwan-less government in Kabul to permanently weaken the basis for the establishment of a "fundamentalist" regime in the region. To understand the idea behind all such glittering proposals, it is of paramount importance to look into the evolving situation in the context of what has happened in the not-too-distant past.
According to the US grand plan, the Communists were defeated through Mujahideen with active assistance of the Islamic governments. They were then left alone against the government of Najibullah. Finally, when the Mujahideen came to power, the US bought over some of their military commanders and paid them millions of dollars. These sell-out Mujahideen commanders grew too big for their shoes and they started establishing mini-governments in almost every village and street of Afghanistan. They erected numerous check-posts on highways and around every corner of the areas under their control. There were countless checkpoints and hundreds of commanders in the lawless land of Afghanistan. Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani was the president but he couldn't even live in his Arg (palace) due to rival governments in the opposite streets to his Arg. He used to live in Kher Khana (north of Kabul city), close to Ahmad Shah Masood's forces for security reasons.
Mujahideen commanders, who rebelled against their party leadership, llah Baber clearly stated that Pakistan has politically, militarily and economically supported the Taliban. Sympathisers of the Taliban were of the view that this way the American purpose would be served and Uncle Sam would be pleased with Pakistan's services. The Taliban started their struggle with a 12-member core committee (only five of them are alive today) and the rest of the people, mostly the Pakhtun community, stood by them against Mujahideen commanders' barbarity and boorishness.
Taliban's unexpected success and their establishment of Sharia took everyone in Washington and Islamabad by surprise. If Mujahideen were fundamentalist, the Taliban proved to be the super-fundamentalist. Looking at the horrible death of Najeebullah and company, both communists and Mujahideen left the way open for the Taliban. The US wanted the student militia to check Mujahideen's "fundamentalism" and get them engaged in a long unending violence against each other. The militia were no way meant to take over Kabul and bring peace the way they did through collection of all weapons from friends and foes alike and diminish any chance of a renewed violence.
Now, the thought-mills in Washington went into ceaseless struggle and started to grind out some new mischief for checking the Taliban, whose government could become a "menace of fundamentalism" for the rest of the Islamic countries. Apart from the regular anti-Taliban propaganda, a conspiracy was hatched whereby General Malik invited the Taliban to Mazar-i-Sharif for complete and unconditional surrender to the Taliban. The core committee of the Taliban was also invited. Moulvi Ihsan Ullah Ihsan __ the most educated and much-dreaded leader of the Taliban __ was one of them. Services of Afghan foreign minister, Mulla Mohammed Ghous __ presently engaged in potato business at Quetta __ were specially utilised to bring Moulvi Ihsan Ullah Ihsan to Mazar-i-Sharif along with other Taliban leaders.
The Taliban were not expecting to be attacked by Gen. Malik forces. They were tricked, trapped, tied and indiscriminately killed on their arrival to Mazar-i-Sharif by General Malik and his forces with the active assistance of Hazara minority. A total of 8,520 Taliban personnel died, who were later buried in mass graves. Moulvi Ihsan Ullah Ihsan was taken to the grave of Shiite leader from Hizb-e-Wahdat, Abdul Ali Mazari, and slaughtered there. General Malik is now sitting in the US enjoying Uncle Sam's gifts and benedictions for his valuable services.
The Taliban have captured all the strategic towns in the north, except Panjsher in the Parwan province __ due to direct assistance from Tajikistan, Iran, Turkey, France, Uzbekistan, Israel and Russia. Russia sent 1,200 commandos to Takhar when its Taliban-posted governor, Mulla Alamgir, was bought over by the Northern allies. Analysing the relative tranquillity and all such developments in Afghanistan, the US has started beating the drum of broad-based government on the one hand and providing Northern Alliance with 50 million US dollars to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. Uncle Sam wants to bring Zahir Shah's grandson, Mustafa, from Canada, as the president of liberal democratic Afghanistan. Mustafa has graduated from Canada. The Taliban are of the view that Mustafa, or any member of Zahir Shah family for that matter, can come back only as a citizen of Afghanistan, not as a ruler.
The US insists that Shora-e-Tafahum (Broad-based government) be comprised of communists, representatives of Afghan Millat, Hizb-e-Wahdat (and other Shiite organisations), Mujahideen, the Taliban and other groups. It was acceptable to the US and UN, when there were street-by-street governments in Afghanistan. However, they are reluctant to accept Taliban's rule, which covers all but two and a half provinces of Afghanistan. There is no corruption under Taliban's rule. No one can steal, rape, or rob. Unlike Pakistan, where one cannot feel safe even in his home; one can move from Torkham to Torghundi at Turkmenistan border; from Torghundi to Speen Buldak at Pakistan border near Baluchistan; and from Speen Buldak to Hiratan with a trunk load of cash without any fear of robbery or theft. There is no difference between a common man and a minister, who drives his own car and gets mingled with the general public in the marketplace and mosque like a commoner. Rehabilitation and reconstruction work is in progress in almost every sector in Afghanistan.
Such a government is not acceptable to the US. However, it was perfectly happy with the government of Rabbani over one TV station and ministry of defence. In the name of broad-based government, the US wants to establish a unique kind of "liberal" government that would not only be anti-Pakistan but anti-Islam as well. To give the present government the legitimacy of broad-baseness, the Taliban must have to be tolerant, accommodative and flexible. They must change their approach to running Afghanistan.
