So now when Islamabad found itself under U.S.
pressure to abandon Taliban and help in the demolition of their
government in Afghanistan, it had to think real hard before
agreeing to anything of the kind. Taliban were not strangers.
They were Pakistanis – Pushtoon tribals, ISI operatives, retired
and active military personnel and experts in guerrilla warfare.
Abandoning Taliban was like abandoning an arm of its military at
the mercy of outsiders. Pakistan could not do it. So it did what
was most appropriate. Islamabad asked the Taliban to disappear
in order to reappear when the danger has passed.
The history of Afghanistan shows that there is a
possibility that the moment U.S. troops will leave Afghanistan,
the country will be back in the hands of the Taliban. Local
population fears this too. Pakistan also knows that without the
Taliban its dream to ever aligning with the Central Asian
Islamic Republic will never materialize.
There was another reason for Pakistan to keep the
religious militia in tact: it remained suspicious of the
direction Karzai government was going to take as it was mainly
dependent on Northern Alliance who were historically been
pro-India. Islamabad was determined to destroy it if it ever
tried to go in the direction of Delhi. And now that there is
evidence of Karzai moving more and more in Delhi’s direction,
Islamabad feels the need to unleash its jihadis who not only
hate the “crusaders” but also want to eliminate the idol
worshippers – India.
There is evidence that Pakistan never abandoned
Taliban. Its military and intelligence assistance remained at
their disposal and enabled their leadership to continue helping
Al-Qaeda leaders to avoid capture by the coalition forces.
Strategists see a definite logic in Pakistan’s double game. A
force like Taliban is not created everyday. It takes a lot of
time, money and expertise to raise such a motivated and
committed armed wing that remains loyal to the state without
being a formal part of the state. Pakistan could not afford to
undo this miraculous achievement.
The fact that has not been reported so far is the
role of People’s Republic of China in all this. When Pakistan
decided to side with the U.S. it did it with Beijing’s blessing.
Beijing had a lot at stake. Everything that Beijing had been
working on is now threatened. Its plan to reach the Arabian Sea
and the Persian Gulf via Pakistan by investing in the
construction of the Karakoram Highway, the highest paved
international road in the world, through an impassable terrain
of Karakoram mountain range and the development of the deep sea
port at Gawadar in the Baluchistan province of Pakistan seems to
be in jeopardy.
Both Pakistan and China have their reasons not to
trust Washington. In Pakistan’s case, the list is very long. The
hurt, anger and a desire to settle account with the U.S. goes
deep and wide in Pakistan. There is a wide spread belief that
the U.S. has always used Pakistan. From the U2 incident, to the
defense pacts of CENTO and SEATO to 1965 war with India and the
breakup of the country in 1971, Pakistanis have found themselves
betrayed by the U.S. in each and every case. They are not ready
to allow themselves to be used again.
Then there is this question of the national
identity - Islam. Pakistan establishment believes that only
Islam can keep the country united. Secularism, according to
these quarters will only encourage the secessionist tendencies
which are already very powerful in the country. Pakistan being
an artificial nation and an unnatural country cannot remain
intact on its own. It needs some kind of a coercive force like
religion to keep its contradicting and conflicting elements
together. Three of the four provinces of Pakistan have always
complained of being treated like colonies by the largest and the
most populated province of Punjab. The latest uprising in
Baluchistan that resulted in the murder of a charismatic and
popular tribal chief and the leader of a resistance movement has
further underlined the artificiality of the state.
Every Pakistan believes that being a Muslim
nation, it is also a target of the U.S. war on Islamist terror.
They are convinced that sooner than later they will have to face
the “crusader” just like Iraq, Syria and Iran. The radical
Islamic parties in the country who have a very significant
influence within the armed forces insist that Pakistan must
never disarm itself. That’s why President General Pervez
Musharraf used his present visit to the U.S. to repeat his
assertion that Pakistan was forced to join the coalition.
Karzai’s government’s definite anti-Pakistan
tone, Washington’s pro-India policies underlining the perception
that the real alliance in the region is between the U.S. and
India has also prompted Pakistan to assert its independence a
little more aggressively. Continuing demands from the coalition
that Pakistan has to do more in the war on terror and the other
developments regarding the terrorist activities implicating
Pakistan have re-enforced the impression in Pakistan that the
U.S. is preparing the ground to attack Pakistan as soon as it
feels that Pakistan is not needed. Pakistan wants to keep all
its options open. General Musharraf wants to convince the Jihadi
establishment that he in the final analysis remains loyal to his
original passion – jihad in Afghanistan and Kashmir.
Being a non-state entity Taliban are performing
great deeds for Islamabad. Certain of a pro-Indian tilt in
Karzai government policies, Pakistan have given a tacit approval
for the resumption of their terrorist operations against Kabul.
Islamabad is certain that an Afghanistan that is under U.S.
control will one day be used against it therefore it must never
be allowed to feel stable enough to act independently. The
policy makers in Islamabad are also sure that once free of
Islamist pressure, the U.S. will use India to keep Pakistan in a
permanent state of subservience.
Pakistan needs the Taliban now more than ever.
Taliban will make sure that Islamabad remains relevant for any
one who wants to deal with either Afghanistan or Central Asian