July 17, 2021
By Xari Jalil
In a meeting held at the HRCP Office on Friday, July 16, human rights activists came together to discuss the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the of this on Pakistan – one of the key concerns in the meeting was the role of the Pakistan Government in the situation.
The activists who were meeting as the Joint Action Committee (JAC) – an umbrella of human rights organizations across the country – expressed serious concern regarding the recent statement given by some top officials of the government.
They said that pro-Taliban statements by the ministers have pointed out ‘glorification of the Taliban’ pointed to a lack of clarity within the government.
“There is a dangerous situation is unfolding in Afghanistan and there is no state policy,” said Khawar Mumtaz, a leading women’s rights activist, and former chairperson of the National Commission for the Status of Women. “The confusion of the government is dangerous and it will end up being detrimental for Pakistan.”
Everyone at the table agreed that the US withdrawal from Afghanistan had left the country unstable, without any roadmap to peace.
Muhammad Tahseen from South Asia Partnership-Pakistan (SAP-PK) said that the Taliban had come back with a stronger force, and it was shocking how they were being given a positive image by the government.
“The Afghan-Taliban are terrorists, there are no two ways about it – they should not be held as symbols of hope for peace,” he said. “Already they have begun talking about women’s and children’s rights and have started curtailing freedoms. That they are terrorists and always have been – should be our narrative.”
Human rights lawyer Hina Jillani said that the government was trying to portray them as being ‘reasonable people’, but the truth was that wherever they were advancing they are trying to impose old practices, especially on institutions of democracy, on women and children, and human rights defenders. “Pakistan should not have any reasonable expectations from them. Instead, the government officials seem to be ignoring their present conduct and are carrying on justifying them. They are not just appeasing the Taliban, they are denying ground realities – they are glorifying them. This is despite the fact that the violence on the ground is visible to all.”
Jillani also added that there may be a counter-weaponization by the vulnerable or affected people in the region. Already there were rumours that the Hazaras had begun to build their own army and that in their desperation, even children were being armed. “If this civil war becomes worse, and rights and freedoms are curtailed, the weaponization will not be one-sided for sure,” she said. “Especially since they know what living under the Taliban is like.”
She said that there must be more transparency.
“The parliament to be taken in camera is not enough,” she said. “There has to be a policy. The last time they took Al Qaeda’s side, the nation did not know anything about it. They must apprise the nation, not just the parliament. And we need to know of any talks that happen between our government and the Taliban.”
Tahseen added that around four million migrants had already escaped to the Iran-Afgan border, and many of them were bound to come to the Pak-Afghan border as well. “You will not be able to stop them, and putting up a barbed wire will only divide families on either side and bring forth other issues,” he said.
The JAC was seriously concerned about radical forces raising their head in Pakistan – such as in Peshawar, and even in Gilgit-Baltistan. They pointed out the presence of pro-Taliban elements in various rallies in Peshawar and other places.
Human rights activist Tanveer Jehan feared for the safety of human rights defenders and other liberal sections of society who spoke up against this kind of radicalism.
Farooq Tariq of the Huqooq-e-Khalq Movement said that it was dangerous that the government of Pakistan seemed to actually want the Taliban around. “They want to support them and this is very dangerous for us,” he said. “They are not just terrorists; this is a new kind of fascist system that they have brought about.”
Tariq said that he had reports from Gilgit Baltistan that the Taliban was raising its head there as well. He said that this was now an international issue – the whole world is focusing on this.
“The US should not be forgiven for how they have left the country,” he said. “They have not worked on the mindset or the development of the Afghan society overall. Whatever development they have done is in the capital, and only superficial.”
They also agreed that the media must play an important role in covering any gaps between statements and actions by the Pakistan government and play its role as a watchdog.
Pro Taliban Government Narrative
In an interview with Afghan’s TOLO news Pakistan foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi attempted to absolve the Taliban for high levels of violence in Afghanistan and instead accused India of “carrying out terrorist activities” from Afghan soil.
“Who’s responsible for that? Again, if you try and create this impression that the violence is high because of the Taliban…again, that would be an exaggeration. Why do I say that? Aren’t there other elements over there who are playing the role of a spoiler?” the FM told TOLO news.
The Foreign Minister also said, “The Taliban have changed”, calling them “smart” and “savvy”.
The President of Pakistan Arif Alvi also portrayed the Taliban as hope for peace through his tweet.