Created out of some Muslim leaders’ flimsy Hindu mistrust, Pakistan has existed out on a limb even before Iranian revolution, Afghan wars as an afterthought to India known only for corruption, communal violence, drugs, guns, mass illiteracy, medieval agricultural cultivation, widespread poverty and recurring martial laws as a dis-jointed political entity since partition, leading to dismemberment of the East Pakistan as Bangladesh in 1971 War.
Though there are four provinces in Pakistan- Balochistan, the erstwhile North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) now known as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan and some illegally occupied parts of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). Because of the Punjabis’ exaggerated ego and domination in the country’s politics, armed forces, bureaucracy, wealth distribution, corruption and neglect of other provinces and tribals, many Punjabis wrongly feel that they are the real Pakistan while others are second rate citizens.
Having 700 km border along Afghanistan NWFP now called KPK is the land of Pathans or Pashtuns also spread in the eastern Afghanistan, was once gateway to India from Persia and Central Asia with rugged mountainous terrain and intractable people created by the Britishers to checkmate Russian expansion. Beautiful and rugged, in the tribal belt are remote areas steeped into lawlessness, gun violence and illicit opium and drug trade and some whispers are often heard of carving independent homeland of Pashtunistan.
Baluchistan is the largest, poorest, remote south-western region of Pakistan surrounded by Afghanistan, Iran and the Arabian Sea. It is the most rugged, arid, waterless remote place with very harsh climate for the hardiest, bravest, toughest, fiercely independent, warlike Baluchis who have made it easy to defend but difficult to invade. There are sizeable numbers of Baluchis living along the border with Afghanistan and Iran often voicing for the independent Greater Baluchistan as their homeland but for lacking unity.
The area is rugged, dry, dusted with lowest population for its largest size in the country, rich in minerals exploited by Pakistan. There are violent protests over construction of the mega projects China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) emerging as Achilles’ heel for both Pakistan and China over increasing attacks of the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) along with the Sindh Revolutionary Army (SRA).
Sindh, the southernmost province of Pakistan was called ‘Unhappy Valley’ in ancient India as traveling through the depressing deserts of Persia, Baluchistan in scorching heat led to depressingly arid, dusty, sandy and barren Sindh overwhelmingly feudal where violence is mostly related to tension between indigenous Sindhis and the Muslim refugees migrated in 1947 from India called the Mohajirs. There are often clashes between Sindhis and Biharis, the Urdu speaking migrants from Bangladesh.
Gangs of educated dacoits due to high unemployment, rattling guns move about freely with easy supply of explosives, arms and ammunition from war torn Afghanistan. The greatest concentration of dacoits is in the west bank of Indus in Dadu and Larkana and Sukkur in the east bank where robberies, kidnappings specially of foreigners, killings, blackmailing and rapes and imposing curfews are very common. Though efforts have been made from time to time to flush out dacoits from their hideouts but all in vain and bloodshed.
Punjab is Pakistan’s most stable province but threats from the provincial borders of Sindh, KPK and Balochistan spill over and dacoity here is more criminal and less political than Sindh and dealing with police in Punjab is often tough.
According to the World Human Rights Report of 2018, overall, Pakistan is unsafe due to attacks by the Taliban/Islamist militants killed and injured hundreds of people in a failed effort to disrupt the elections primarily targeting law enforcement officials and religious minorities. The government continues to muzzle dissenting voices in nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and media on the pretext of national security. Most of those facing blasphemy allegations are members of religious minorities.
Pakistan is predominantly a Sunni country with a large spread of Shias and both sects are very active in terrorist activities primarily directed against the people from the opposite sect. The Ahmadiyya community declared as non-Muslim is the major target for prosecutions under blasphemy and anti-Ahmadi laws.
The various jihadi groups created and supported by Pakistan have been used as strategic tools in Afghanistan and Kashmir, some of whom have now turned against the government and become involved in terrorist activities within Pakistan attacking foreigners, minorities like local Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and Ahmadiyyas. Violence against women and girls—including rapes, honour killings, acid attacks, domestic violence, and forced marriages are serious problems. Pakistani activists estimate that there are about 1,000 ‘honour’ killings every year.
Pakistan has volatile relationship with the US, the country’s largest development and military donor, deteriorated in 2018, amid signs of mistrust and the US stopped payment of US $300 million in military aid to Pakistan for not taking adequate actions against the Taliban affiliated Haqqani outfits, accused of attacking on civilians, government officials, and NATO forces in Afghanistan and tense relations between Pakistan and India have shown no signs of improvement, with both accusing each other of facilitating unrest and militancy.
