16 Dec 2014 has revived the pain felt almost four decades back; however, the
magnitude is astonishing. 140 boys have been slain at a college in Peshawar
with the entire world joining hands in disbelief and condemnation. It's not
only a massacre, but a new dawn of barbarianism that we in 21st
century thought to have left far behind in the name of civilization, humanity
and internationalism. Yet, it seems that not only we were wrong in assessment
but away from reality or to say it right "realpolitik". I will not limit this
piece to what happened on that dreadful day or who fired those bullets, but
will go down to the events which if not completely but surely contributed to
the mayhem world witnessed in Peshawar.
The world got united over a decade back against barbarianism/ radicalism as we see today of what we know commonly refer to as 9/11, 2001. The twin towers at New York were brought to the ground by two suicidal flights, which ended the life of over 3000 ordinary US citizens. To counter this threat, which was rightly perceived as global and referred to as violent extremism of faith, the Global War on Terror was initiated against Afghanistan, which was ruled by Taliban on orthodox terms and also shared by OBL lead Al Qaeda, which was traced as the perpetrator for the attacks. The whole coalition, refer to as ISAF, descended on Afghanistan, spearheaded by US B series bombers while on ground, former Northern Alliance and warlords like Gen Rashid Dostum led from the front against Taliban.
What happened remains history as the overwhelming
global force routed Taliban and Al Qaeda from Kabul and established a new
framework for Afghanistan led by former President Hamid Karzai. As I have
decided to skip the events leading up to the retreat of Taliban from Kabul, don't
be misled that all norms of warfare and violent engagement of 21st
century were excised by the advancing ground forces. The accounts go deeper
and darker of how entire prisons filled with captured Taliban fighters were
wiped out, and much more. The balance of power swiftly turned to the minorities
in Afghanistan at the center, with Pashtun's being the largest formation in
Taliban ranks cornered in every role. From here we can trace the fault line
which we know term as "Double Game" of Afghanistan, the much debated and
reported across the globe.
Another theory associated with Pakistan's romance with Afghanistan is the "Strategic Depth". It will be hard to even define the versions of this terminology used during various time frames and associated to Pakistan. But being a layman, I will also squeeze it to its minimal manner and meaning. The doctrine is more obvious if we rename it to "backdoor dilemma" of Pakistan in Afghanistan. In short, with its border line running parallel to Afghanistan and Kabul has been and remains a direct concern for Pakistan unlike many new comers in post 9/11 scenario. So a stable or let's say friendly Kabul relieves Pakistan of its concern from Western border in place of its traditional tension/conflict of Eastern frontier. The historical graph reflects great turbulence between Islamabad and Kabul; however under Taliban (1995-2001) this graph remained steady and stable.
The new occupants of Kabul were quick enough to give Islamabad its gravest fear by validating its "backdoor-dilemma" equation. This arrangement under Americans carefully accommodated the previous adversaries from Afghanistan to steering role while at the same time invited the traditional opponent (India) into a proactive role in Afghanistan after a long time. While this unfolded under new arrangement, it is worth elaborating that it was Pakistan military and intelligence that opened the gates for the coalition on Taliban and Al Qaeda, owing to its inroads into Afghanistan and its dynamics.
What it meant for Islamabad is no different than what J.F.Kennedy faced during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis to say the least. US even had no direct border with Castro Cuba; however, placement of Soviet missiles in the backyard (replace it by US backdoor dilemma) was enough for him to not only take US-USSR but the entire globe to a nuclear shootout that thankfully was averted, else neither I would have been here to share my thoughts nor have you been so generous enough to devote your time. With new arrangement turning claws toward Pakistan, one always revert to old friends for support and, to say it in a crude sense, bargain. So that's how Pakistan soft corner for Taliban (Afghanistan) reemerged. This soft corner is in no way the same that we witnessed during 1980-90 from CIA and allies (including Pakistan), which fought hand in hand with Jehadis against Soviets in Afghanistan. Taliban had always retained and still does the maximum share and influence in Afghanistan away from the Green Zone of Kabul. For Pakistan, it meant that the war in Afghanistan will not be fought in its own territory against its own tribal population with centuries-old ties with Pashtun of Afghanistan, who felt betrayed by invaders which empowered their opponents in Kabul. This reluctance is reflected with US and coalition taking matters in its own hand through drones initially, and later through blind eye over Taliban (Pakistan chapter), which started emerging in 2005-6. The spoilers joined the ranks owing to their newly invested billion-dollar investments into Afghanistan and many actors changed hands including Baitullah Mehsud, Wali ur Rehman and for now Maulana Fazalullah, the man behind the school massacre in Peshawar while on this side Haqqani's have lead from the front.
So how to explain this game of shadows that we have witnessed in the preceding paragraph. The "Security Dilemma" for Pakistan created at Kabul has reciprocated itself with the same for Kabul from a strong and unified Islamabad unto its tribal areas. The government at Kabul even today lives in the fear of Taliban occupying most of the Afghan terrain, with Afghan forces a far cry from establishing Mr Ghani or Mr Abdullah Abdullah writ within its territory. Americans and the coalition has for long ceased its existence in Afghanistan with a mark presence and the last electoral result fiasco remains evident of this statement. The recent cordial exchanges between Kabul and Islamabad were seen as the catalyst for a bilateral resolution of each other apprehensions but it again seems clear that even if Kabul under present regime wants to rebuild, the spoilers in Afghanistan have more inroads and authority to derail any initiative in this direction.
So how to proceed, the way of ensuring a peaceful coexistence between Kabul and Islamabad and for the children across the border at school or in the street for years to come? Mr Ghani and Mr Abdullah will require a robust support, unbiased and transparent from coalition (led by US) and Pakistan to reinforce their authority, wipe out and expose the spoilers and make way for an inclusive Afghanistan with representation from all segments and ethnicity in a unified government. Taliban fighting Afghan regime will find themselves compelled toward the olive or put it this way the soft branch extended by the regime and this will bring them to the table of talk and if IRA replica model is imagined, towards a political role away from violence and resistance that we see today. This approach will in reality lead Kabul to close its territories for stakeholders (non-states and states) responsible for barbaric atrocities into Pakistan or any other country of the globe, including America.
Pakistan's response to this path is evident from the largest anti-terror operation launched by its forces "Zarb e Azb", whose effectiveness and transparency has been hailed by US military as well. There can be still some missing links to the response from Pakistan, but CBM from Kabul based on this line of action will see public and policy support from Pakistan against enemies of peace of Afghanistan and Pakistan alike to a level never seen before.
Remember, our actions of today will determine how our children will live there life on this planet, no matter how different it is in Kabul, Islamabad or Washington.