“What Afghanistan would lose to Persia in the west, it would gain in the east, as Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier tribes would be reunited with their Afghan brethren (the point of this exercise is not to draw maps as we would like them but as local populations would prefer them). Pakistan, another unnatural state, would also lose its Baluch territory to Free Baluchistan. The remaining “natural” Pakistan would lie entirely east of the Indus, except for a westward spur near Karachi”. (RALPH PETERS)
This quote of Ralph Peters seemed ridiculous and wild day-dreaming when it first appeared in the Armed Forces Journal, back in 2006. But, when we look at the rapidly changing political and geo-strategic scenario in Pakistan and Afghanistan, today in 2010, it seems a prophetic vision of a Political Scientist. Many questions are boiling in one mind. Is Afghan Taliban insurgency turning into a Pashtun nationalist resistance? But how? This is a million dollars question to be answered by political and military analysts.
The recent statements of Mullah Mohammed Umar, the spiritual leader of Taliban, appearing in the selected press in Pakistan and Afghanistan, lead one to believe that the man has decided to part ways with Al-Qaeda. The tone of the message and suggestions presented appears to be a turning point in the core ideology of Taliban which will determine its future course of action. Mullah Umar has offered an olive branch, though not openly to the USA and Allied Forces. He expressed his desire to establish relationship both with Muslims and Europeans. He also expressed his commitment for respect for Human Rights particularly the rights of Women and their education. He clearly mentioned that the important posts and ministries will not be given on religious ground rather on competence and capability in future set-up, if they are allowed to participate in. Though political observers have a lot of doubts, but the way, the US is using its sticks & carrot strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it does not seem impossible.
Even, a recent interview by Gulbadin Hikmatyar is also indicative of the change in the approach of former Mujahedeen Commander, an important player in the Afghan game. But, these Taliban and Mujahedin commanders should not be considered seriously until or unless they openly renounce terrorism and extremism.
To understand, the currents trends, we have to analyze the important events that are shaping Afghan political and military land-scape for some time.
Americans have developed a strong Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP), which is becoming stronger and stronger with every passing day. The Afghan Army is dominated by Tajiks, but Pashtuns are also not negligible.
Second, Afghan Police is locally recruited. It is also establishing itself as a strong force to be reckoned with as it is rapidly becoming the eyes and ears of the government. Local policemen know about the terrain completely and it is becoming difficult for Taliban to find safe heavens and to hide themselves in civilians areas to launch attacks either against foreign forces or terrorize local people.
Another important development is the establishment of local Lashkars (local armies consisted of Pashtuns) to fight against Taliban and other extremist groups. These Lashkars commanded by ordinary citizens are fighting against Taliban, dis-credited warlords and former Mujahedeen commanders. Later, these Lashkars can easily be absorbed into the main police or Army structures at a convenient time.
The recent discovery of the mineral resources in Afghanistan also gives a hope for the people and they know it well that only through co-operation not through war they can exploit these resources and develop badly-needed infra-structures for economic and social development. Through co-operation and peace with western forces they can get the much needed foreign investment for the exploitation of the these natural resources.
New York Times, report that these huge reserves of lithium, iron, gold, niobium, cobalt and other minerals worth trillions of dollars could transform Afghanistan into a global mining hub. There is ever-growing demand for lithium, which is used to make batteries for everything from mobile phones and cameras to iPads and laptops. Future growth in electric and hybrid cars could create still more demand. Afghanistan has so much of the metal that it could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” according to an internal Pentagon memo quoted by the New York Times.
China Metallurgical Group has won a $3.5 billion contract to develop Afghanistan’s Aynak copper field, the largest foreign direct investment project in the history of Afghanistan. By some estimates, the 28-square-kilometer copper field in Logar Province could contain up to $88 billion worth of ore. This chines investment in mine sector is very important and more investment is till to come. Similarly, infrastructure development projects are underway by Chines, Europeans, Indians and Americans firms. Afghanistan can become a viable state now, as it can afford to pay for its government, army and police without being dependent on foreign aid or drug trade.
