I saw theses on some Instagram political meme pages (don’t ask, Herald and Newsline aren’t around and this is how satire gets passed around once the world and the economy make magazines un-viable) and I was left with some questions.
My query was:
Are Hindu nationalists jealous of the Taliban’s success?
How do they really feel about the Taliban taking over Afghanistan?
The world is surprised, and now even memeing, about the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan. In Pakistan, the outside country most responsible for this (unless you count America and the stupidity of its occupation strategies as the most responsible) there have been broadly three camps on this. The majority feeling was one of awkwardness, trepidation and a calling of the equivalent of councils of war. In the Army Chief’s staff rooms, in the Prime Minister’s and Chief Ministers and political party heads’ secretariats and across media stations in Pakistan, the national security and Afghanistan experts were on display and they were giving their council to their respective audiences on what was happening with the fall of Kabul and what it meant.
A smaller minority was one that was sometimes part of this but also openly condemning the takeover of the Taliban. Honourable mention should go to the Women’s Democratic Front for openly condemning the takeover of Afghanistan and various branches of Pakistan’s new-on-the-scene Aurat March (Women’s March) parroted their view. Frankly, I am very happy for the Aurat Marchers to get an explicit foreign policy – that would be cool. The PPP, as far as I can tell did not explicitly condemn the Taliban takeover in Kabul and as far as I know, no Pashtun nationalist formation did either, although if the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement did, I am waiting for their views.
Lastly, I have to mention the Taliban supporters. From heads of religious groups, to Taliban and ’80’s Afghan Mujahideen fanboys in the Pakistani media, this was, I feel, an even smaller group, restricted by age, that was openly hailing the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban. It really was/is a sight to behold to see men in the media, of or beyond retirement age, hailing the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban – a sick joke. My guess is younger fans of the Taliban were either intelligently hiding, or more likely taking part in either jihadi ops or doing propaganda or harassment for the Taliban. So the pro-Taliban crowd inside Pakistan might be quieter than its portrayed – a bit like Italy after it switched ides in WWII to join the Allies against Germany.
But that’s Pakistan. What about India? This is one time BP commenters are welcome. Sound off and tell us what the Indians thought about the Taliban, what were the camps inside the country and how large they are.
Postcript — The Pakistan government and establishment’s view:
The official Pakistan government view, of the foreign ministry, the part allegedly controlled by Imran Khan says that they will not stick their neck out as an individual country and will only recognise Taliban control of Afghanistan if a group of countries, likely Russia, China and Iran, all simultaneously recognise the Taliban’s control of Kabul. I used the word alleged, because the foreign ministry takes its marching orders from the Pakistan Army’s General Hear Quarters, Imran Khan is fine with that, and so the foreign ministry’s views are the Army and establishment’s views.
This blog was previously published on 28 November 2019 and is being re-published, like many recovered blogposts, over here.
There has been a crisis of governance in Pakistan over the last few days as the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) controlled government of Prime Minister Imran Khan has abandoned all its governance reponsibilities to try and get General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) an extension of three more years.
Now he is about to begin a period as Army Chief, beyond his entitlement. Unlike calling for his firing, like I did the last time a COAS got an extension, I will take a more measured approach to what should be done here. Let’s look at the era that General Bajwa inhabited as the leader of Pakistan’s 550,000 man army.
Since General Bajwa came to power in late November 2016, (coincidentially, after Donald Trump secured a victory in the 2016 US elections, distracting the US from political developments across the world) he has presided over, in the words of former columnist Cyril Almeida, “the greatest rollback of civil liberties, political rights and media freedom in a generation.” Continue reading General Bajwa, please retire
I started yesterday with a news article about how US intelligence said that the Taliban could take Kabul in 90 days. After the previous week had been filled with over half a dozen Afghan provincial capitals falling, it became clear that the Taliban were deploying all their strength across the country to capture as much territory and control as they could before US forces pulled out before the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks.
