Mortgaged souls and minds
A A Latief u Zaman Deva
The governments in Kabul more often than not call Afghanistan as a South Asian country especially after becoming a member of South Asian Regional Association for Co- operation (SARAC) in 2007 without technically attracting the twin criteria of continuum history and bordering the indo- gangetic civilizational moorings and in the imagination of general masses steeped deep in religion, history, geography and traditions.
It is a west Asian multi-ethnic multi-lingual and locked country, bordering Iran, Pakistan, China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, with population of 3.96 Crores ( 2020) spread over 6.53 lakh kms inhabited in thirty four provinces of the country whose ancient king Qais Rashid is claimed to have met with Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in 630 BC through Khalid Ibni Waleed before reverting to Islam.
The ethnic and linguistic demography is suggestive of a highly diverse profile of the country as it is Pashtun, Tajik, Uzbek, Hazara, Aimaq, Turkmen and Baloch etc, who are the prominent segments of Afghan society comprising 42 %, 27%, 9%, 9%,4%, 3%, 2% and 4% others including Nuristani and Arabs respectively of the population.
The data is based on surveys and other speculative methodologies and doesn’t represent the actual ground level position as Census Operations are yet to be effectuated in the war ravaged country and the fact about four million Afghan refugees outside the home country with bulk of them in Pakistan and others in Iran and other countries.
On the basis of mother tongues (languages) spoken , spread of Pashtuns and verifiable data preceding 1973 (overthrow of King Zahir Shah by Dawood Khan, a KGB mole in Soviet era) the Pashtuns peg their population around 57%. The interesting feature of Afghan demography lies in Tajik population more in Afghanistan than in their breeding base of Tajikistan and therefore the ground for ethnic strain between them and Pashtuns who are incidentally half of the Pashtu population of Pakistan.
The folk tales in Afghanistan are a singular reminder of the hostility the Iranian and Afghans had for each other in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when faced with untold tyranny and brutality at the hands of Iranian Safavid rulers and use of mercenaries by them for forcing the subjugated to adopting the faith of the rulers but fiercely resisted by unrelenting people till Safavid rulers driven out while concurrently the people in eastern Afghanistan found themselves relatively at ease and better under Moghul rulers.
The ghost of past haunted them when Iran tacitly supported the Russian backed governments in Kabul until the latter withdrew in 1989 and the policy repeated by active participation in USA led war of 2001 against the Taliban. During Iran-Iraq war the precariously depleted levels of arms and ammunition of Iranian forces were reinforced by Mujahideen, with weapons supplied to them by USA-Pak ‘Saudi axis for fighting the Russians, under the euphoria of Islamic resurgence in Iran and by handful for monetary considerations.
The water issues in Helmand province, concern for heroin exports through Iran and mainstreaming of 8000- 14000 returnees’ from Syrian war theatre are the only subsisting unresolved irritations as the construction of Dams etc in all probability shall affect adversely the downstream of water shed in Iran.
90% of heroin in the world market has its origins in Afghanistan and the Iran backed warriors from the Afghanistan trained and indoctrinated by Iran have participated in Syrian conflict which over the years degenerated into a sectarian battle from Arab Spring of 2011.
However, the Taliban seem to have mended fences with Hazara and others after de-escalation initially followed by the bonhomie in ties with Iran. The status of relations with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan is satisfying to all excepting the drug trafficking and persistent activities of Islamists without affecting the State to State relations which are unfortunately static and not growing up to the extent of potential based on cultural affinities, unique between the three countries and Afghanistan.
The radicalisation of younger generations in central Asia can be pre-empted by moving gradually towards a genuine framework of democratic governance and individual freedoms bordering liberty with reasonable restrictions in the interests of State and local public aspirations within the broader ambit of an all inclusive Islamic faith symbolized in common Architecture, medieval history of the regions, religious practices and the presidential from of democracy acquiesced by all in the region.
A reference in political narratives in Afghanistan is that before the partition of sub-continent in 1947 during a famous sports event held in Kabul when Indian athletes and other players made their presence felt in presence of King Zahir Shah he is said to have had been looking for Pakistani counter parts of Indian teams but on emerging as a Ist Islamic independent ideological State on August 14, 1947 and resultant admission into UN as its member the solitary opposition emanated from Afghan representative in the UN followed by immediately disputing the Durand line of 1893 demarcating the borders between British India and Afghanistan in the provinces of Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa which on partition and emergence of India and Pakistan as two States was inherited by the latter as internationally settled boundary between the two countries.
Before the departure of Britishers from the sub-continent by relinquishing their paramountcy and suzereignty over India, the Afghans at no stage in fifty four years, ever since the settlement made by Mortiner Durand in 1893, raised questions on the validity of Durand line but chose the occasion after partition.
Not content with the acrimonious treatment meted out to the new country at its nascent stage the violence was contrived for being unleashed by supplying arms to the terrorists and other extremists for waging war against the State accompanied with attacks on Pakistani Embassy in Kabul and sporadic skirmishes on the border and due to porous geographical features of the Durand line the misguided Afghanis at times by crossing the border entered into FATA now included in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in order to create trouble for Pakistan for which even the founder of Pakhtunistan Faquir of Lpi (Mirza Khan) was recipient of logistics and other support from India.
