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The Afghan fallout in Pakistan

India must realise that it is going to contend with a Pakistan whose western and eastern borders, as well as the core centre, will be in a state of continuous instability. The vulnerable core will also start fraying. The challenge for New Delhi is to keep Islamabad focused away from its eastern border.

LT GEN PR SHANKAR (Retd)

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An article by Abbas Nasir in Dawn states that ‘Pakistan was concerned of being ‘scapegoated’ and being isolated, for giving sanctuary to the Taliban leadership and fighters… There is no escaping that blame… Yes, Pakistan was duplicitous in as much as the Taliban were concerned…’. This is the closest one will get to a Pakistani admission of guilt for its double-crossing role in Afghanistan. At the other end of the spectrum, Imran ‘Taliban’ Khan feels that Afghanistan has broken the shackles of slavery. Last year, he called Osama Bin Laden a martyr in a speech to the Parliament. His cabinet minister talks of civilised Taliban. There is widespread euphoria in Pakistan on the swift Taliban victory, hasty US withdrawal and ANA’s collapse. The Deep State, clerics, politicians and its media are over the moon that Pakistan has once again engineered the defeat of a superpower. India should be clear. Whatever happens in Afghanistan is only a symptom of the disease called Pakistan. Hence the focus is on Pakistan.

The world has changed immensely since 1996. Taliban is more ambitious. Afghanistan is more developed on all fronts – social, infrastructure, media et al. Aspirations of the Afghani’s, especially their women has increased. Pakistan is equally bankrupt and wracked with internal issues. The world is more aware and wary. The old template cannot be renewed. Taliban itself might not be keen to take Afghanistan back to the stone age. The fact that it could descend into that state is another matter.    

The reality in Afghanistan is that the dust has not settled down and uncertainty hangs. It is one thing to capture Kabul and declare victory. It is another thing to be in power and run the nation. The Taliban can run an insurgency on narco funds, illegal mining, coercive taxes and transit trade smuggling. However, it cannot run a country through illegal collections! The reality is that external aid and reserve funds are frozen, coffers are empty, revenues are minimal and people have to be paid salaries. They can hardly go to Pakistan for funds. The Haqqani Network, a significant part of the Taliban, still remains a designated terrorist group. The spectre of Al Qaeda and IS remains omnipresent. The former US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta assesses that the Taliban are terrorists…there is no question they will provide a safe haven for al-Qaida, for ISIS and for terrorism in general….and that constitutes, national security threat to the US. If the Taliban is a security threat for the US, it is so for others. There is news of a new resistance front developing from the Panjshir valley. Very clearly, it will be a long time before some fundamental stability is reached in Afghanistan. Till then, Pakistan will remain uncomfortable. In the meantime, everyone will wait and watch for the true colours of the Taliban to emerge.

Let us now turn to Pakistan for issues beyond this. Pakistan has got what it wanted—the US‘s defeat, China’s involvement, and the Taliban in power. However, Pakistan is also likely to get a few things, which it did not bargain for. Pashtuns live on either side of the Durand Line, which they do not recognise or respect. Between tribal and national loyalties, the former prevails. The Taliban are essentially a Pashtun group. Their methods and success will fire Pashtun imagination that political violence and terror works. They have another model—of Tehrik e Labbaik Pakistan, which corroborates these ideas. The Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan (also a Pashtun group) has already congratulated its Afghan counterpart for its ‘blessed victory’. As per the ISI head, the Pakistan and Afghan Taliban are two sides of the same coin. The Pakistan Taliban, now inspired by the Afghan Taliban’s nationalist agenda and violence, is already focussed along the Durand Line. The number of attacks is increasing. The nationalist Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement is a reverberant reality in the area. If I were anyone in Pakistan, I will be very worried. A demand for a Pashtun homeland with PTM and TTP in a coalition, supported by the Afghan Taliban is a nightmare scenario for Pakistan. As against strategic depth, Pakistan might end up in a strategic squeeze. Pakistan Army has a stiff task on its western borders. 

