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Currying Favour

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Pakistan is in a quandary over claiming credit for the ‘coming’ Taliban victory in Afghanistan, or distancing itself from the organisation following the FATF decision retaining it in the ‘grey list’. This is being reflected in the statements being made by the likes of Prime Minister Imran Khan and his chronic motor mouth Cabinet Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed. The nation is equally confused about the impact on it of the Taliban rising to power across the border. (This is not a given because there will be much bloodshed before there is a new regime in Kabul. Even now, the Taliban has succeeded only in taking control of district headquarters and is still out of any provincial capital.)

This is why Imran Khan has, in the same breath, claimed that his government has prevailed on the Taliban to hold back from taking Kabul, while declaring that the borders between the two countries would be closed should this actually happen. At the same time, he has also established his Talibani credentials by blaming women for inviting rape with the kind of clothes they wear. At the same time, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed has admitted to what everybody has known all along – that the Taliban have enjoyed sanctuary in Pakistan. Their families live there, they get medical treatment in Pak hospitals, etc. Questioned about providing bases to US forces, Imran has declared, ‘absolutely not’, which has been widely welcomed by his people.

All this is being done to somehow placate the Taliban as they might next turn their attention to areas ‘occupied’ by Pakistan. Having played both sides against each other, the Pakistanis now want their decades’ long collaboration with the Americans to be brushed under the carpet. There is even the hope that, in the new situation, the Taliban might help them in their designs on Kashmir. They forget that the fundamentalists, be they in any country, do not share power with anybody.

What is also giving them nightmares is the possible willingness of the Taliban to maintain the kind of positive relationship that Afghanistan has had with India. It may be recalled that the five years they were in power, earlier, only three countries had ever recognised them as the legitimate government. India’s goodwill would be more useful than any arrangement with Pakistan. It is a tight situation for the region as ideologies struggle to find some kind of a workable balance. The hoped for peace in Afghanistan should not be that of the graveyard.