He actually being a spiritual person had gone misled due to language barriers but realizing sooner the religious bindings for extending unflinching support to the ideological State he disbanded the organisation to the chagrin of Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan who rightly had opposed the partition on the basis of two Nation Theory.
But on its happening considered the new State of Pakistan as a Masjid but displaying his incoherent vision the person fighting for joint India as a Universalist came out for ethnicity based State.
Depending upon the political and ideological orientation of the party coming to power under the king in Afghanistan the covert and overt operations were being organised inside Pakistan particularly in Pashtun areas with a view to destabilising the country.
The first prime Minister of Pakistan Liaquat Ali Khan was assassinated in Rawalpindi on October 16,1951 by a hired assassin Syed Akbar, son of an honorary Brigadier of Afghan army from Khost after the deceased leader had manifested the prospective alignment of his country to liberal and democratic order of the west by proceeding on official visit to USA after over two months of achieving the independence.
Dawood Khan as a ruler after 1973 pushed for the revival of saboteur networks who were getting marginalised politically due to Islamisation of Pashtun and entry of Pakistan people’s Party(PPP) into the province which inter- alia saw the killing of Hayat Muhammad Khan Sherpo , Governor of the State and Vice Chairman of PPP on the Campus of Peshawar University on February 8, 1975 triggering the State patronized counter retaliatory measures including hosting of Burhan u Din Rabbani, a Pashtun and Ahmed Shah Masood, a Tajik along with their followers in 1974 long back the Soviet invasion of 1979.
Bhutto, an Islamist socialist with leanings towards leftists lays dragnet for decimation of Socialists /Communists of Afghanistan ( fellow travellers) for resurgence of Islamic movements which later on consumed him in person due to misuse of the spirit for Islamic revival by General Zia and Afghan State as a whole.
An irony of Pak-Afghan relations but essentially onus on Afghan leaders albeit representing secular values and dead against fanaticism, extremism nd majoritarianism. This paradigm shift, forced by sponsoring of terrorism by Dawood government supported by Saudi Arabia as its puritanical obligation to confront communism and with active involvement of USA later on galvanised almost entire rural populations and large swathes in urban areas of Afghanistan against Soviet installed communist puppets forcing Soviet invasion resulting into a Holy war against Afghan communists and foreigners basically fallout of myopic policies of Afghan governments under Soviet influence.
The Afghan travails as an extension of Superpower rivalry under the shadow of American defeat in Vietnam during the Ist phase of Afghan war (1978-1989) is best illustrated in ‘’ Afghanistan the Bear Trap: The Defeat of a Superpower’’ by Brigadier M Yousaf (1992) who is at the end lamenting at the unimaginable death and destruction suffered by the Afghans.
King Zahir Shah wasn’t antagonistic to Pakistan as the opposition to its entry into the World body as a member is said to have been the handiwork of executive which could not be reversed after the die had been cast and whenever Pak-Afghan matters emerged for his individual decisions he stood for neutrality as in 1965 and 1971 indo-Pak battles with positive assurances conveyed to the nearest neighbouring country on its eastern border.
The Afghans should learn lessons from the immediate past in order to correct their vision of State to State relations to make it compatible with respect for territorial integrity of countries bordering it and immune itself from the machinations of powers hostile and inimical to them by denying use of its territory and State organisations for fulfillment of designs of aliens otherwise Afghanistan would continue to be endlessly in total anarchy without coming out of messy disorder and chaotic conditions propelling its balkanisation. At best the model of Durrani Afghanistan (1747-1826) encompassing the existing Afghanistan and Pakistan can be shaped in the form of Pak-Afghan confederation to fulfill the territorial visions of the people in the two countries.
Mixed outcomes of Soviet invasion
The painful dislocation of people internally to less vulnerable areas followed by massive influx into Pakistan (4.5 million), Iran ( over 01 million) and other countries in thousands including India with about 11000 comprising of 8000 non-Muslims persons of Indian origin and back home lakhs of people lost their lives, lakhs suffered critical and major injuries with entire country reduced to stone age socio- economic positions in infrastructure and social services.
The two iconic leaders were already in Pakistan since 1974 and now onwards joined by other top leadership of the remaining political and religious parties who, option less & sans understanding of American grand interests related to revenge for humiliating defeat in Vietnam, recruited young Afghans to form ‘Mujahideen’ brigades for liberation of their country from clutches of infidel communists from 1978 to 1989 and later on intra- Mujahideen battles for control of the State till 1996 witnessing martyrdom of about one million people in all from inception of the movement and untold miseries.
No doubt about the Afghan being battle hardened in soul and flesh but the training for use of modern technology based weapons and familiarisation with the nuances of gorilla war churned out from the recruits the exemplary Mujahideen not susceptible to material offerings except taking the war to logical conclusion.