Everyone assumes that Pakistan will control the Taliban to do its bidding. After all, the Taliban is a Pakistani creation. However, power changes behaviour. A new paradigm is likely to emerge with the Taliban loosening itself from Pakistani apron strings. Reasons are aplenty. The international community is going to put conditions on Afghanistan and Pakistan for the funding they need direly. Any truck with Pakistan beyond a point might be detrimental to obtaining funds. Secondly, Mullah Baradar, who will be high up in the power structure in Afghanistan, had once reached out to Hamid Karzai independently. It was not to Pakistan’s playbook. He was canned in a Pakistani jail for eight years from 2010-18. He was released at the behest of the US. Both would not have forgotten that. There will be no love lost. It is also reported the Pakistani COAS had twice walked out of meetings with the Taliban, frustrated at their intransigence and infuriated by what he sees as the Taliban’s determination to return to full power in Afghanistan. Very clearly, the Taliban has a mind of its own. Such organisations tend to grow beyond their benefactors. There is a lot of similarity between the LTTE and the Taliban. The Taliban, like the LTTE, will not hesitate to bite the hand that fed it. To think that the Taliban will do Pakistani bidding beyond a point is being naïve.

The victory of a ragtag Taliban military force over the sophisticated US Army gives belief to every extremist /radical/religious group that this feat can be replicated elsewhere. It is a huge propaganda boost for international radical terrorism. Radicals will now believe that religious power can control any organised society. The Taliban success empowers all extremist-religious elements and gives them enough reason to press for an Islamic system in Pakistan. There is no dearth of radicals in Pakistan. The TLP is a recent but potent phenomenon. The Deobandi and Barelvi brand of Sunnism repeatedly try to outdo each other. The situation in Baluchistan is precarious. As state-sponsored terror holds sway, the reactionary insurgency is growing. The focus on the Chinese and CPEC projects is on the ascendancy. All these outfits thrive on the informal, below the radar and shadow economy of Pakistan. Pakistan does not have the political will or financial resources to tackle the threats squarely. As the dust starts settling in Afghanistan, radical plans could be unfolding in Pakistan. If the big sharks (Al Qaeda and ISIS) enter the fray, the situation will worsen. If one thinks that all this is imagination, just recount the events of the last few days. Two incidents of women being assaulted by scores of men on Pakistan’s Independence Day, one of which has gone viral on social media. A bomb blast on the eve of Muharram in Bahawalpur with a toll of two dead and 59 injured. Protests in Gwadar against severe water, electricity and other shortages due to CPEC activities. A bomb blast on the outskirts of Gwadar targeted the Chinese. Pakistan is reaching high levels of internal violence, religious toxicity and intolerance. We need to wait and watch.

To a large extent, Pakistani fortunes will depend on the way the Taliban run the government. If the Taliban goes back to its old ways, even partially, Pakistan will cop the blame. Irrespective of how Afghanistan shapes out, there is a universal conviction that Pakistan is the main backer of the Taliban. In any case,  no one buys Pakistani denials about the country’s links to the Taliban. People have started recollecting that ISI backs the Haqqani network. It was ISI, which pitchforked Sirajuddin Haqqani as one of the two deputy leaders of the Taliban in 2015. There will be severe scrutiny on Pakistan hereafter. A political blowback from the humiliated US government and its allies is on the cards. Aid from the West, especially the US will start to dry out. In any case, no one will invest in Pakistan. As it is hot money has started flowing out. Pakistani dollar bonds are already under selling pressure. Pakistan is also bracing for the impact of western retaliation against it for providing safe havens for the Taliban. Beyond cutting economic aid, there is already talk of sanctions. If Pakistan has to be brought to heel, its nuclear fangs have to be blunted. Sooner or later, the talk will veer towards the nuclear angle if the situation in Afghanistan goes bad. Till now, the focus was on the US and Afghanistan. Now it is time for each to himself. All of a sudden one sees that China, Russia and Pakistan have increased their activity. They are slowly getting sucked into the Afghan quagmire. The free security cover given by the US has vanished. 

Pakistan is fully aware of the risk it runs in this new geopolitical chapter. There is also a sense that things have run ahead of time and out of control. Pakistan being the duplicitous nation it is, has already begun a new round of running with the hare and hunting with the hound. When asked if Pakistan will recognise the new Taliban government, it stated that it has been working closely with the international community, including the US, and will continue to follow the lead of the international community in seeing how the situation evolves in Afghanistan.

In this evolving paradigm, India must realise that it is going to contend with a Pakistan whose western and eastern borders, as well as the core centre, will be in a state of continuous instability. The vulnerable core will also start fraying. This was always predicted. The process is gathering new steam thanks to the Taliban twins. The challenge for India is simple and straightforward—keep Pakistan focussed away from its eastern border. That is a different analysis.   

