August 16, 2021
By Hamid Riaz
Analysts, particularly those from the west, have long pointed out that in the event of a Taliban take-over, Afghanistan is bound to become a haven for militants in the region, many of whom will share border communities with the troublesome country.
On Monday morning, the week began with dread-inducing images of the Afghan-Taliban roaming around the Afghan Presidential Palace which was once considered the most secure location in Kabul. Perhaps the most disturbing video was that of a US air force craft taking off, with Afghan locals hanging onto it – as if trying to stop it from leaving; in the second piece of footage, two people can be seen plummeting to their deaths – a tragic image also being compared to the Falling Man in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center.
These visuals have well established the fact that Kabul has very much been taken over by the hardline Tehreek-e-Taliban Afghanistan, ushering in an era of fresh uncertainty for locals, and for states neighbouring the landlocked country.
In addition, a more worrying situation seems to be unfolding – especially for Pakistan. There are reports that the Taliban have opened up jails in Kabul releasing thousands of militant allies, including between 800 to 2,300 members of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Reports also claim that amongst the released are the ex-deputy leader TTP Maulvi Faqeer Muhammad and other leading figures including commander Zaali.
Speaking to Voicepk.net, security analyst Amir Rana says that this may well be the situation.
“I have not independently received reports of these prisoners being released but based on the journalistic legitimacy of the people who are sharing this news, I can attest that there could be some truth to these reports,” he says.
Rana believes that it is a bit too early to comment on whether the Taliban will ‘behave responsibly’ or not. “One thing is certain though – starting from now anything that happens inside of Afghanistan will now be a responsibility of the Taliban and how they are treated by the world depends entirely on how they choose to engage with the world.”
He says that the Taliban have made repeated assurances to their neighboring countries that once they take over Afghanistan, no world power will be allowed to use the country’s soil against other countries. Rana believes these to be good verbal assurances, but “even though they have made statements, I do not know of any practical steps being taken by the Taliban in trying to ensure that they follow through with this commitment,” he says.
Member National Assembly (MNA) Mohsin Dawar does not believe that Pakistan should rely on the word of the Afghan Taliban, or their assurances of not allowing cross border terrorism from areas under their control.
“For years, I along with many other activists, have been voicing the dangers of a Taliban takeover in Afghanistan and its fallout on Pakistan. This take over has heralded a new episode in this grim chapter of instability,” says Dawar.
Not to mention that there are bound to be threats to those who have been vocal about adapting progressive policies and human rights. But Dawar wont back down, no matter what.
“Politically speaking, obviously the take-over is a big development and it is bound to have negative implications for progressive and nationalist Pashtun voices in regions bordering Afghanistan,” signs Dawar. “But I can assure you that despite all the threats I will stand by stance and will keep speaking the truth no matter what the cost.”
AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE
Senior journalist Zahid Hussain who has also written a book called the Afghan Conundrum, advocates for a more cautious analysis of the situation.
“I agree that there are terrorists belonging to different countries including Pakistan, who are active in Afghanistan at this point,” he says. “I have also found out about some jailbreaks, but I cannot comment on exactly who has been released. Despite all this, though, I think it is better to wait and watch before reaching a final conclusion regarding the Taliban’s intention. Things could be different provided the Taliban heed international warnings of sanctions and isolation, and behave like responsible stakeholders. So let’s wait and see,” he says.
“It is also a well-known fact that the Taliban have developed serious frictions with certain terror groups like the Daesh (ISIS) and have engaged in operations against them,” continues Hussain, “But the same does not hold true for several other terror outlets present in the country making it a real possibility that Afghanistan might become a safe haven for the region’s extremist outfits.”
Some analysts, however, see a somewhat optimistic outcome of the takeover.
“The Taliban of today are not the Taliban of the 1990s,” says Saifullah Mehsud, who is from a research-based organization that works on tribal areas and the rest of the region. “They now know that if they want international cooperation in trying to rebuild Afghanistan then they must weed out unacceptable elements from their ranks. I also believe that the Taliban are not the demons that the international media plays them out to be.”
Meanwhile, civil society activists fear the return to even darker days of suicide attacks and armed conflict in the streets of Pakistan’s major cities, reminiscent of the days from before the ‘war on terror.