After Soviet exit the bonhomie amongst all the fighters petered out on ethnic lines with limited impact on Pashtun but almost total transformation in non- Pashtun regions except limited no of Islamists from them. The integrenum between the exit of Soviet union forces and fall of Taliban governments saw more casualties both fighters and civilians than in the phase preceding it and the one with the entry of American including NATO troops.
The youngsters could have never imagined about their motivators and trainers turning into their tormentors which actually happened after September, 11 and their handlers and senior commanders had no illusions about the untenable fraternity linked to diametrically opposite ends of the war.
The ‘infidel’ communists fought against by all with passion but out of them non- Pashtun become later on the foot soldiers of Northern Alliance- NA- ( non- Pashtun and non- Islamists) in their pursuit for control of Kabul which resulted in total anarchy in the country for about six years leading to ascendency of the Taliban in Kabul reducing even top Pashtu resistance leaders to nullity.
The self declared war on terror by USA saw the NA becoming as an ally of America led coalition in war against Taliban who were loners as even Pakistan proved itself a chameleon character in the bandwagon of Saudi Arabia and UAE under American pressure.
After the Ist phase of the Jihad and rallying of thousands around Mullah Omar, Amir Taliban, a new crop started emerging from Islamic Seminaries, having watched the treachery at the hands of leaders, less Islamists more tribal and ethnic centric, changed the course with their firm support to the Taliban till today where linguistic and ethnic backgrounds have become increasingly unpopular eventually taking control of almost whole country ( 90%) by 2000 with maiden crush on opium from production to trafficking beyond the borders of Afghanistan, national level approach for forging cohesion in the war wrenched Afghan society dehorse divisive rhetoric, administration of speedy justice and accountability but lacked in State craft and appreciation of desirability for outreach to other Segments of Afghan mosaic resulting in Iranian hostility and convergence of interests of anti Taliban and anti Islamists having strategic influences in the country on pliable hands which got deeply entrenched with the involvement of the State organisations but valiantly met with.
Thus at the behest of the vested interests the gullible leaders have fragmented the Afghan community beyond redemption except on the analogy of Hindutva in India the Islamic reformative ideology, to which people in absolute majority are prune to, is capable of reversing the outcome of outside sponsored mischievous political narratives.
A false vanity is being broached in favour of Afghan Jihad by claiming the infliction of defeat on Soviet union & resultant disintegration of the country without taking into account the support the Mujahideen were privileged to from American orchestrated axis in absence whereof Soviets would have singularly vanquished the resistance and if at all it survived the remnants confined to Pashtun areas only and the will with determination to maintain the territorial integrity of the country had long back given in for better living standards amongst the Russians paving the way for central Asian countries to opt for independence without any meaningful hindrance from Moscow while in the case of Chechnya and Dagistan the Russians fought back successfully.
The Russian retreat did prove as a catalyst for recreation of passion for endeavours in various parts of the Muslim world without producing any tangible results primarily owing to lack of support on the analogy Afghans got.
The complete American withdrawal by 9/11 in 2021 is an outcome of various factors including American fatigue, NATO’S diminishing interests, realisation of fighting wars of foreigners on alien lands and the reinforcements to Taliban from Russia, China and Iran for bloodying the American nose at the hands of Taliban. However the Support by American QUAD against Soviet Union and later on by Russian triangle against America could not have been successful without exemplary Afghan resilience for fighting it till end essentially driven by religious beliefs for liberating their country from foreign occupiers even if it meant staggered resistance spanning over four decades undermining the ethnic divide in the country and widening fault lines at unprecedented levels of human and material loss suffered by Pashtuns only with cascading effects of Islamised endeavours on Pakistan to a great extent and marginally on Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan whose delicate balancing of relations with Russian on one side and Americans on the other spectrum left the Islamic resurgence high and dry otherwise the support on the analogy of Afghans would have turned all the five central Asian countries into Syria and Yemen type inferno.
But the hard truth about revolutions and armed struggles biting the hands that have had fed them is eloquently reflected by Afghans born and brought up and educated in Pakistan on returning home back are single largest urban conglomerate celebrating the victories of 3rd parties against Pakistan and illegal Afghan immigrants enjoying State largesse in opposition sponsored agitations’ acting as its bulwark more so with Pashtun Tahafuz Movement.
A real security risk calling for close monitoring and restricted field of living activities followed by earliest repatriation. The unfriendly acts of these immigrants have undoubtedly attracted strong opposition from indigenous communities against them particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Call them ungrateful or agent provocateurs the signals are the visible clarion calls for introspection about the benefits if any accruing to Pakistan from the protracted unending Afghan battles against the huge losses in men and resources it suffered second tdAfghanistan only in the backdrop of AK 47 culture, drug trafficking and intolerance the fallout of active involvement of Pakistanis on the side of Afghan Mujahideen otherwise unknown in the country preceding Afghan Jihad against Soviet union. (To be continued……)
(The author is a former Chairman JKPSC and can be reached on aaluzdeva_221256 @ymail.com)