With arrival of this huge wealth the menace of drug production and trafficking can also be effectively tackled now. Drug trade has been a biggest source of instability in Afghanistan. As drug producers, traders and traffickers were always creating instability in Afghanistan to keep it as a safe-heaven for drug production and trafficking. Most important of all, Afghanistan is slowly and gradually experimenting democracy. Already, two Parliamentary and two Presidential elections have been held. They were not exemplary but Afghans are moving in right direction with a clear vision of future which will mature with the passage of time and will lead towards a democratic and stable state in the years to come.
Despite the fact that these statements and important developments on the ground are new, but the strategy and plans for these developments are not new. The major force behind all this seems to be USA. Rather, these are well thought-out and carefully planned strategies devised by military, political scientists, social experts and think tanks of America, which are the real movers & shakers of the political, social, economic and military events in Afghanistan.
While, we see a stable Afghanistan emerging on one side, on the other side of the Durand line an unstable and terror-torn chaotic Pakistan is in sight.
Extremists elements, having almost lost their ideological battle in Afghanistan. Unable to come- to-term with new reality, they are entering Pakistan, where they are meeting like-minded religious fanatics, welcomed by a state (Pakistan) sponsoring ideology of hate and killing:, providing them safe heavens, finances and training.
Already weakened by terrorism, corruption, un-employment, economic mismanagement and political instability, Pakistan is an ideal location for the terrorists and Taliban to take refuge in. On economic front, the Finance Minister of Pakistan has recently told media that government will not be able to pay the salaries of the government servants in the next two month. The cheques handed over to government contractors are not paid by the banks.
Recent floods have completely handicapped the government of Yousof Raza Gilani as most of the infra-structure in three provinces of Pakistan is damaged. Besides, due to Army interference in Political affairs and continued black-mailing of the government has rendered the state of Pakistan politically unstable and direction less. If military ventured into derailing the present democratic set up, with the exit of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), one of the biggest political Party of Pakistan which is considered the binding force of the federation of Pakistan will plunge Pakistan into complete chaos and disarray. The last straw in the revolution, which will make it easy to divide Pakistan on Ethnic lines. It is not known, whether Pashtun leadership is prepared for the future course of action or not? But, soon very important developments are about to take place which can cause the probable break-up of Pakistan on ethnic-lines. Anticipation and preparation by Pashtuns in advance will minimize the material and human loss to the Pashtun Populations living in areas like Karachi, Quetta and Islamabad. Of course, Pashtuns will face problems in Karachi and Quetta, but with active diplomacy by Americans, these problems can be resolved as they have strong influence on Baluchs in Baluchistan and Urdu speaking Muhajirs in Karachi.
The operations conducted by Pakistan Military have failed completely despite the fact they seemed successful in the beginning. The recent wave of suicide and controlled attacks by Taliban in the three provinces of Pakistan have shown that they are still strong and they can attack any target anywhere in Pakistan with impunity. The weak and demoralized army is fighting a Nationalist Movement in Baluchistan Province on one hand and Taliban on the other hand in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. After a little bit stability and peace in Afghanistan, the Afghan Nationalists will start supporting their brothers in Pakistan, which will turn this Taliban resistance into PASHTUN NATIONALIST MOVEMENT.
On the other hand ordinary secular-minded Pashtuns have established local Lashkars, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, supported by USA. These lashkars are fighting against Taliban for the moment. Awami National Party (ANP), a secular face of Pashtuns, can play a leading role in the future of Pashtun Nationalism, which is already rendering great sacrifices in its fight against Taliban and other extremists elements. But, disappointed and enraged by the atrocities and the state-sponsored-terrorism of the present Military Establishment, dominated by Punjabis, which is killing more civilians than Taliban, they (Lashkars) may turn antagonists rather than allies with the Army and the state of Pakistan.
While the reducing influence of Taliban may turn them into Pashtun Nationalism, the same Taliban with active political and financial assistance from America will shake hands with the Pashtun Nationalists in Pakistan, which will be the first step towards the creation of Greater Pakhtunistan. It is really a tricky question as to how the Taliban extremists will convert into Pashtun secular Nationalists, but the inherent resilience and flexibility of Pashtuns in tough times will give this option a chance. However, the developments on the ground have to be followed with extreme care by the international Community.
