KABUL AND KASHMIR
Kashmir Life|March 08-14, 2020; UNMASKED; Issue 49 Vol 11
As Trump administration finally shook hands with the Taliban in Doha and promised to withdraw within 14 months after 18 years, does the ‘Pakeezah’ moment mean anything to Kashmir? Senior journalist Iftikhar Gilani explains the new milestone in the age-old Great Games
Iftikhar Gilani

In the wee hours of August 1994, a wailing woman was trying to catch the attention of passersby in Spin Boldak, a border town in Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar province, next to the border with Pakistan. When she was travelling on way to Pakistan’s Chaman border, gunmen loyal to a local warlord, a former commander of anti-Soviet Mujahideen group had kidnapped her daughter. A black turbaned tall Pathan, on his way back from the mosque after hearing the story of the wailing woman, scrambled 15 youth, all students of a madrassa and invaded the abode of the warlord. After a brief exchange of fire, the warlord retreated as people in the Spin Boldak had also joined this oneeyed Pathan against the warlord’s gang. Upon searching the dera, they found scores of kidnapped girls and teenage boys, who had been forced to work as sex slaves.

The one-eyed man was none else by Mulla Omar, who founded the Taliban with his 15 friends. He had fought with the anti-Soviet Mujahideen under the command of Nek Mohammed of the Hizb-eIslamiKhalis. However, he did not join fighting against the communist regime of Najibullah. Wounded four times, exploding shrapnel destroyed one of his eyes during a battle in Sangsar, Panjwaye district in 1987. After 1989, he had given up fighting and had taken a teaching job in a madrassa.

Soon after the fall of Najibullah, Afghanistan was a lawless state. Mujahideen commanders turned warlords were fleecing people, kidnapping young girls and boys. When Mulla Omar’s men drew warlords away, war fatigued population in other areas invited them to restore order. The governors of Helmand and Gazni willingly surrendered their provinces.

Though they restored order quickly in southern Afghanistan and captured Kabul without any resistance, they proved lethal for northern Afghanistan. They employed brutal methods for other ethnic groups and sects to cement their rule and ideology. If this was not enough, they allied with al Qaeda. Osama bin Laden’s outfit provided them with much-needed funds and international outreach.

Mullah Omar’s Taliban ruled the major part of Afghanistan till 2001, till the US-led forces to avenge the 9/11 attacks, captured Kabul and handed it over to Northern Alliance, a group that had refused to surrender to the Taliban. The US entry led to another era of insurgency. The daisy cutters, fighter jets, drones did kill thousands of Taliban fighters but did not end the insurgency, which kept on growing stronger.

ANXIETY IN DELHI

After 18 years of fighting, the recent US-Taliban deal has lit a glimmer of hope that peace may return to Afghanistan. The return of the Taliban to power has led anxiety in New Delhi that it may affect its US $3 billion worth of investments in the war-torn country. More worry for New Delhi is that its beta noire, Pakistan is aiming at to regain its clout and secure western borders by ensuring a friendly government in Afghanistan.

The anxiety is not limited to losing control in Kabul, but apprehensions that the Taliban take over in Kabul with an emboldened Islamabad could have cascading effects on the ground realities in Jammu and Kashmir. According to reports, India’s external intelligence agency the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) Chief, Samant Goel had called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 5, recommending integrating Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of country as soon as possible.

A maze of high-level sources in New Delhi suggests that the spy chief had argued that things could spin out of control after the US -Taliban deal. Goel warned that Washington could choose to reward Islamabad for its role with the resumption of military and economic aid. “That could see an intensification of Islamabad’s direct and indirect sponsorship of terror groups operating in Kashmir,” the source said the spy chief told the Prime Minister. Exactly a month later on August 5, Jammu and Kashmir was divided into two Union Territories (UT) and the erstwhile state’s special status was withdrawn. Then, indications suggested the deal was supposed to be inked sometime in September 2019, but it got delayed and was signed on February 29, 2020.

A PAKEEZAH MOMENT

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