They say ‘Be careful of what you wish for. It might come true’! Pakistan keeps boasting that it had defeated a superpower — USSR. Now it is loud mouthing that it is defeating another superpower — the US. Technically, the speed of Taliban advance and the rate of withdrawal from Afghanistan marks it as a US defeat. Pakistan’s wishes are probably coming true. Has Pakistan won again? The US and Pakistan were supposed to be on one side. However, Pakistan and the Taliban were also on one side. As are Pakistan and China. Pakistan always defeats its friends to stay relevant. Is it the shape of things to come in future? In defeating the US, has Pakistan defeated itself? As long as the US was around in the area and the Taliban were negotiating, Pakistan and China were on a free ride. With the US stepping out of the scene, and the Taliban making rapid advances into power, things have come to a head. Everyone is scrambling for cover including the Taliban. Most of all it is Pakistan that is running around since something more than its great wish is coming true.
It is quite clear that Afghanistan is sliding into chaos. Two outcomes are possible and evident. A power-sharing agreement can come about. It will result in a shaky governing structure dotted with violence and clashes instigated largely by the Taliban. Taliban will continually try to wield the upper hand in the structure with Pakistani assistance. The other alternative is a Taliban ruled Afghanistan. This option runs the risk of lacking international recognition and funding. This option will also take Afghanistan back to the medieval ages. However, in this article, we will focus on Pakistan and see what is in store for it. I would like to highlight that these are not a figment of my fertile imagination but what I have culled from Pakistani writings. Not a single day goes by when some intelligent Pakistani writer does not underscore what I have written here in an op-ed with far greater eloquence than mine.
Pakistan’s official stance is that it wants a peaceful outcome in Afghanistan, where a power-sharing arrangement is reached between the Taliban and the current Afghan dispensation. However very few believe it. After all, Pakistan was the main architect of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in the 1990s. Pakistan gave sanctuary, medical and all kinds of help to the Taliban and Al Qaeda in its cities. Even now Taliban leaders and Shuras operate out of Pakistani cities. Their fighters are being treated in Pakistani hospitals. Their families live in Pakistan. The general impression and truth are that Pakistan backs the Taliban and wants to hoist it in power in Kabul in a sham of a brokered agreement. As the Taliban gains ground rapidly, the needle of suspicion points squarely toward Pakistan. Let us be clear, without Pakistani support, the Taliban cannot survive.
What did Pakistan wish for? Pakistan has always wished to control Afghanistan as its surrogate state under a client Taliban regime. Afghanistan had to be hostile to India. It would give the Pakistani ‘Deep State’ a secure western border and strategic depth in its eternal war of unattainable revenge on India. Surrogacy is feasible only if the regime was controllable. As long as the US was in Afghanistan, there was no question of any regime or any kind of control. Hence the long term plan was to continually undermine the US till it exits Afghanistan. Build itself a reputation as a nation that has defeated two superpowers. China could then be brought into the picture to replace the US. This was to be done through hybrid and grey zone methods by using its homegrown fighters and free-floating jihadists of LeT and JeM and other remote organisations to assist the Taliban. This plan is now being executed. However, the question is where is this roadshow heading?
We have to step onto the Durand Line to understand the future. On the Pakistan side of the Durand Line lie the provinces of Balochistan, NWFP, and the seven tribal agencies of the FATA ( now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa). On the Afghan side is a large swathe of the Pashtun area. The Durand Line divides the Pashtun and Baloch tribal areas which straddle Afghanistan and Pakistan. The tribal agencies of FATA had a border further East, with the erstwhile British administration which Pakistan inherited. The area between the two borders was largely left loose for the Pashtuns to govern themselves. FATA and the border belt was some sort of uncharted territory. This area always had an incipient Pashtun and Baloch nationalistic fervour. The Durand Line was never recognised in letter or spirit by any tribal.
Fast forward to the 80s, Zia ul-Haq promoted jihad, funded thousands of Islamic madrassas and armed domestic Islamist organisations in the Af Pak border region. Funding was from the CIA to raise and support Mujahideen. In doing so, he also sought to suppress any local tribal nationalism on the Pakistani side of the Durand Line. The Islamist Mujahideen, drawn from the Pashtun and Baloch themselves, were the instrument to blunt and subsume local separatist tendencies. In this endeavour, the Afghan Taliban became Pakistan’s proteges. Pakistan promoted the Taliban ideology and scotched Pashtun nationalist sentiment. In the entire process spanning four decades, Pakistan created a militarised and radicalised Af Pak border. This happened in an area where people do not respect nationalities but tribal loyalties. It is in this cauldron that Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was born with the aim of creating a sharia driven Pakistan. Alongside this, Baloch rebels also took to militancy and violence. Pakistan succeeded in creating its own trans-border devils.
What does Pakistan get hereafter? Pakistan wished the US away. That wish has been fulfilled. In addition, Pakistan gets three things. First, fighting in Afghanistan spilling over into Pakistan. Second, refugee inflow into Pakistan that it can’t afford. Third, the resurgence of the TTP, a group that is capable of attacking the country’s army, security forces, and politicians, to destabilise the country. Each of these needs deeper understanding.
Insecurity spilling over into Pakistan is a given. Already there has been some cross border firing in which Pakistani soldiers have been injured. Going ahead, will the insecurity be in the form of fighting between the warring factions in Afghanistan alone? I think it might be beyond that. The US’s withdrawal from Afghanistan makes it ‘weapons free’. The US does not have to fight with one hand tied behind its back anymore. The greater threat which it now faces is possible military action in case the US feels that Pakistan is stepping out of line or being duplicitous beyond acceptable limits. Punitive military action by the US in the guise of accidental fratricide cannot be ruled out! There is already precedence to such action. The Pakis will be fully alive to the incident when a Pakistani post was vaporised. Further, too many people have engaged with Pakistan and have been bitten by it. It might be payback time.
