August 12th, 2021
By Hamid Riaz
Former Awami National Party Senator, Afrasiab Khattak, and eminent human rights defender opened up to Voicepk.net in an insightful discussion on the rapidly changing situation in neighboring Afghanistan and its implications for Pakistan.
Khattak does not mince his words when he criticizes the ‘Pakistani state’s policy attitude’ towards the Afghanistan and points out that such a policy might have grave long term consequences, for both, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“It appears that the state has finally openly accepted, what people like me have been saying for over a decade now,” says the Pukhtun leader. “The Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan are one and the same and the two names are merely an operational distinction,” he says pointing towards a recent briefing given to the parliament by the top brass of Pakistan’s security establishment, where the military shared similar views about the similarities between the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Afghan Taliban.
“Back when we talked about such things we were labelled as traitors because according to the official narrative the TTP were thugs while the Afghan Taliban were freedom fighters,” smirks Khattak. “The TTP has set up alternative administrative structures, very similar to those being set-up by the Afghan Taliban in territories they control, in at least 7 districts of Pakistan’s former FATA region, which clearly shows their intent to form a government (of sorts),” he claims also pointing towards the severe uptick in violent activities by militants in these areas.
Khattak expresses remorse at the ‘mysterious’ deaths of progressive, secular and nationalist Pashtun leaders like PkMAP’s senator Usman Kakar and senior leaders of ANP Balochistan, Ubaidullah Kasi and Asad Khan Achakzai.
A former provincial president of the ANP himself, Afrasiab weighs in on these deaths. Activists of ANP in particular and nationalist Pashtun activists in general have been favourite targets of the Islamist militants, he says. “While I was president, around a thousand members of ANP were killed by the TTP during their previous advances inside Pakistan,” recalls Afrasiab.
“Protecting the life and liberty of every citizen is the foremost responsibility of the state not only does the state fail there it also fails at properly investigating the killings and now they have come up with a new gimmick, they kill some ‘militants’ and blame them for the killings, case closed. Why aren’t these people brought to trial?” questions Khattak while pointing towards recent news that security forces have killed (in a firefight) militants in Pishin who were involved in the murder of Ubailullah Kasi, a high ranking leader of the ANP Baluchistan.
Criticism of the U.S
Pakistan is not the only state which Khattak bashes for mishandling the situation in Afghanistan. In fact he says that the geo-political calculus of the region has shifted and the United States has no interest in a stable Afghanistan or its nascent democracy any more, instead instability in Afghanistan might benefit the super-power as it will impede the rapid rise of China, which shares the Afghan border.
“The U.S has been very clear about its disdain for the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). An unstable Afghanistan means an unstable region which will not bode well for China’s multi-billion-dollar investment’s in Afghanistan and it’s neighboring countries” explains Khattak while presenting Afghanistan as a playground for future great power competition between China and the U.S. “All the while the people of Afghanistan continue to suffer.”
Is there a new political progressive political party in the making?
Afrasiab Khattak also confirmed reports of the formation of a new federalist, pro-democracy and pro-economic justice political party in Pakistan. “Discussions between (local political groups and independent activists/politicians) have been ongoing for almost a year now. The party will be run by the youth because demographic data shows that more than half the population of the country comprises of youth right now. The old guard like me will be around in an advisory role alone,” confirms Khattak.