Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Taliban Phenomenon - 26

Ahmed Quraishi wrote:

Zardari & Karzai: Democracy On The Back Of An American Tank By AHMED QURAISHI Tuesday, 9 September 2008.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—Party slogans pushing back the national anthem, Benazir Bhutto’s picture hung right next to that of the great Founding Father of the nation, and a smug-faced Hamid Karzai, Washington’s barking dog in Afghanistan, invited as a guest of honor.

Dear Ahmed Quraishi Sahab,

You must go through some recent history of Afghan War before posting a comment to misguide everyone, even the daily newspapers would do the needful to enhance your knowledge, I wonder what kind of reporting you did back in Kuwait?

President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) remarked in 1939 for a Latin American Dictator [American Backed] "Somoza may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch."

Former PPP Interior Minister. Major General Retd. Naseerullah Babar's Interview narrates the Recent Afghan Conflict 1974 - 2001.


This interview is a bit out dated, but the man rarely gives such a comprehensive interview:

The Political Life of Gen Babar

11. When did Pakistan enter the Afghan scenario as a party, which was assisting the anti-Daud insurgents in Afghanistan?

In October 1973 while I was serving as IG FC an Afghan named Habibur Rahman (Shaheed) came and contacted me about setting up a resistance movement in Afghanistan with active military assistance of Pakistan. I conveyed the same to Mr Bhutto, who accepted my proposal in view of the changed situation in Afghanistan and asked me to organise training of Afghans.

12. What was the political and military aim of the Pakistani government of that time?

From 1947 till that date all Afghan governments had generally not been friendly towards Pakistan. They raised the bogey of Pakhtunistan but refrained from acting against us in 1965 and 1971 when at war with India because of the political environment after the Liaquat Bagh meeting. There were a large number of bomb blasts. Mr Z.A Bhutto was very clear even in 1973 after Daud's coup. An analysis of the regional environment was undertaken, highlighting the break in the Afghan system of continuity; the impending generational change in the leadership in the USSR and China (Chou had died). The inability of continuity/stability in Iran with removal of Shah of Iran from the scene. Being the last of the party ideologues it looked likely that the USSR leadership may take the opportunity to move once more and invade Afghanistan, a step towards the fulfilment of Peter the Great’s will (1777). Thus we established the base of Afghan Mujahideen resistance in 1973.

13. What type of assistance was provided to the Afghan resistance and which Pakistani agencies were involved?

We gave them basic infantry weapons, some specialised training in how to conduct guerrilla warfare under an SSG team until it was discontinued on 05 July 1977 by Gen Zia, who lacked the strategic vision.

14. At what stage did the SSG enter the scene as the principal agency that trained the Afghan resistance?

They (a team) imparted training in the belief that they were training Frontier Corps personnel (all trainees were enlisted in the Frontier Corps before training)

15. What was the ISI role in Afghanistan in the period 1974-77?

It was a top secret affair and the ISI had no role. The secret was shared between Mr Bhutto, myself, Aziz Ahmad and the then Army Chief Tikka Khan. This was for obvious reasons. The Foreign Office could with, nonchalance deny if the issue was raised at UN or any other forum.

16. Who were the pioneers of the anti-Daud Afghan resistance?

These were Ustad Rabbani, Hikmatyar, Ahmad Shah Masood and a host of others who came to Pakistan after October 1973.

22. How would Mr ZA Bhutto have behaved had he been in power when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan?