The Taliban must accommodate other Mujahideen factions to avoid the folly of getting into isolation like the previous rulers in Kabul. The Taliban, of course, belong to the same Mujahideen who fought and died for Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. Former Mujahideen leaders are no longer interested in sharing government with the Taliban. Engineer Hikmatyar and Ustad Abdur Rab Rasul Siyaf are not interested in ministerial positions. Sibghatullah Mujaddidi has tasted presidency; he won't like to become a minister. All of them would rather send their representatives. Amir-ul-Momineen Mulla Umer should call leaders of all the factions for negotiation and enter into an agreement on the following or similar terms and conditions:
* All the parties have to surrender their weapons to the broad-based central government.
* The Taliban would hold portfolio of president and prime minister.
* Except interior, foreign and defence ministries __ that would be controlled by the Taliban __ all other ministries should be given to other parties to the broad-based government.
* Irrespective of their religious and ideological affiliations, allies from the north should get equal representation and share in the ministerial portfolios.
* Security of life and personal property of all the leaders should be guaranteed.
* To avoid foreign agents and their mischief, neutral Afghan technocrats should be invited from abroad and appointed on key positions after a thorough screening and scrutiny.
* The broad-based government should cooperate with the UN and keep it involved in the process of sharing power with communists (leftists), Mujahideen, Shiite, Hizb-e-Islami (Hikmatyar), Hizb-e-Islami (Moulvi Khalis), Harkat-e-Inqilab-e-Islami (Moulvi Mohammad Nabi), Jamiat-e-Islami Afghanistan (B. Rabbani), Ittehad-e-Islami (Prof. Abdur Rab Rasul Siyaf), Gillani, Sibghatullah Mujaddidi, Ahmad Shah Masood, technocrats and all others. How can any one in the wide world can have an objection to a government shared by all these?
* The Taliban should avoid Qandaharism and must respect those Mujahideen commanders who sincerely surrendered to the Taliban forces. Otherwise they would face the tragedies of Tagau and Nigrau where Taliban's negative attitude forced the local commanders to let Ahmad Shah Masood forces recapture their provinces.
* The Taliban should remove the impression that they are not honestly seeking to negotiate and merely indulge in manoeuvring.
The Taliban are left with the only option to make peace with different factions and legitimise their government; otherwise the kind of broad-based government the US is going to impose on them through six-plus-two formula would reduce the Mujahideen and Taliban status next to nothing. Mustafa would appoint cabinet members according to his own choice. Only the US line-toeing Mujahideen and Taliban would be included so that their government could play a vital role against Iran, China and Russia.
Anti-Pakistan indoctrination was the hallmark of Zahir Shah's rule in Kabul. Because of their brought up, most of the Afghan are still of the opinion that Pakistan has played a major role in the destruction and devastation of Afghanistan for its own benefit. Of course, Pakistan has played a major role in the Afghan conflict but that was to the advantage of the Afghan nation. The CIA had, and still has, its own motives but we cannot doubt the sacrifices made by the ISI. The CIA has a flip-flop policy on Afghanistan that would always tilt in favour of US interests at the cost of Afghan nation. The ISI, however, knows very well that Pakistan has no advantage in devastating Afghanistan. It, nevertheless, has every right to support pro-Pakistan groups otherwise they would face the same taunt, in Aimal Kansi prosecutor's words, that Pakistanis can sell their mothers for a few thousand dollars.
In a recent interview to the Iranian TV on 27th January, Ahmad Shah Masood has once again termed Pakistan as the "enemy," which has "no interest in establishing peace in Afghanistan." If Pakistan were enemy number one of the Afghan people, it would never have extended all kinds of facilities and would rather have made refugees' lives as miserable as it is in Iran. Under Mustafa, Rabbani or Masood, the same anti-Pakistan feelings and policies would be revived. Pakistan should assist the Taliban and other factions to establish a broad-based government according to the aforementioned formula; otherwise there are some elements working to exploit the situation against Pakistan. They are spreading the idea that Pakistan is not interested in permanent peace in Afghanistan, because the Durand Line has already expired in 1993 and Afghanistan has the right to ask for its part up to Attock __ just as Hong Kong went back to China. To avoid this eventuality, Pakistan is dragging its feet on a peaceful solution to the Afghan imbroglio.
Such misconceptions can hurt Pakistan particularly if an anti-Pakistan and pro-US government comes to power in Kabul. If the communists __ like General Shahnawaz Tanai, living like a guest king in Islamabad __ and other so-called liberal-minded people come to power as a result of US-sponsored negotiations, Pakistan would face some unimaginable problems due to their anti-Pakistan attitude. We have to assist the Taliban in forming a government on the above-mentioned principles. Ustad Siyaf and Burhanuddin Rabbani would certainly join the Taliban as they are already in the opposite camp to Ahmad Shah Masood (head of Shoora Nazar), but have helplessly joined the anti-Taliban United Islamic Front for Salvation of Afghanistan with Masood to avoid utter humiliation at the hands of intolerant Taliban. Masood would be left with no option but to leave Afghanistan or share power with the Taliban like other factions, as he would not be able to materialise his dream of Tajikistan-e-Kabir.
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