Posted by AFSHEEN101 on 11/17/2007
The Talibanization of Pakistan
Nov 17, 2007 04:30 AM
KABUL–If it is true that misery loves company, one can understand the dark bemusement coursing through the politically fragile Afghan capital these days, where the latest jokes come at the expense of the even more fragile neighbour to the southeast.
Not in recent memory has perennially miserable Afghanistan had a neighbour it could point to for comic relief. That the neighbour making grave news today just happens to be Pakistan makes it all the sweeter, if only because so many Afghans regard Pakistan as the meddling monkey on their back, whence all problems come.
One glib assessment offered to the Toronto Star this week at a gathering of Pashtun tribal leaders in Kabul described Pakistan as "an entity made entirely of Saudi religion, Indian culture and Afghan land. Take any one of those things away and you don't even have a country. It ceases to be."
But if the laughter that followed was hearty, it came with nervous undercurrents – acknowledgement that the joke may yet blow back across the porous border in the form of increased Taliban militancy that continues to bedevil NATO-led efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.
"All that we are seeing beneath the border is frightening for Afghanistan, and by extension, it should frighten the world," said Abdul Ghafoor Liwal, senior analyst with the Regional Studies Centre of Afghanistan, a government-funded think-tank in Kabul.
"For so many years we suffered from a jihadist ideology scripted by Pakistan's army and intelligence services, going all the way back to the Soviet era. They nurtured and trained militant groups built on religious extremism with ample support of the CIA. This is established in fact," said Liwal.
"Now that the genie is out of the bottle it is not so easy to control. And as Pakistan weakens, it gains strength. For Afghans, there is perhaps a kind of satisfaction in this because the very policy we resented so much is backfiring on its source. But in the long run, there is no pleasure in the equation of weak governments on both sides of the border, because the monster in the middle can cut both ways."
Reports from the Pakistani side suggest that even after two weeks of emergency rule imposed ostensibly to push back pro-Taliban militants, forces loyal to President Gen. Pervez Musharraf continue to lose ground in the tribal region of Swat, the scene of heavy aerial attacks this week.
But from an Afghan point of view, the most disturbing news came in a two-part series this week by Asia Times correspondent Syed Saleem Shahzad datelined from the Nawa Pass overlooking the border.
Shahzad quoted a senior Taliban figure as saying a wide range of like-minded militant groups, including the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda, have agreed on a declaration of independence, with the goal of establishing an "Islamic emirate" that will eat into territory on both sides of the border.
Afghan political watchers are divided on the impact of such political propaganda, should militants follow through with the threat of declaring independence. Liwal, for one, regards it as a potentially grave development.
"I regard it as dangerous because when you look just below the border you see a vast tribal population that has lost its traditional leadership," said Liwal. "Before the Talibanization of this region the local jirgas of tribal elders held sway and the mullahs were second rank, with no say in policy. Now the mullahs and the madrassas make the policy, especially in Waziristan and the eastern tribal areas.
"In a way, I think the danger is worse for Pakistan. Because the Afghans are not so easily fooled. When the Taliban says, `We will make a nice caliphate. No more cutting off people's heads. You can even play music if you want,' the Afghan people can see through this miserable lie because we already suffered through it once before.
"But beyond the Pakistani border, it could be worse. The millions of people without traditional leadership can be very easily used."
The border itself is, of course, a geopolitical nightmare in its own right, insofar as it stands as little more than a grease-pencil mark dreamed up by the British empire – a make-believe dividing line between an unbroken sea of ethnic Pashtuns stretching from Kandahar province to just a few hours drive from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.
On the Afghan side, Pashtuns comprise a majority, though few are certain of the precise numbers, but they live in even greater numbers – as many as 25 million – on the Pakistan side. None have ever accepted the establishment of the 1893 Durand Line that supposedly sets them apart.
But Afghan analysts suggest Pashtun nationalism ultimately may prove the most effective bulwark against the threat of a separatism based on religion.
"As much as some Pashtuns are becoming more extreme, they are nationalists first, not Islamists. The strongest belief is in pan-Pashtunism, which is a dream that would mean this population effective joining Afghanistan," said Muntqud Rahman Roadwal, general secretary of the Afghan Writers' Union.
"This has always been one of Pakistan's worst fears, and one of the reasons Pakistan is so politically motivated to prevent the rise of a strong Afghanistan. Because if Afghanistan is strong, it becomes a centre of gravity to pull the Pashtun back into its historic fold by erasing the Durand Line."
University of Kabul political scientist Mohammed Ismael Yoon characterizes the Pakistan crisis as "one of the worst in a 60-year series of crises between our countries.
Many in the wider world and in Afghanistan specialy belive that Pakistans nuclear weapons are made up of metal stolen from scrat missiles in Afghanistan, the idea to fly them from the west and you have a typical propoganda and image of a nuclear weapon, however the political scientist at kabul University Mr Yoon says "The world's worry should be keeping Pakistan's nuclear weapons out of the hands of extremists. Our immediate worry, meanwhile, is our fragile economy because absolutely everything comes and goes through the border with Pakistan," said Yoon, who is also a member of the Afghanistan National Security Council.