‘Whatever comes in the minds of the Pakistani generals and Pakistan military, they just go for it.’
‘They do not care about the consequences for their country or the consequences to the people of Pakistan.’
IMAGE: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, September 17, 2021. Photograph: Didor Sadulloev/Reuters
When different factions of the Taliban bickered over forming a government in Afghanistan, Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed, director-general of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence agency, flew to Kabul and ensured that an interim Taliban government was in place before he returned to the ISI headquarters in Rawalpindi.
The ISI chief’s mission possible confirmed yet again the hold his agency has over the Taliban which it spawned and has patronised for over 25 years.
Mohsin Dawar, a member of Pakistan’s parliament, the national assembly, and central chairman of the National Democratic Movement in that country, is wary about Islamabad’s patronage of the Taliban and worries about its influence on Pakistan’s own Taliban.
“There is no doubt that Pakistan’s military and ISI were involved in taking over Kabul, supporting the Taliban by giving them support logistics and training. They gave every kind of support to the Taliban,” Dawar tells Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com.
What does the rise of the Taliban mean for Pakistan?
Pakistan is temporarily celebrating the rise of the Taliban and taking control of Kabul as a victory. I believe it is a kind of a victory which will very soon turn into a disaster for Pakistan.
When any democratically elected government is overthrown by force, it is a sad day for the people of that country and the world. One fails to understand why Prime Minister Imran Khan described the coming of the Taliban as ‘breaking the chains of slavery’. What message is he trying to convey by making such a statement?
Imran Khan, before making this statement, did not think for a second that he is the prime minister of a country. In the same terminology, in the coming days, Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan can also start creeping towards Islamabad with the same slogan. What justification will Imran Khan then be left with to counter his own argument?
I think it was a very irresponsible statement and he is not aware of the consequences of his statement.
Amrullah Saleh, the former vice-president of Afghanistran, accuses the Pakistan government of supporting Taliban forces in attacking the Panjshir Valley where Saleh and fighters of the Northern Alliance are located. Pakistan denies this, but do you feel there is some truth in Saleh’s statement?
There is no doubt that Pakistan’s military and ISI were involved in taking over Kabul, supporting the Taliban by giving them support logistics and training. They gave every kind of support to the Taliban.
In Panjshir, there have been allegations from many countries (about the involvement) of Pakistan, but until now we have not seen any (clarification) from the Pakistan government, which creates doubts.
The Taliban is known to suppress the rights of women, does not allow higher school education for girls or women to attend offices. In such a scenario, one wonders why the Western educated Imran Khan supports such a regressive government.
It is not just the mentality of the prime minister of Pakistan, it is the mentality of most of the people in Pakistan. Most of the Pakistani intelligentsia thinks the same when it comes to Afghanistan.
This narrative has been pierced in their minds by the State apparatus through the media and fake propaganda. It is hypocritical because they choose something for Afghanistan which they do not choose for themselves.
For example, they support militants in Afghanistan, but do not want them over here in Pakistan. This will (eventually) bite them back and Pakistan will have to face the consequences.
Why does the Pakistan ruling establishment see Taliban rule in Afghanistan as an asset? What benefit do the Taliban bring to Pakistan as a country because any civilised country would know that Taliban rule in the neighbourhood is a liability and means an uncertain future?
Initially, the Pakistani establishment wanted to demolish the Afghan identity because Pashtuns in Pakistan associate themselves with the Pashtuns of Afghanistan.
We (Pakistani Pashtuns) write Afghan in our domicile certificate, land records and other such things. So instead of making Pashtuns/Afghans friends, they are trying to demolish their Afghan identity by trying to overcome it throughreligion.
Even if someone is a Muslim, nobody can forget (their ethnic identity).
You wrote an article in The Diplomat stating that there were as many as 15 targeted attacks in South Waziristan by the Tehreek-i-Taliban after the Taliban took over power in Afghanistan.
Do you feel the Tehreek-i-Taliban aims to capture Pakistan just like the Taliban captured Afghanistan?
The TTP’s stakes have increased after the takeover of Kabul by the Taliban. They have claimed that they will capture initially the merged district FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Area) and liberate it from Pakistan.
It now depends on how the Pakistani security forces counters them because this time they (TTP) are coming with more strength and more ideological confidence.
There is nobody to back the Pakistani security apparatus the way it was in the past. Whatever they have to do, they will have to do on their own.
This makes it a very complex situation. Nobody knows what will happen and what the TTP can achieve in the future.
When there is direct and friendly relations between the Tehreek-i-Taliban and the Taliban government, why does your government not see it as an imminent danger to Pakistan’s stability?
We have been seeing the TTP and the Afghan Taliban as the same thing. Nobody (in power) accepted this reality.
The Pakistan military and Pakistani establishment were under the illusion that they are our strategic assets in order to get strategic depth in Afghanistan.
We thought we were using them as tools and I have written about it, that in the process of getting strategic depth in Afghanistan we have given strategic depth to the Taliban in Pakistan.
By conquering Afghanistan, what kind of morale boost has it given to jihadi elements in Pakistan? Do the jihadis believe they can bring sharia law in Pakistan too?
The Taliban victory in Afghanistan has given very high morale to jihadi elements across Pakistan. They feel victorious and have now got immense strength.
They now believe they have defeated the entire world.
They believe they have defeated a superpower and feel they can defeat America and its NATO allies, which is a problem for Pakistan and the entire region.
They have gained confidence after what happened in Afghanistan.
In India, one of the major concerns is whether the Taliban will espouse the cause of Jammu and Kashmir and cause instability in our country.
I don’t think Kashmir will be any issue for the Taliban. They have never been involved in the Kashmir issue. Kashmir will not be a priority for the Taliban. Their own mess will be enough for them, They will not get involved in this dispute as they never were involved earlier too.
What is the mood among the common citizens of Pakistan after the Taliban took over Afghanistan?
There is a big polarisation in Pakistan (on this issue). Mainstream Pakistan, which is mostly Punjab and areas which are very much influenced through the State narrative and State media, are very happy.
All the Pashtuns and Balochs are extremely sad with the fall of Kabul to the Taliban because we share our grief with them. We have very strong relations as the same families live here (in Pakistan) and there in Afghanistan.
Definitely, when a militant organisation takes over a country where our friends live and extended families live, where the same nation lives, it will make Pashtuns and Balochs upset.
The rest of mainstream Pakistanis are happy (though).
There was a social media hashtag #Pakistanissafe that was supported by many Pakistanis after the New Zealand and England cricket teams refused to play cricket in Pakistan. Globally, people feel Pakistan will soon become a dangerous place to live in. Don’t Pakistanis realise this?
Pakistan has never pragmatically thought about the international perception about their image. Whatever comes in the minds of the Pakistani generals and Pakistan military, they just go for it. They do not care about the consequences for their country or the consequences to the people of Pakistan.
Pakistan is getting isolated internationally. It was a very big blow when the New Zealand cricket team refused to play cricket here. This impacts Pakistan’s economy and not cricket alone. It impacts everything that comes under the State.