A lady candidate in Afghan
elections, something not possible in Taliban regime
Taliban FM Economizes on Truth to Stay Politically Correct
S. Mudassir Ali Shah
September 12: Taliban’s former Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed
Mutawakil has obviously tried to be more “politically correct”
in his book about Afghan relations with Pakistan than any honest
intellectual, but he admits that it was Pakistan which gave birth
and muscle to Taliban, the Madrassa students movement.
too cautiously to give any detailed account of significant Taliban-era
developments in his book Afghanistan and Taliban, Mutawakil
insists Pakistan never meddled in his country's internal affairs,
something which would be hard to believe for anyone with even
the minimum knowledge of the relations between the two countries.
Obviously for political reasons,
he prefers to stay implicit in discussing Pakistan-Taliban relations,
which continue to raise perturbing questions to date.
his bid to eschew touching a raw nerve, Mutawakil has quoted a
number of instances that imply Islamabad enjoyed a lot more influence
on Taliban's Afghanistan than Mutawakil would admit.
passing reference on Page-63 to an implacable Pakistan-Iran rivalry
in Afghanistan suggests how the neighbors Iran and Pakistan jockeyed
for clout in his country struggling with a host of challenges,
including a debilitating civil strife and terrorism.
Afghanistan started sliding into chaos, the face-off between Islamabad
and Tehran became all too visible, because Iran viewed the Pakistan-Taliban
partnership as a potential threat to its strategic interests,"
writes the former minister. Apprehensive of Pakistan's proximity
to the United States, Iran considered an anathema American foothold
in the region, much less in Afghanistan.
our movement gained momentum, Benazir Bhutto was the Prime Minister
of Pakistan, while Naseerullah Babar, an ethnic Pashtun, was Interior
Minister in her cabinet. Its ideological differences with Taliban
notwithstanding, Bhutto's secular PPP desired a pro-Pakistan administration
in Kabul that could bring stability to Afghanistan while living
in peaceful co-existence with neighbors."
the Soviet disintegration, Mutawakil points out, Pakistan eyed
an unhindered access to the vast Central Asian market - an objective
whose realization was impossible without rock-solid support from
regional Afghan commanders. Islamabad particularly dreamed up
a weird idea to capture Ashgabat's precious natural resources,
but the plan went awry, he says.
wanted to dispatch a convoy of relief supplies to the nascent
Central Asian states via Kandahar and Herat, in a move to win
over the newborn nations. Regional Afghan commanders, who had
assured the Pakistani Consulate in Kandahar of a safe passage
to the convoy through Afghanistan, later backed out of their commitment
owing to internecine bickering.
the same time, the Taliban appeared on the scene in Kandahar -
a phenomenon that hogged the headlines in newspapers across the
world, reinforcing a widespread impression that the primary objective
behind the birth of the movement was to hasten the achievement
of Pakistan's geo-strategic designs in Central Asia.
the former minister takes great pains to establish Islamabad had
played no proactive role either in creating or propping up Taliban,
he concedes that Sunni Pakistan rushed to set up a consulate in
Kandahar, headed by Maj. Gul, a Pashtun familiar with key players
involved in the jihad against the Soviets, to checkmate the Shiite
Mutawakil's denials are diluted in some measure by his own admission
that Madrassa students from Pakistan streamed into Afghanistan
to swell Taliban ranks. His statement that many Pakistan-based
jihadi groups and religious forces were supportive of the student
militia and the wounded mujahideen were treated in Pakistani hospitals
equally weakens his assertion.
Islamabad's botched initiative
to bring about a patch-up between the then Afghan rulers and the
Jumbish-i-Islami of northern warlord Rashid Dostum was essentially
driven by its robust relationship with Taliban. The understanding
was short-lived, though Taliban freed a large number of Jumbish
loyalists captured in fighting west of Kabul.
Again, it was Pakistan which brokered
a compromise of sorts between Taliban and Gen. Abdul Malik. Their
shared animus towards Dostum was another crucial factor in bringing
the two sides closer, so much so that Gen. Malik caught Ismail
Khan, ex-governor of Herat and sitting minister for water and
power, and handed him over to Taliban. The Tajik strongman, clapped
into a Kandahar prison, somehow managed to escape in a jailbreak
to reach Iran, which stoutly supported him.
At times, the author touches on
events and incidents that reflect Pakistan 's soft corner for
what was then called a rag-tag student militia whose seven-year
rule had indisputably brought a measure of peace to the impoverished
But there is no denying the reality
that Taliban also incurred international ire and crippling sanctions
against Afghanistan as a result of their isolationist policies.
He admits Pakistan, one of the
three countries which had accorded recognition to a government
globally reviled for its radical political credo, was the only
nation to have a full-fledged embassy in Kabul. Saudi Arabia and
the United Arab Emirates (UAE) had tasked their embassies in Islamabad
with maintaining diplomatic relations with Afghanistan under Taliban.
Finding a fleeting mention in
the gripping book is the jihad-infused faith fostered in the crucible
of Afghanistan and Kashmir. With the Pakistan-Taliban links growing,
the minister recalls, some jihadi outfits active in Kashmir (like
Al-Badr) came to Afghanistan to run training camps in the southeastern
Khost province and elsewhere.
Much to the chagrin of the world
at large, 'mujahideen' from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Arab countries
had also established similar camps in different parts of Afghanistan,
where the Khost province came under a deadly Tomahawk missile
attack from the US forces stationed in the Persian Gulf on August
The use of Pakistan's airspace
for the attack on the militant base, which was reportedly frequented
by Osama bin Laden, sparked a wave of anger among religious groups
in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
a desperate attempt to retain its sway, Iran also cultivated ties
with Taliban on the one hand and simultaneously wooed their foes
on the other. Clinging to its finely nuanced policy of carrots
and sticks, Tehran would occasionally dispatch delegations to
Kabul to keep Taliban engaged and warn the enigmatic Afghan rulers
in no uncertain terms against harming its interests, Mutawakil
reveals that Tehran came close to a war with Taliban when we seized
Iranian truckers soon after wresting control of Mazar-i-Sharif
from Dostum. Iran's threats coupled with its military drills near
the border with Afghanistan prompted Taliban to deploy soldiers
in force to Herat and Farah, but the UN intervened to defuse the
the end of the book, the man from Maiwand narrates the tale of
his sneaking into Pakistan after the ouster of the Taliban Government
in 2001 in the wake of sustained air strikes by the US military
and a ground offensive by the Northern Alliance.
he gives no details of his escape from Afghanistan after the fall
of Taliban. He remained in Pakistan for quite some time before
surrendering in Kandahar to Afghan authorities, who handed him
over to the US military on February 8, 2002.
detention at Kandahar Airport and the Bagram Airbase, Mutawakil
writes, he was grilled hard and fast but never tortured.
his story, far from complete, does not add up. Unfortunately for
students of history and international relations, his description
of momentous events is at best sketchy, a wee bit partial, incomplete
to some extent and somewhat hazy. A man in his position, who is
not politically callow at all, can be genuinely expected to tell
the whole truth about events and developments in a seminal discourse
like Afghanistan and Taliban.
here For Part-1 of the story on Mutawakil's book