The land of uncertainty | Political economics


Jhe abrupt change in the entire political system in Afghanistan has left almost everyone in shock, perhaps even those who somehow achieved victory. Afghanistan has never been a place conducive to political activities, neither for foreigners nor for locals.

The main question raised by this whole tragic charade is how all the institutions built by investing huge amounts of resources with the help of the entire international community collapsed within weeks, if not days.

Well, there are many theories depending on which side of the ideological spectrum one belongs to, consciously or unconsciously. Moreover, why is there such interest among Pakistanis in the events in Afghanistan?

Since the exact motivations of the various stakeholders and the exact facts remain to be determined, all that remains is to deduce reality from bits and pieces of the past and present. Objectivity is perhaps the first victim of chaos.

The United States invaded Afghanistan after the events of September 11 to attack Al-Qaeda and, in the process of eradicating the main adversary, also overthrew the regime then in power, called the Taliban, under the pretext that they would not abandon their guests who were wanted. in terrorist activities. Al-Qaida and the Taliban moved from Kabul to the mountains of Afghanistan and across borders as well.

NATO asked for the support of the allies. Our leader, General Musharraf, received a threatening call from the United States whether he should toe the line and become part of the Afghan invasion or prepare for the dark ages. The general complied accordingly and continued to convince us that there was no other option.

Either way, it was a typical roller coaster ride afterwards where nearly every stakeholder suffered. We all carry our scars regardless of blame and counter-blame. An entire generation of Afghans and northwestern Pakistanis grew up hoping for peace and prosperity at the end of this tortuous path.

The talks were continuing in Doha and there were also secret negotiations between the stakeholders, mainly the United States and the Taliban. The principle of the whole process was to end the violence and move forward in an inclusive and democratic way. The Taliban were offered a blanket amnesty if they renounced violence and integrated into the political system by registering as a political party and participating in elections. The Taliban, however, wanted all the cake, claiming to be the real government that was ousted from the Kabul throne.

An agreement was reached in Doha; the US left abruptly, leading to brief clashes between Afghan forces and the Taliban here and there. As people tried to understand the nature and scale of these battles and some even courted the United States to stay behind until things were under control, the Taliban captured Kabul and a elected president was sent into forced exile.

Interestingly, no wars were fought for the throne of Kabul, not even any battles in the provinces. It was a smooth sail for the Taliban from Kandahar to Kabul and even to Herat and Mazar Sharif. The entire force of three hundred thousand soldiers with advanced training and weapons simply gave the Taliban a ride. Why?

Everything was staged in spectacle. It was a unique kind of regime change, where an enemy is chosen rather than an ally. President Ghani wanted an independent Afghanistan and made this known to all international stakeholders.

A theocratic dictatorship under the Taliban or a civil war will be disastrous for Afghanistan and the region, especially Pakistan. All stakeholders must fight for peace, inclusiveness and democracy. The Afghan people must organize themselves politically.

The Afghan people are back to square one and only discouragement remains. Needless to dwell on the events of people fleeing by plane or bribing border agents to escape the impending economic and food crisis. We expect generosity from Europe, but we have different standards at home. They simply cannot come to terms with the fact that the people they have fought against for years have simply taken over even the institutions they have built and run.

The Taliban are trying to appease the population and devote all their energies to establishing better public relations. It’s too complicated given their backgrounds and their interpretation of Sharia, which is very different from that subscribed to by the educated middle class and even the Pashtunwali code dominating in rural areas. All they lack is the trust and popularity that is the bedrock of any government, especially that of such a volatile region.

The Taliban, too, have gained a lot politically but have compromised a lot ideologically. If it is the United States that is directly or indirectly supporting them to contain China/Iran/USSR or simply to abandon the region to its fate, the Taliban must prove it to the Afghan people. They cannot pay lip service and tout it as a victory; certain measures must be taken to dilute this narrative.

Pakistan’s strength has been its influence in northern Afghanistan and over the Taliban, like other Pashtun leaders who have lived and settled here in one way or another. However, Pakistan’s position in Doha and other fora was for an inclusive structure including all stakeholders. He knew that a monolithic organization of the Taliban or even any other non-Taliban party would not work. Pakistan’s lawyer was ignored.

Despite claims of support for a proxy war to contain India’s influence against Pakistan, the current regime change is not in its national interest.

The surprising question, however, is support for the Taliban’s victory in Pakistan. The government is silent and biding its time, but people nurtured by obscurantist values ​​have responded with joy and forgotten everything that has happened to them over the past two decades. That’s about 70,000 dead and billions in collateral damage. They would support a democracy here, but celebrate the fall of a democratic dispensation there. This is not about ideology.

Every citizen in Pakistan or Afghanistan can subscribe to any school of thought, whether right-wing or left-wing, but inclusiveness and democracy are universal values. The Taliban can contest the elections and form an MMA-like government in the KP that came by popular vote, not guns. The Government of Pakistan must address this case of cognitive dissonance. This is alarming and perhaps the most important takeaway for Pakistan must be the revelation of this disease.

Ashraf Ghani left a disappointed man whose theories of development could not work and succumbed to the eternal curse of geography. He was cheated by his own team that ran the whole show of talks and surrenders. Amrullah Saleh proclaimed himself president and vowed to launch armed resistance, with many former warlords and even Afghan National Army commanders heeding his call.

Meanwhile, the Taliban are busy giving interviews and visiting places to get a modicum of support for their regime. Hamid Karzai, Abdullah Abdullah and Gulbadin Hikmatyar are trying to stay relevant and get a stake in any future setup.

However, the way forward is crucial for the whole region. The goal must be to secure peace, not engage in proxy wars leading to a civil war in Afghanistan. If the Afghans are not satisfied with the rule, they had better organize themselves politically. Peaceful protests and political activities will benefit them, not more bloodshed and wars.

Times have changed and so have political dynamics. Pakistan must continue to push for a peaceful and inclusive Afghanistan in addition to making efforts to support the Afghan people on a humanitarian level. The OIC session in Islamabad should have at least extended explicit support to the Afghan people with a clear plan of action, if opposed to open recognition of the new regime.

If the United States wants to wash away this stain of wasting 20 years, it too had better be part of the transition process. A theocratic dictatorship under the Taliban or a civil war will be disastrous for Afghanistan and the region, especially Pakistan. All stakeholders must fight for peace, inclusiveness and democracy. The Afghan people must organize themselves politically and say a big NO to wars, even against their great rivals of all shades. As for the Taliban, they better give democracy and inclusiveness a chance, if they want the world to believe their narrative of transformation.

The writer tweets @fahadikramqazi1

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