Refugee influx into Pakistan is waiting to happen. A bankrupt Pakistan cannot afford them. Pakistani duplicity will ensure that there is a minimum appetite to support it. After all, it is pandemic time. Without the support of the US, international agencies will not come forward even for humanitarian assistance beyond a point. Pakistan’s efforts to get China into pole position will further inhibit everyone from helping Pakistan. All these refugees will end up creating social, economic and security problems in the long run. That is inevitable.
However, the most pressing issue is TTP. Understanding this phenomenon needs another detour. Afghanistan is the world’s largest cultivator and supplier of opium (93% of the global opiates market). The opium economy has grown tenfold in the past three decades. Pashtuns and Balochis earn a lot from cross-border smuggling in drugs, arms, and even people. The porous border and similar tribal ethnicities straddling the Durand Line have made it a lucrative occupation on both sides. The trans-border political and quasi-military networks straddling the Durand Line are integrated and self-sustaining economically. They also provide external support to each other. The external support factor is primal to sustain any insurgency. The Afghan Taliban and TTP are ideological twins and are intertwined in their enterprises through tribal loyalties which are beyond any nation-state concept. They are part of one interconnected network. Both are trained by Pakistan in the same madrassas. Both are fired by the same radicalistic motivation. In fact, the Pakistani ‘Deep State’ which had a significant share of the transit trade-economic pie will now be culled. With the US leaving this area, the coffers of the Pakistani ‘Deep State’ will start to run dry. Those of the Talibans’ will not. The TTP has started resurfacing in a big way.
The TTP chief Noor Wali Mehsud recently stated in an interview with CNN that TTP aims for the independence of tribal districts of Pakistan. This is a shift from its earlier focus of imposing Sharia and overthrowing the Government of Pakistan. The Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement would have taught it that a nationalist agenda is popular among the masses. It is also assessed that TTP may propagate nationalist rhetoric to gain political legitimacy among the tribes. The apprehension is that a TTP focused exclusively on the tribal areas will be a stronger force to handle. As the Afghan Taliban gain ground in Afghanistan, TTP will be further emboldened and strengthened. PTM is thus far a political movement without violence. If TTP and PTM join hands the potential to pose an existential threat to Pakistan is very very high. Both are Pashtun organisations. It is a tinderbox! There is also speculation that Pakistan could cut a deal with the Afghan Taliban to constrain the TTP. How effective it would be is a question mark. Tribal loyalties are always stronger than national sentiments.
There is another phenomenon expected. Radicals of all shades, will also seek inspiration from the Afghan Taliban’s ‘victories’ and could gravitate to TTP. Disillusioned youth and underemployed cadres of JuD and JeM could be attracted like a moth to a flame. So far they are with the Afghan Taliban. They could be repurposed to the TTP. We should not forget the IS and Al Qaeda are still in the frame. All these organisations might be separate but their foot soldiers are fungible. Add the banned Tehreek-i-Labbaik, Pakistan. Add persecuted Shia organisations. Add the ongoing Baloch rebellion. The mix is indeed heavy. The tenuous relationship between the state, society and religion in Pakistan will get further blurred. This much is evident in the increase in attacks on security forces and Chinese personnel. The latest bomb blast in Quetta at the Serena Hotel enlarges the scope.
There is another reality beyond all this. The world knows that the Taliban is a product of the Pakistani double game. Everyone also knows that the problem is really Pakistan and not Afghanistan. In a larger sense, the game is about money. That is why Pakistan is running to the US to cut a deal. In Washington, there was always clarity that Pakistan was playing both sides. However, with boots on the ground, the US could do very little about it. Now that the boots are out, the US seems to have changed track fully. Pakistani boasts of defeating a superpower will only fuel the US rage. That is why the US has already started to give a cold shoulder to Pakistan. This time around, the US might not go overt. It need not. Pakistan is a bankrupt tinderbox. China is a competitor. Both are ‘iron’ brothers. Both have aspirations that the West is apprehensive about. The US is a past master at the covert. The new great game might just be unfolding in Pakistan. Afghanistan might just be the prelude. India should know which wicket to bat on and how! Pakistan can keep wishing that President Biden will give a call to Taliban Khan! Let the game begin!
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
Pakistan wished the US away. That wish has been fulfilled. Pakistan gets three things. First, fighting in Afghanistan spilling over into Pakistan. Second, refugee inflow into Pakistan that it can’t afford. Third, the resurgence of the TTP, a group that is capable of attacking the country’s army, security forces, and politicians, to destabilise the country.
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INS TABAR PARTICIPATES IN MARITIME EXERCISE WITH ALGERIAN NAVY
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.
Home Ministry appoints Rajwinder Singh Bhatti as Border Security Force ADG
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.
NO SECURITY THREAT AT PANGODE MILITARY STATION, CLARIFIES DEFENCE PRO
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’’.
CYCLING EXPEDITION FLAGGED OFF BY ITBP TO MARK ‘AZADI KA AMRIT MAHOTSAV’
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. –
FIRE AND FURY CORPS CELEBRATES 22ND RAISING DAY IN LEH
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.
FORCE WELL-TRAINED, PREPARED TO DEFEND BORDERS: OUTGOING ITBP DG
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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