Lt Gen P.R. Shankar was India’s DG Artillery. He is highly decorated and qualified with vast operational experience. He contributed significantly to the modernisation and indigenisation of Artillery. He is now a Professor in the Aerospace Dept of IIT Madras and is involved in applied research for defence technology. His other articles can be read on www.gunnersshot.com 

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Defence

INS TABAR PARTICIPATES IN MARITIME EXERCISE WITH ALGERIAN NAVY

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The Ministry of Defence informed on Tuesday that the Indian Navy Ship (INS) Tabar took part in the maiden Maritime Partnership Exercise with the Algerian Navy on 29 August.

INS Tabar participated in the exercise during its ongoing goodwill visit to Europe and Africa. “The landmark exercise held off the Algerian coast and saw the participation of a frontline Algerian Naval Ship (ANS) ‘Ezzadjer’,” said the Ministry of Defence in a statement.

As a part of this exercise, several activities including coordinated manoeuvring, communication procedures and steam past were undertaken between the Indian and Algerian warships.

“The exercise enabled the two navies to understand the concept of operations followed by each other. It also enhanced interoperability and opened the possibility of increasing interaction and collaboration in the future,” the statement added.

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Defence

Home Ministry appoints Rajwinder Singh Bhatti as Border Security Force ADG

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NEW DELHI: Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has appointed Rajwinder Singh Bhatti, a 1990-batch IPS officer, as ADG Border Security Force (BSF) on a deputation basis up to 30 September 2025, his date of superannuation or till further orders.

According to the official statement, “Ministry of Home Affairs appointed Bhatti, a 1990-batch IPS officer, as ADG Border Security Force, on deputation basis, up to 30 September 2025, the date of his superannuation or till further orders.”

The Home Ministry has also written to the Bihar government to relieve him at earliest.

The state government is requested to relieve him immediately to enable him to take up his new assignments at the Centre, as per the official MHA statement. Bhatti, a Bihar cadre officer, is currently posted as Director General, Bihar Military Police, at Patna.

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Defence

NO SECURITY THREAT AT PANGODE MILITARY STATION, CLARIFIES DEFENCE PRO

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Reports carried by a section of the online media related to the security of the Pangode Military station here are ‘’unsubstantiated,” a Defence PRO said on Tuesday. “No security threat at Pangode Military station”, the Defence wing said in a release.

It said the news carried by the online media does not hold credibility due to lack of authentication and supporting evidence and warned that appropriate action would be initiated against any entity that peddles fake news, especially that which jeopardises security.

The office of the Defence PRO, in its official capacity, scrutinised the validation of the contents of the news segment publicised online from varied official agencies who proclaimed that the news is unsubstantiated.

“It is needless to emphasise that publicising such fake news in any media platform is against media ethics and is a serious breach of security”, said the release issued by the Defence wing.

The reports had claimed that the Pangode military station was facing a ‘’security threat’’.

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Defence

CYCLING EXPEDITION FLAGGED OFF BY ITBP TO MARK ‘AZADI KA AMRIT MAHOTSAV’

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SILIGURI: To celebrate the 75th Independence Day anniversary, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) commenced a cycle rally from Siliguri on 31 August and it will culminate in Patna on 8 September.

The cycle rally, which is a part of Azadi Ke Amrit Mahotsav, originally, started from Itanagar and culminates in Delhi’s Rajghat on 2 October, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. From Siliguri, as many as 12 ITBP personnel, including officers and jawans, were part of the cycle rally.

Talking about the motive, RPS Raghubangshi, DIG, ITBP-Gangtok told ANI, “The motive of the cycle rally is to connect with the locals and common people.” Meanwhile, in Ladakh, the cycle rally of ITBP personnel started the rally from Sakti village and reached Leh as of 31 August, covering over 236 km in total, tweeted from ITBP’s official Twitter handle. –

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Defence

FIRE AND FURY CORPS CELEBRATES 22ND RAISING DAY IN LEH

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PRO, Defence, Srinagar informed that ‘Fire and Fury Corps’ celebrated its 22nd Raising Day, on Wednesday, in Leh with a solemn Wreath Laying ceremony held at War Memorial.

