Afghanistan Endgame (Part 2)
By Hassan Rizvi
October 11, 2021 01:26 PM
The tension across the Durand Line and pressure from the international community against Pakistan is kicking into high gear as the world witnesses the sudden change in management in Afghanistan. The world witnesses a colossal global change in history as the American forces retreat from the region they had occupied for almost twenty years. Thus, everything has been forfeit to the Taliban after the rushed withdrawal.
There has always been a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. The recent events had immeasurably worsened the situation in the landlocked country. For example, the education sector is in shambles. Educational institutions lack the necessary funding and trained staff to prepare students for the world ahead of them. Women seem to be largely concerned about their right to education because it has been banned. They have largely organized protests demanding their participation in society. However, such protests were very quickly broken down with aerial firing. Meanwhile, other people live in constant fear of suffering under an ominous cloud of political and economic uncertainty.
Many people have been spotted selling all their possessions in hopes of finding greener pastures elsewhere. Furthermore, many Afghans feel their very next meal is an uncertain subject. The country’s economy had effectively crashed after the Taliban takeover. Many people lost their jobs and others had to wrap up their businesses. As with many third-world countries, Afghanistan imports a vast majority of its items. Therefore, this kept the country’s balance of payments at a considerable disadvantage as there was no local production. Furthermore, the new Taliban government has banned the poppy trade with a heavy heart. The trade of opium poppies was a leading business in Afghanistan. It was the only thing that thrived in the war-torn country. Despite opium being frowned upon, it appeared to be the only thing ensuring some level of cash flow. As of now, the Taliban’s only means of income is seizing assets abandoned from the previous government. It should be noted this is a very short-term strategy and it is highly unreliable to generate finances for the country’s treasury.
The Taliban government seems to be learning the ropes of running a country. After all, they have no experts and intellectuals within their ranks. They do not seem to have people well trained in finance, IT, governance, agriculture, etc. However, they are composed entirely of war-hardened guerilla fighters. The ‘government’ will soon learn that to take over a country is one thing, but to run the country is another struggle altogether. Running a country requires a smoothly functioning system of laws. Moreover, this system has to be placed on the road of certainty. Additionally, the proper functioning of a state relies on fair governance and officials who work in the best possible interest of the country along with its citizens. However, these are only a few ingredients required to effectively run a country. The Taliban government will need more than intimidation and brute strength in order to perform better than the last government. Moreover, the ‘government’ has to deal with a sharp increase in terror attacks such as the Shiite mosque bombing which has claimed more than a hundred lives. It also has to impose some level of law and order to govern the people. A society run in the clear absence of law ceases to remain a society and becomes something akin to the ‘Wild West.’ Except, this Wild West would be in the East.
SEE ALSO: Afghanistan Endgame (Part I)
Moving onto Pakistan, the tremors of political change in the region can be felt. The security situation is really heating up. Therefore, terrorist attacks in the country have increased. The Pakistani government has to create a solid policy and also properly implement it. This is vital so that Pakistan is kept free from terrorism and that the country does not find itself in a situation like the 2000s. Thus, the cancellation of cricket tours by the New Zealand team is a grim reminder that the situation is not to be taken lightly. Only after a lot of persuasion did the New Zealand team decide to reschedule their Pakistan tour. We can hope things go smoothly and this last minute decision is not withdrawn.
Another frustrating matter is the position taken by the Biden administration against Pakistan. The ‘Afghanistan Counterterrorism, Oversight, and Accountability Act’ is a bill set to be passed in the U.S Senate. S. 202(b) seeks to probe the government of Pakistan for possible support of terror groups. This section alone seems to hint that the U.S government has been accusing the Pakistani government of involvement with these groups. The contents of this bill has attracted criticism from many Pakistani officials. After continued support of the American forces throughout the War on Terror, Pakistan certainly deserves better.
Furthermore, America ought to be in no position to dictate its own terms after its absolutely shameful defeat. The American establishment seems highly uncooperative with Pakistan after all the country has been through. The US government seems uninterested in recognizing its own human rights abuses. For instance, it had only issued a simple apology for the UAV airstrike which had claimed the lives of innocent Afghans. If support for terror groups is proven, America has further threatened sanctions against Pakistan. Sanctions are covered under title vi of the US Act. It can restrict visas, admissions and economic activity. The Pakistani government has to make its stand against the contents of this Act. Moreover, they have to make their disapproval very clear while pledging to clean up terrorism from its own country. If America is actually serious about removing terrorism, they will have to support the Pakistani armed forces and all its branches of government. Taking an anti-Pakistani stance will only worsen affairs in the region. This is especially the case since the Taliban have replenished their stockpile with state-of-the-art weaponry. On the other hand, Pakistan should be treated more than a mere ‘hired gun’ under the United States. The country’s own interests should not be overlooked in the scope of American policy. Ultimately, the goal of foreign policy should be to defuse any threat of violence and real violence in the region. This can only be achieved through the cooperation of Pakistan, Afghanistan and the USA.
Pakistan also has its own backyard to keep in order. At the moment, the inflation will likely reach double digits soon. The Pakistani rupee is being severely devalued due to the flow of dollars into the Afghan region. The threat of US sanctions is another danger looming over its head. Furthermore, the so-called agricultural powerhouse has to import sugar and wheat to feed its own population. Although Pakistan has imposed a ban on the export of food items, such a measure seems rather inadequate. Moreover, the stock exchange appears to be performing poorly. The PTI government’s claims of Pakistan improving under post-COVID stress seem to be untrue at best. The government will have to improve its economic policies and appoint people based on competence. Moreover, the policy will have to be properly implemented as well. With only about two years left in the current government’s tenure, it will have to achieve convincing results in this small time frame. This is highly important for maintaining the people’s confidence. However, many Pakistani citizens are miserable at the government’s poor performance. A better reason than blaming the previous PMLN government will have to be provided if targets are not met.
Providing humanitarian aid is a fair step forward. On the other hand, Pakistan cannot compromise its own interests as it struggles to recover. Recognition and assistance of the Taliban government is highly unacceptable. This would attract condemnation from the international community and might result in the country becoming a pariah. This is certainly not something anyone can afford. Furthermore, both the countries should refrain from involving themselves in each other’s affairs far more than necessary. Also, there should be no denial of the fact the Taliban have seized power through great force with minimal resistance. They had unconstitutionally and illegally commandeered the country. The government of Afghanistan should reflect the approval of the people. Furthermore, all the branches of government have to respect their constitutional bounds. A well-balanced policy structure also has to be put in motion.
Pakistan also has its own international commitments as well. The country has to get itself removed from the FATF grey list or at least not end up on the black list. It has to prove its stance in front of the IMF. Furthermore, the country should request the USA to reconsider its stance against the country. Moving on, Pakistan succeeded in the evacuation from Afghanistan. This accomplishment may be enough to grant the country the diplomatic high ground. The Pakistani government should not skip this last chance to save its international standing along with its economic position. The people of Pakistan and the whole world anticipate the PTI’s government’s next move. Thus, Pakistan has once again found itself in a position of prime importance. How the situation is handled can either make or break the region. Let us hope we are not headed towards a more disastrous down spiral.