Mr Bhutto laid the foundation of the Afghan resistance in 1973. He had the foresight and vision to do it. As a matter of fact we created the organisational network which was used by Zia and the USA to oppose the Soviets. Zia had a short term vision and ignored the political angle of organising an Afghan government in exile with ulterior aims of gobbling US aid. Had Mr Bhutto been in chair he would not have deliberately neglected the political angle like Zia. Even Daud was convinced by Mr Bhutto in 1976 and said “Pakistan and Afghanistan are in the same boat. If it is the threat from the North (USSR) it is Afghanistan today and Pakistan tomorrow. If it is the threat from the South (India) it is Pakistan today and Afghanistan tomorrow”. You see after 1971 Indian strategists had placed Pakistan and Afghanistan in the same category as the next target. Mr Bhutto laid the foundation of the Afghan resistance for reasons discussed earlier. However, being a political animal, he also continued with a political alternative/solution. In November 1976, in consultation with the resistance leadership, two individuals, namely Wakil Azam Shinwari and Yunus Khugiani were selected to proceed to Rome and request King Zahir Shah to return as his father had done earlier, to lead a movement into Afghanistan. The caveat was that Zahir Shah could return as a constitutional monarch under the Constitution drafted by Mr Musa Shafiq, a former Prime Minister and the mentor/founder of the Hizb in Afghanistan. However, Zahir Shah indicated that he was willing to play his role but he would first visit Saadat (Egypt), then visit the Shah of Iran and finally arrive in Pakistan. Mr Bhutto was confident that King Zahir Shah could act as a rallying point and play his historical role. Events, however, took a different turn and martial law was imposed in Pakistan. The other aspect was the negotiations with Sardar Daud. Even Daud as earlier discussed had accepted the Durand Line in 1976 and wanted peace with Pakistan. Also the successful negotiations with Sardar Daud, to safeguard Pakistan’s, rightful interests are cases in point.

25. How would you assess Zia’s Afghan policy?

It was based on sheer opportunism and personal interest. Initially, he lacked the vision and, therefore, suspended financing the movement. This resulted in break-up of movement from one to seven groups, each leader fending for himself. Secondly, when the Soviet invasion took place he did not form a government in exile, which could gain experience during the Jehad and be available when the Geneva talks took place. Also all the US/Saudi and other assistance would have been routed through institutional organisations (Ministries) rather than individuals and would have prevented heart burning and divisive tendencies. Finally, he opposed the Geneva talks and visualised only a military solution — the bane of all our subsequent military leadership — Hamid Gul, Beg etc. We were very deliberate. Every resistance is based on a political centre, a hierarchy, like the DeGaulle government in exile, the Algerian and Yugoslav Government in exile etc. Zia deliberately kept the Afghan Mujahideen divided into various groups in order to ensure that the bulk of the US aid could be embezzled. The future events thus led to the post-1988 civil war in Afghanistan.

31. How would you define your Taliban policy?

The Taliban movement was purely indigenous and a direct reaction to the intra group fighting of the erstwhile Jehadi Groups i.e. between Hikmatyar and Rabbani; Ahmed Shah Masoud, Dostam, Sayyaf and others. The Afghan people had had enough of the infighting and desired peace so as to launch/undertake rehabilitation and reconstruction of Afghanistan. It also stemmed from a failure on the part of the Western Nations — after having achieved their objective (the destruction of Soviet Union) they abandoned the Afghans to their own devices. It would have been fair to launch a Marshall Plan or some such developmental activity. Regrettably, they failed to so so. The Pakistan Government (PPP) had no favourites and the only desire that motivated all activity was the unity, and integrity of Afghanistan and the well being of the Afghan people. In furtherance of this policy a tour (with permission from the Central Afghan Government — Rabbani) of S.W Afghanistan was undertaken. The purpose: Firstly, to prove to the world that peaceful conditions existed in the region; Secondly, the Central Asian Republics had attained political independence but not economic independence (integrated economy for 70 years); Thirdly, to utilise the energy sources available in the Central Asian republics by the entire region, including S.E Asia; Fourthly, to develop communication, and resultantly, trade between Central Asian Republics (markets) and India (industry) — Pakistan would act as a conduit and a single train/truck could take anyone/anything from Ukraine to Singapore uninterruptedly. Fifthly, and most importantly, enable the development of Gwadar port and thus reducing pressure on Karachi port (eliminating the persistent law and order problem).

