Taliban leadership understands our concerns: Pakistani PM

Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister, Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, has acknowledged that the Taliban leadership understands Pakistan’s security concerns, considering them genuine. Kakar emphasized that, although the current administration holds power, it lacks complete central control over Afghanistan’s territory. He highlighted the challenges faced by governments before the Taliban to establish such authority. He suggested that expecting the Taliban to achieve full control quickly is unrealistic.

Kakar also stressed that Afghan nationals are not perceived as a threat to Pakistan, with their distinct identity, territory, and culture being respected. Furthermore, he emphasized the importance of preventing Afghan soil from becoming a base for activities against neighboring countries. Kakar asserted that Pakistan’s laws do not contradict Islam and called for a robust response against “rebels,” expressing dissatisfaction with past negotiations involving Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Regarding Afghanistan’s political system, Kakar stated that the Afghan people should make the decision themselves, suggesting that international recognition of the Taliban regime depends on the global community’s decision. Contrary to claims by Pakistani officials, the Taliban leadership has previously denied Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s presence in Afghanistan, stating that Pakistan’s security issues are not its responsibility.

Overall, Kakar’s remarks reflect Pakistan’s stance on the evolving situation in Afghanistan and its efforts to safeguard its security interests in the region.

In 2023 alone, official records indicate that the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including Bajaur, has experienced over 300 attacks. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), commonly known as the Pakistan Taliban, has claimed the majority of those attacks. Established in 2007, the TTP shares ideological alignment with the Afghan Taliban but operates as a separate entity. Among its various objectives, the Pakistan Taliban advocates for stricter implementation of Islamic laws, the release of its detained members, and a reduction in the Pakistani military presence in certain areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. 

Brigadier Saad Muhammad, a former Pakistani military official with experience as a defense attaché in Afghanistan, noted that over 90 percent of recent attacks have been attributed to the TTP. He believed that the resumption of amicable ties between the two neighouring states was unforseen in the near future as the two nations were engaged in a blame game rather than finding a consensual solution to the problems.

The diplomatic relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan has not always been characterized by complete hostility, as is frequently assumed and described. In the 1950s, Afghanistan and Pakistan contemplated establishing a confederation, with President Iskandar Mirza of Pakistan and the Afghan Royal family tentatively supporting the idea. However, General Ayub Khan, upon assuming power, swiftly and recklessly derailed the project. It would take Ayub seven years to recognize the significance of Afghanistan as a neighboring country during the 1965 Indo-Pak War.

During the 1965 Indo-Pak War, Afghanistan officially maintained a stance of “neutrality,” yet it effectively supported Pakistan. Despite lingering issues such as Pashtunistan and the Durand Line, along with the desires of a few nationalist Afghans to open a second front against Pakistan, Afghanistan provided assurances of security along Pakistan’s western border. This enabled Pakistan to redeploy its troops from the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) and Balochistan, as well as along the Afghan border, to repel India’s incursions into Pakistani territory. 

Furthermore, Afghanistan did not discourage tribal Pashtuns from volunteering to join Pakistani forces in combat against India. This stance from Afghanistan pleasantly surprised Pakistani officials. During the war, President Ayub Khan met with the Afghan ambassador to Pakistan, Nur Ahmad Etemadi, and expressed appreciation for Afghanistan’s position. Subsequently, on January 1, 1966, at the invitation of Afghan King Zahir Shah, Ayub Khan visited Kabul personally to extend his gratitude. It was later reciprocated by the Afghan King acknowledging Pakistan’s stance on the Kashmir issue.

Similarly, during the 1971 Indo-Pak War, Afghanistan once again provided security assurances along Pakistan’s western border. Despite allowing Bengalis, who feared persecution in West Pakistan, to enter Afghanistan and return to Bangladesh via Iran and India, the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan remained peaceful and secure. Shortly after the war concluded, Pakistan’s new martial law administrator, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, personally flew to Kabul to express gratitude to Zahir Shah.

According to some reports, Bhutto’s demeanor reportedly reflected deep humility, to the extent that he found it difficult to meet the king’s gaze. The seemingly “neutral” but practically pro-Pakistan stance of the Afghan government in both Indo-Pak wars reflected the sentiments of the Afghan nation toward their fellow Muslim Pakistani brothers and sisters. During the 1965 War, an Afghan delegation visiting the Netherlands conveyed to the Pakistani ambassador, Qudrat Ullah Shahab, that even if the Afghan government had contemplated adopting an anti-Pakistan stance, the Afghan people would not have permitted it.

In January this year, Pakistan’s foreign minister reaffirmed the country’s continued engagement with Taliban leadership to strengthen support for various sectors of common interest. As long as the negotiations between the two states are open, the hope of an amicable neighborhood is alive.