Lieutenant General PGK Menon, General Officer Commanding, Fire and Fury Corps laid a wreath at the Leh War Memorial on behalf of all ranks of Fire and Fury Corps to honour the brave soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice during various operations in Ladakh. According to Srinagar Defence PRO, the corps was raised on 1 September 1999, in the aftermath of the Kargil War. Since its raising, the Corps has successfully ensured sanctity of both, the Line of Control with Pakistan and Line of Actual Control with China while maintaining eternal vigil at some of the highest battlefields in the world including the Siachen Glacier.

The Corps since its raising has been instrumental in the development of infrastructure in Ladakh for the common use of the Army and civilians, thereby promoting development in Ladakh.

The Corps has stood steadfast with the people of Ladakh in times of natural calamities, providing assistance and support in relief, rescue, and rebuilding of infrastructure.

“On the auspicious occasion of the Raising Day of the Corps, all ranks once again pledged to defend our borders with their blood and reaffirmed their wholehearted support to the people of Ladakh”, the statement read.

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Defence

FORCE WELL-TRAINED, PREPARED TO DEFEND BORDERS: OUTGOING ITBP DG

Ashish Singh

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The outgoing Director-General of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) that primarily guards 3,488 km long India-China borders ranging from Karakoram Pass in Ladakh to Jachep La in Arunachal Pradesh, while referring to the safety of the borders stated that the force is well-trained and always prepared to defend our international border in all situations.

Surjeet Singh Deswal, who retired, on Tuesday, as the ITBP DG while speaking to ANI said, “Whether there is an agreement or no agreement. We go by the needs on the border. India is a law-abiding nation. We respect our bilateral agreements. We respect our international conventions and the conduct which should be there between the two countries. We have never violated our bilateral agreements, our promises to our neighbours. We have always respected our neighbours. But we are always prepared to defend our border in all situations.” Responding to a question that there is a policy of no use of firearms on the Indo-China border and if in such a situation, if the Chinese attack the Indian side, what will India do, Deswal said, “Till our bilateral agreements are respected, we will keep on respecting. In case of need, we are prepared for all situations.”

On the India-China disengagement process and friction points between the two countries, he said, “Such border issues across the world take long to settle down. Our efforts in totality are the might of the forces, the diplomatic strength, our economic strength, the total collective forces of the country are on the job and to negotiate. Times are not as important as our claims are. We have to pursue our negotiations so that, at the end of the negotiations, our claims are with us.”

India and China have already disengaged from the banks of Pangong lake after extensive talks and the Gogra Heights and Hot Springs areas are left to be resolved as these friction points were created post-Chinese aggression last year. 20 Indian soldiers were killed in violent clashes with Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley in June last year.

The two countries have been engaged in a military standoff for almost a year but disengaged from the most contentious Pangong lake area last month after extensive talks at both military and political levels.

“I’m retiring after 37 years in the uniform. I served for 27 years in the Haryana state police and 10 years with GoI. For the last three years, I was heading ITBP which is an elite force of the country, looking after the India-China border in very tough topographical, geographical conditions. The force is well-trained for that terrain and is comfortable staying there and complete its mandate of protection of the international border. ITBP soldiers and officers are trained for all kinds of situations,” added Deswal.

Deswal is an Indian Police Service officer. He did his graduation (B.Sc.) from Panipat and LLB from Kurukshetra University. As Superintendent of Police, Deswal served in several important districts of Haryana such as Karnal, Rohtak, Kaithal, Bhiwani and Fatehabad and Commandant 5th Battalion of H.A.P, Madhuban. He joined the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the year 1994 and served as Superintendent of Police till 1998 in the All India Anti Corruption Unit. He was promoted to DIG, Railways and Tech.

As Inspector-General of Police, Deswal held the charge of important ranges like Ambala and Rohtak. He worked as Commissioner of Police of Gurugram, from 2009 to 2011.

Deswal worked as Director-General of State Crime Branch and Haryana Armed Police. He was awarded the Indian Police Medal for meritorious service in 2001 and President’s Police Medal for Distinguished Service in 2012 for dedicated service to the Nation.

Deswal joined Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) in December 2015 and served as Additional Director General (ADG) till October 2017. He served as ADG and Special DG (Operations) in Border Security Force (BSF) for a year. Deswal was appointed DG SSB on 30 September 2018 and appointed DG ITBP on 31 October 2018.

He retired after his three years of service to the force as its Director-General. Deswal handed over the customary baton to senior Indian Police Service (IPS) office Sanjay Arora at the force headquarters.

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