Pakistan & Terrorism
Right from its independence, Pakistan’s main instrument of power and violence has been its creation and support to terrorists. While India claimed the entire erstwhile state of J&K on the basis of an instrument of accession signed by the then Maharaja Hari Singh, Pakistan claimed it on Muslim majority population while the Chinese claim the sparsely populated Aksai Chin and Shaksgam valley by not recognizing the International Border (IB) between the two countries.
Both Pakistan and China as bosom buddies have been using violence to resolve the border disputes. Immediately after partition, Pakistani tribal militias invaded Kashmir, while the Maharaja had signed an instrument of accession with India. Ever since numerous wars have been fought against India by both Pakistan and China as part of their state sponsored terrorism strategy.
There are large numbers of trans-national terrorist oganisations, 80 proscribed terrorist/insurgent groups, 41 active terrorist/insurgent groups and 36 inactive terrorist/insurgent groups operating from Pakistan including al Qaida, Taliban and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its vicious Haqqani branch, Hizb-ul Mujahideen (HM), Lashkar-e-Taiba(LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad(JeM), Harkat-ul –Mujahedeen/Ansar (HuM)/(HuA), Jamait-ul-Mujahideen(JuM), Lashkar-e- Jabbar (LeJ), Harkat-ul-Jehad-al-Islami(HUJI), Muttahida Jehad Council (MJC), Al Barq, Tehrik-ul-Mujahideen(TuM), Al Jehad, Jammu & Kashmir National Liberation Army (JKNLA), People’s League, Muslim Janbaz Force (JNF), Kashmir Jehad Force(KJF), Lashkar-e-Omar, Lashkar-e- Jhangvi (LeJ), Harkat-ul- Mujahideen Al alami(HuMA), Tehrik-e-Hurriyat-e-Kashmir and many more including numerous trusts like Al- Rashid, Al- Akhtar, Rabita and Ummah Tamir –e- Nau.
Some may have inter –intra rivalries but when it comes to jihad, they join together against the kafirs. With support of Pakistan in Afghanistan, Al Qaida, ISIS, Lashkar-e-Taiba are the proscribed groups while Taliban, Tehrik-e-Taliban and Haqqani Network are very active. (For details see Appendix attached.)
Many strategic thinkers view Pakistan and Iran as the world's most active sponsors of terrorist groups posing direct threats to Afghanistan, India, the US, UK and the EU as safe havens for the terrorist groups to collect arms, ammunition, explosive, funds, train, transit and launch their operations.
Pakistani Role in Taliban
The Taliban- ‘students in the Pashto’ are the hardliners Pashtun Sunni Islamists, funded by Saudi Arabia who came in the news in the early 1990s in northern Pakistan after the Soviet troops withdrawal from Afghanistan to restore peace in Pashtun areas across Pakistan- Afghanistan enforcing strict version of Sharia laws such as public executions of convicted murderers and adulterers, and limb amputations for those found guilty of theft.
Men were required to grow beards and women had to wear the all-covering hijabs. They banned television, music and cinema, and girls aged 10 and above going to schools and accused of grave human rights violations and destruction of the famous Bamiyan Buddha in Central Afghanistan despite international outcry.
Though Pakistan out rightly denies creating and supporting the Taliban but it is a universal fact that Pakistan is running Madrassas to train Afghan Taliban elements within Pakistan and was amongst the first three countries (Pakistan, Saudi Arabia & UAE) to accord recognition when they took power by force in 2001 after Soviet pull back.
During 9/11 attacks in the US, the Taliban were accused of providing sanctuary to Osama Bin Laden and his al-Qaeda movement. The Taliban took refuge in Quetta and launched numerous attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistani Taliban leaders Hakimullah Mehsud and Mullah Mansour were killed in US drone attacks in 2013 and 2016 respectively and outfit leadership fell on Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada.
The Taliban as per the false media image of having reformed has not changed from their orthodox fundamentalist ideology and have been constantly targeting government supporters, employees, journalists, judges, liberals, minorities, supporters of the Western countries, peace activists and women. The US President, Joe Biden, after a series of secret talks in Doha, announced on Apr 21 withdrawal of the US force after 2 decades of war and wasting trillions of the US $s.