While the news of those northern cities falling had been bad, and it was felt that the Taliban were likely trying to prevent a replay of the 1990’s Afghan civil war when the north fought them for five years, 12th August got progressively grim. It started to seem that the Taliban were not just going to put a knife to the Afghan government’s throat (and northern escape routes) by taking Tajik and Uzbek cities, but rather box Kabul in. This became clear when not just small towns but larger Afghan cities were put on the chopping block by the Taliban’s offensive. There is a wave of anti-Shia mobilisation across the region and I suspect that it also might have something to do with the expanded, multi-ethnic Taliban mobilisation in the north of Afghanistan. As these provinces border the ex-Soviet Central Asian states, and ISIS school-shooter sectarianism has had salience in many places where Muslims were previously considered un-radicalised or nominally secular, I suspect Taliban lines might not be a bad place for Central Asian, Afghan or even Pakistani potential ISIS recruits to flee.
As news of more fighting came in, the reports of Herat and Kandahar in the north-west and south of the country respectively, being surrounded and attacked threw whatever strategic calculus the great powers thought they had in Afghanistan, into the bin.
The updates from panicked civilians about the Taliban attacks killed whatever illusions about America having a semi-peaceful withdrawal from Afghanistan, or Pakistan smoothly sliding a re-furbished Taliban into power in Kabul, might have been harboured by the countries that have sponsored destructive wars in that nation since the eighties. The distressed calls, postings, video reports of Afghan citizens, especially educated women trapped in these cities, came flooding out. No one was crying but everyone was deadly serious.
Simultaneously, clips of refugees flooding out of captured cities, camps of the displaced going up in Kabul and where the government stood were broadcast. Among the wretched sights was the Afghan military vehicles zooming out of cities and from among people they were supposed to defend were broadcast as afternoon turned to evening, and then night fell.
The west, south and north of Afghanistan are out of that government’s hand. Kabul is boxed in. If you look at the map above, it’s sitting in the open jaws of Taliban controlled territory.
The BBC generally has the best maps, and frankly the best and most accurate, un-sentimental coverage on the rout in Afghanistan of the Kabul government. Hey, I guess after four disastrous wars into a country, they end up knowing their stuff. The second best coverage is by Al Jazeera, which also sobered up once it stopped sourcing its maps from neo-conservative American outfits, and ditched a sort of mawkish patronising tone for the Afghans.
As for America’s intelligence reports, which we started Thursday with – they have achieved the typical notoriety of stupidity that American intelligence reports are known for. By nightfall, the American bureaucrats had, in typical CYA fashion, re-assessed their estimate down to 30 days. That feels optimistic.
Yup. The business groups have already started removing equipment and personnel.
As reports come in of Afghan business interests trying to wrap up and send their equipment, personnel and capital out of the country, and the various state and private banks withdrawing funds to forward abroad, it becomes clear that the Kabul government, especially the career of one President Ashraf Ghani, is very over. At least at the prospect of anything beyond 2021.
30 days. According to a close friend with extensive links in Afghan govt. Apparently they are all set.
What happens to the rest of the Kabul government is anyone’s guess. I don’t know if the Taliban have much to worry about “holding” their territory if part of their offensive was contacting Afghan defence forces commanders and asking them to stop fighting/withdraw or switch sides. A government counter-offensive seems highly unlikely, especially with the hollow, broken Afghan Army that has been described by Major Amin. If the Taliban went in for the kill against the government, then they would win and also be saddled with a lot of prisoners, many extremely high value ones as well as seas of refugees and an isolated country. I suspect they might be willing to live with that. You can visit the link below to see Pashtana Durrani describe the consequences of the Taliban taking over her city.
“This means losing your houses, your dreams, your goals, your ambition… everything.”
Pashtana Durrani, executive director of an NGO for girls' education speaks to @krishgm from Kandahar in Afghanistan, a city under siege by the Taliban. pic.twitter.com/j6qUPzDkP3
I’m going to link to the Dawn article, because let’s face it, nobody except state apparatuses are now reporting on Balochistan, because all independent media worth mentioning has been forced out by violence and intimidation. The Balochistan model of political control is being rolled out across Pakistan with varying degrees of political success.