It is to be noted here that Taliban extremists and Pashtun Nationalists both consider themselves to be betrayed by Pakistan Army, particularly the ISI. Gulbadin Hikmatyar and other former Mujahedeen commanders have already lost their trust in Pakistan. Hikmatyar in his recent interview with Salim Safi, at a GEO TV program JIRGA on September 13, 2010, has supported all those Taliban who are attacking foreign targets in Pakistan and termed Pakistan a lesser evil. Pakistan ditched him, to support Taliban in Afghanistan. It shows that the former Mujahedin commanders do not consider Pakistan to be a Sacred Cow. On the contrary, he offered Guarantees of peace to US and NATO forces, if they withdraw from Afghanistan. It seems likely that Hikmatyar will play an important role in the future political dispensation of Afghanistan. Other Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara leaders have already distanced themselves from Pakistani authorities, due to its blind support for Taliban before September 11, 2001. Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, a founder of the Taliban in 1994 and former ambassador to Pakistan, in his book named “My Life with the Taliban”, has criticized Pakistani authorities as betraying him, by capturing and handing over to Americans, despite his diplomatic immunity as an Ambassador
The arrests of Abdul Salam, the Taliban’s leader in Kunduz, and Mullah Mir Mohammed of Baghlan in Akora Khattack, the capture of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s military commander and the deputy to Mullah Muhammad Omar and some other top Taliban commanders in Karachi have dismayed Taliban. Taliban feel betrayed by the double-timing of Pakistani Military and they can join the resistance movement of Pashtun Nationalists in Pakistan in the near future, fighting for carving out a purely Pashtun Secular State consisted of Pashtun dominated areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. This state of Pashtun can only be a guarantee of peace and stability in this region. Could the political and security analysts, think in their wildest dreams that this nationalism which appears to be taking shape in Afghanistan and Pashtun dominated areas of Pakistan, is directed not against Americans but Pakistan?
While in trance of Pashtun Nationalism, Pashtuns will not have more interest in Northern Afghanistan, so the Tajik dominated Afghan Army will easily take control of Northern Afghanistan making a new Tajik state. The presence of American bases both in Greater Pakhtunistan and Northern Tajik state will provide stability in the region
Until and unless, a state for Pashtuns is created, where they can live according to their traditions and customs, we cannot see a stable south Asia, central Asia and Middle East. American should keep in mind and think over it, as without peaceful and tamed Pashtuns, one cannot think of peace and stability in this region which is a big hindrance in developing link with central Asian mineral rich states, and transferring these minerals through Afghanistan via Gavadar sea Port of the future State of Baluchistan or the future Hong Kong (Karachi) to the countries of the world and vice versa.
Pakistan has become so weak that it has virtually handed over the de facto control of Gilgit & Baltistan to CLA. The construction of permanent military barracks by Chinese Army in GB, shows the real future intentions of China. Selig Harrison, an American expert on Asia, in his article published in New York Times, has termed it a dangerous development which will have negative implications for American interests in the region. Soon, Pakistan is going to hand-over the control of Gawadar to China, to counter American-supported Baloch Liberation Movement. The volcanic situation in Pakistan is best summarized by Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal in his article, appearing in the The News of September 24, 2010, which says, “One cannot think of any reason other than Pakistan and Iran to be the cause of prolonged American presence in Afghanistan. Pakistan is being dismembered chip by chip; in fact, it will not be wrong to say that Pakistan is now like a volcano already simmering. It will take very little for the lava to gush out, taking with its volcanic fury the entire country: from the ethnic violence to sectarian feuds and from the economic meltdown to random violence, all scenarios for the last and final fury are looming on the horizon”.
The phenomenon of double timing will continue between Pakistan and American, as Pakistani Military still consider some Taliban like the Haqqani Network to be a strategic Asset and will continue to bleed American and NATO forces in Afghanistan. But, Americans will also not sit idle and they are not sitting idle by actively supporting the TTP to weaken Pakistan to bring it to term with the new realities of the fast changing world. Or worst, to balkanize it in the near future. The religious motivated war is rapidly changing into Nationalist freedom struggle of Pashtuns who are fighting for their true identity, free from extremism and terrorism based on the centuries old traditions of Pakhtunwali. And the new reality is written on the wall for Pakistan, as the very Army which is suppose to defend the borders of Pakistan is putting colors into the Map of Ralph Peter s Blood Borders to realize the dream of dismantling the unjust and un-natural borders and create new states which will be better for the International peace and security.