The Taliban seizing the initiative, captured rapidly the entire Afghanistan in just 2 weeks’ time, toppling the government in an almost bloodless coup forcing President Ghani to escape with 4 car loads of money on 15 Aug 21. Many journalists reported it appeared as the Taliban were moving on a massive picnic, capturing towns after towns in lighting blitzkrieg without any resistance by the 3.5 lakh strong well trained and well equipped ANA, raising many eyebrows on infiltration by the Taliban in the ANA, bureaucracy and the government and their subversion to the Taliban ideology.
On social media, TV and newspapers, reporting of the ANA, GC Sher Muhammaad Starezei (71 Regular IMA, 1983-84, Karen Company) of joining the Taliban after a few years’ service, and is now one of the top Taliban leaders, proves subversion of Afghan security forces and joining the Taliban. There are unconfirmed reports of almost 200 cadets/Military officers/personnel undergoing training in India and an afterthought we need to check character and antecedents (C&A) foreigners’ undergoing training in our country discreetly.
Meanwhile, Kabul is besieged with mass exodus desperations, fear, chaos and cold blooded executions and beating and thrashing of women and children as if living in endless dark-ages with depressing human rights violations in Afghanistan.
Many feel that as per the secret deal(s) arrived among all the stakeholders in Doha, where on the behest of Pakistan, the Taliban waited for a day outside Kabul, letting Afghan officials to escape, the US Marine taking over the Kabul airport and the US vacating their embassy staff as if everything was worked out in details. The Taliban are thus now in possession of the best and the most dangerous weapons, equipment, guns, rockets, armed helicopters, tanks and aircraft worth US$ 20 billion.
The US, Taliban, Chinese and the Russians have been aware of all such deals brokered through Pakistan acting as the leading arbitrator. Since Pakistan has been providing training, money through Saudi Arabia, safe heavens, arms and ammunition and real time actionable intelligence about the US and allied troops to the Taliban, al Qaida and other Muslim terrorist/Jihadi/Haqqani elements to destabilize Afghanistan; President Trump had rightly suspended all military aid to Pakistan as punitive action which led Pakistan abandoning US as the strategic partner by reversing role and becoming close bosom friend of China.
Thus, both countries have become troublesome neighbours of Afghanistan and India who were helping Afghanistan with developmental aid. Pakistan by its negative Machievian tactics and diplomacy has ensured that the Taliban gets significant role in forming government in Afghanistan and diminish India’s role in developmental work in Afghanistan; bring Taliban very close to Indian borders/LAC/LOC to brew trouble in J&K and Indian state of Punjab giving goose bumps to India and South Asia. Perhaps, Pakistan is the only country that rejoiced in the capture of Kabul by the Taliban on 15-16 August 2021 with Bhangra dance and sweets distribution.
But Pakistan fails to understand that once Taliban forms government by force in Afghanistan, stabilizes and gets recognition from maximum Muslim countries, China, and Russia, it would soon change colours, become arrogant and like an unleashed wild beast, threaten Pakistan by not accepting Durand line as the international border (IB) between Afghanistan and Pakistan and join hands in militancy with Pakistani Talibani groups like Laskhar-e-Jhangvi, Sipah-e-Sahaba, and the Islamic State to destabilize Pakistan.
Likewise, any fingering by China, would lead to activation of Uighur insurgency in neighbouring Xinjiang province. Now it is globally known that Pakistan provides undying support to the Taliban in Afghanistan and other terrorist organizations in J&K. India with its vibrant democracy and institutions, size of economy, pro-active diplomacy, industrialization, professional armed forces has all the resilience to face trauma, adversity and other stresses with a roadmap for adapting to changing situations, and emerge stronger than before notwithstanding the global understanding now that ‘Pakistan is Taliban and Taliban in Pakistan’.
About the Author
Col NN Bhatia was commissioned into the 13 Kumaon in 1963. He commanded 2 Kumaon (Berar), which is one of the oldest Indian Army Battalions. Upon his retirement from the army, he went on to work in intelligence, specializing in industrial security, goin on to conduct security audits of vital installations.
Presently he is a freelance Industrial Security Consultant and a prolific writer on military and industrial security. He is deeply involved in the release of 54 Indian POWs languishing in Pakistani jails since the 1971 War. He can be contacted at Email: [email protected]
(Views expressed are the author's own and do not reflect the editorial policy of Mission Victory India)