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The Return of the Taliban

by Newsweek Pakistan
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File Photo. Noorullah Shirzada—AFP

The real threat to Pakistan is a return to an Afghanistan ruled by the militants

Seventy percent of Afghanistan is now more or less controlled by the Afghan Taliban. Meanwhile, America has been trying to get out of the region since President Obama took over in 2009. It is under President Trump that a new strategic arena has been laid out, projecting a cold war in which India and the U.S. will contest China’s regional dominance through trade routes.

The Afghan Taliban was once used by the U.S. against its rival superpower the Soviet Union with Pakistan acting as its ally. Then when 9/11 happened under President Bush, the Taliban nexus with Al Qaeda was made the grounds by which the U.S. attacked Afghanistan. At this point Pakistan couldn’t make up its mind because of its stiffening ideology and the “reverse indoctrination” from the Taliban government it sheltered after its ouster from Kabul.

Pakistan soon saw chunks of its territory become increasingly alienated from it. Its two-faced policy—that of allying with the U.S. while hobnobbing with the Taliban—brought negative dividends. The Afghan Taliban despised its Pakistani “handlers”; Pakistan’s own Taliban despised it for its duplicity. An ideologically vulnerable Pakistan couldn’t line up its population behind its announced policy of war against terrorism funded by the international community threatened from Pakistan.

The world is accusing Pakistan of being soft on the Afghan Taliban. Will Pakistan benefit if the Taliban rule in Kabul and oust India from Afghanistan? It is almost certain that large swathes of its territory will be attracted to the “purity” of Taliban governance and will threaten the rest of Pakistan. Some provinces will “make peace” with the Pakistani Taliban, just like Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, which can’t be blamed for looking after its interests rather than that of a Pakistan much weakened by a madrasa-dominated, anti-U.S. and anti-India population. The real threat to Pakistan is not from the east but from the west, from a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

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