During the tour these issues were raised with the leaders, and possibly, fell on good ears. Subsequently, within the space of a week a large number of Diplomats (mostly Western) were taken to Herat and Kandahar so as to familiarise them with the situation, and the need to assist in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Afghanistan and ameliorate the economic difficulties of the Afghan people.

In view of the total absence of medicines and other essential goods a convoy with relief goods for Kandahar, Lashkargah, Shindand and Herat (organised through contribution from philanthrophists) arranged and despatched. The convoy was, regrettably, stopped at Kandahar by the Indo-Iranian Lobby. Then Iranians were justified as the opening of this route would have spelt the death-knell to their own ambitions considering the Central Asian Republics as their backyard. Moreover, the Iranian route linking Ashkabad, Mashad, Tehran, Bunder Abbas was 3200 KMs, whereas the contemplated route was 1600 KM, with 800 KM, from Karachi to Chaman already developed. The Indians, however, were atypically foolish and could not see/identify their strategic economic interests! The Taliban (former Jehadis) sensing their economic interests being endangered, came to the rescue and released the convoy. The convoy then proceeded to its destination. However, the Taliban phenomena had commenced and then there was no stopping until they finally entered Kabul in September 1996.

Consequent upon their entrance into Kabul in September 1996, negotiations were commenced/set apace between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance in October 1996. The negotiations, after a few shuttles, were successful and a draft agreement compiled — reflecting a numbers of issues. Article 5 stipulated the future political system — the establishment of a commission: composed of representative from all the provinces of Afghanistan, based on the population of each province; the representatives, provided/nominated by the respective province could be local or from amongst those settled abroad. The meetings (on Dostam’s request and agreed to by Taliban) would be in Kabul. The plan quite obviously was federal and one that would enable suitable representation to all ethnic, cultural and religious groups. Regrettably, Para 5 (at the time of the signing) was erased by Dr. Holls, the then UN representative on Afghanistan, and this caused a furore by the Northern Alliance and the agreement was stalled. Subsequently, Dostam made a number of requests seeking finalisation of the accord — the final one being on 3 November 1996. The same evening i.e. 3 November 1996, a meeting was summoned at the Aiwan-e-Saddar with the President, PM, the COAS, the DGISI and the Foreign Secretary in attendance. It was decided/ruled that I should proceed to Mazar-e-Sharif and have the agreement finalised on 5 November 1996. On the night 4/5 November, for reasons known to him, the President, acting under article 58 (2) (b), dismissed our government. The Afghans were, regrettably, once again left to their own devices and the power struggle continues unabated.

A similar trade agreement/protocol was drawn up and signed between Kazakhstan. Kirghizia, China and Pakistan so as to enable movement of goods in the region via the Khunjrab Pass.

The Indians on their part have, regrettably, been not only short sighted but foolish and by siding with Iran (a natural antagonist — conflict of interest in Gulf and Indian Ocean) have lost the opportunity of a millennium to benefit from cheap/economic supply of power on the one hand and export of goods to Central Asia on the other. Nations, like individuals, at times act most foolishly and against their long term interests

32. What is your opinion about the Taliban Government and their future relations with Pakistan?

The Taliban movement was purely an indigenous movement in response to the local environment / conditions. It must be added with all emphasis that in view of the cornerstone of our Afghan policy, unity and integrity of Afghanistan and the well-being of the Afghan people, this was not the ultimate. This is amply borne out by setting a pace negotiations between the Taliban and northern alliance in October 1996, after the Taliban’s entry into Kabul in September 1996. The negotiations were aimed at establishment of a broad based government and a possible federal structure so as to apportion due rights to all ethnic and religious groups. These measures would lead to peace and stability in Afghanistan and enable its reconstruction and rehabilitation. The Afghans (all groups) are not only friendly to Pakistan but consider it their second home —- which, in turn has demolished the Pakhtunistan bogey. It is my firm belief / faith that in the event of a future misadventure by India, it would find not only Afghan people, but also at least 100,000 fully trained and armed Afghans on our side. The sub continental balance of power has imperceptibly but effectively changed.


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