I don’t know what I can say about the Waziristan attacks, besides maybe the state of Pakistan should stop using the former FATA districts as a launching ground for attacks into Afghanistan. That sort of observation feels redundant, but one would imagine that the milieu that feeds extremists and makes it easier for them to thrive there might also succour anti-state extremists.
What I can say about the Balochistan attacks besides that I think enough is enough with using the Frontier Corps (FC) for internal security. Up-arm and up-armour the Balochistan police and send them after the insurgents. That can be done if we give the Baloch people a stake in their future by creating as many jobs as there are households in Balochistan. The number of non-secessionist Baloch probably outnumbers the number of secessionists. However, their interest in breaking away would be neither here nor there if there were serious economic reasons for them to remain tied to Pakistan and the state did not predate on their resources. If Balochistan was treated as a normal province rather than a colony, enough residents would take care of the violent secessionists on their own. I think this insurgency, and over-extended internal security mission in Balochistan has gone on long enough. This is supposed to be the Fifth Baloch insurgency, and I’m not even sure if we are in the fifth or sixth phase of this Fifth Baloch insurgency.
I’m gonna have to lean on NFP’s views on how these conflicts in these socially marginal districts are now being fed and politicised by the larger mainstream, ultra-nationalistic polarisation.
Ayesha Siddiqa covered the sudden rise of anti-Shia extremism in Pakistan, in a recent article. In it she gave a short history on the provenance of anti-Shia, Sunni extremism in the country that’s worth reading:
Though the first instance of Sunni-Shia tension erupted around 1951 in Sindh, it built up more decisively during the 1980s. General Zia-ul-Haq’s regime looked away while the Anjuman-e-Sipah-e-Sahaba (ASS) took birth in Jhang, South Punjab in 1986. It later turned into the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) that became the mothership of all Deobandi militancy. It gave birth to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) during the early 1990s, and also the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Harkat-ul-Ansar, and later Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).
During counter-terrorism operations by Pakistan, segments from the SSP, LeJ and JeM went into making the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Some members of this even went on to join Daesh. The SSP was also one of the first organisations to fight in Afghanistan. Besides militancy, the organisation also engaged in politics. Its leader, Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, initially contested elections in 1988 from a Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam–Fazlur Rehman (JUI-F) ticket, and later formed his own party. Around the time Haq was killed in 1990 outside Islamabad, Pakistan saw a lot of bloodshed, including sectarian violence, through the decade of the 1980s, 1990s, and the 2000s. Like the evolution of its militant wings, the SSP’s political face also evolved. One of its current forms is the group Ahle Sunnat-Wal-Jamaat (ASWJ), which is visible in electoral politics. The SSP and other militant groups are part of the Deobandi network that comprises militant outfits, political groups, and welfare institutions.
The network is so well spread out in the largest province of Punjab that there are over 20,000 staunch Deobandi voters in every constituency, which makes the group important for all political parties and builds their influence. The JUI-F, headed by Maulana Fazlur Rehman, is one of the most prominent faces of the network. It is instrumental in partnering with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and spreading the influence of Rehman’s network in Sindh and Baluchistan.
I think that’s a good enough bite-size history by Dr Siddiqa on the rise of sectarian extremism in Pakistan.
Below is an election poster of anti-Shia candidates, with my opinion on them.
It is an absolute Goddamn pleasure and honour to have been invited to be here as a writer and opinion-ator at BrownPundits.com!
As you may have seen my tweets, I have been commenting in-depth about my native Pakistan for a decade now. I’m from the city by the sea, Karachi, and I am a happy partisan for that over-grown beach-hole. I’m not a big genetics or phrenology fan. However, I love talking politics, I love talking some culture, I love history, and I enjoy getting the chance to write.
But let’s not make this intro long-winded. Snappy posts are fine, but some effort later at longer posts, will come later.
For now, here’s where the catch-phrase my title is based on is from. Do read what I write; you’ll always learn something worth knowing 😉