October 5, 2022

The Normal Men of Taliban Khan

By Lt Gen P R Shankar (R)

Many call him ‘Im the Dim’, But he is far from that. He is popular for his U-turns and is known as the U Turn Khan. Christine Fair calls him a political IED. It is not a matter of coincidence that  the Prime Minister of the hybrid government of Pakistan is also widely known as the Taliban Khan,. This man must be admired. He is one of the few in Pakistan who has perfected the art of having his toast buttered on both sides (on one side by the Pakistan Army and on the other by the Taliban) and eating it without soiling his pants. Welcome to the world of Imran ‘Taliban’ Khan and his merry brand of ‘Normal’ men in Afghanistan and Pakistan who besides creating mayhem there are poised to rule the country either in a power sharing agreement or in a solo mode. We need to understand this set of dynamics in Pakistan better. We need to understand it better since it is Pakistan which will benefit the most from the Taliban in Afghanistan and it will also get hit the most from Taliban.

Taliban Khan has gone on to say that ‘What the Taliban are doing or aren’t doing has nothing to do with us. We are not responsible, neither are we spokespersons for the Taliban’. As per him there are three million Afghan refugees in Pakistan, almost all of them are Pashtuns and most will have sympathies with the Taliban.  He also said ‘Taliban are not some military outfits, they are normal civilians. And if there are some civilians in these camps, how is Pakistan supposed to hunt these people down? How can you call them sanctuaries?’ If one goes by such statements, it appears that the Taliban are men on Mars while the Pakistanis are women from Venus! Well that is innocently rich coming from the Prime Minister of a country who is a product of a process which created the Taliban.

Pakistan created the Taliban. Pakistan’s intelligence agencies, helped the CIA organise the world’s first international jihad against the USSR in the 80’s using plane loads of funds from USA. Hamid Gul, ISI’s head then, often boasted that he and his men had brought down the Soviet Union. Who were the men? Mujahideen! It was from this milieu that Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaida  emerged. Transnational ‘jihad’ fructified from 1989. It  grew into a ‘Delta’ variant with sanctuary given by the Taliban. Incidentally the Taliban were free floating Pashtun Mujahideen  schooled in Pakistani Madrassas. They were repurposed by Mirza Aslam Beg and Hamid Gul, the Pakistani designer architects of ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan. Their successors in the Deep State shepherded the Taliban into a force for social order in 1994 and ensured it took over power in 1996 to have a surrogate state thriving on terror, drugs and radicalism to do Pakistani bidding. However, post 9/11 the Taliban were chased out from Afghanistan. Where did they go? Back to Pakistan! Ever since then, the Taliban leadership, fighters and their families were provided residence, healthcare, and protection by Pakistan. Even now their shuras are based in Pakistan at  Quetta, Peshawar , Miranshah and other places. They are not in Mars! Let us also not forget the OBL was cosily ensconced  at Abbottabad by ISI for a long time till the US took him out. After all this, if Pakistan’s Deep State has given up the dream and ambition of creating a client state in Afghanistan with the help of the Chinese, I must be living a false dream!     

 Taliban Khan calls the Taliban as ordinary and normal men and claims not to know them! How does one account for the fact that for two decades these normal men were feted in Pakistani jails or set adrift when it suited the Deep State! What do all these cartoons by Pakistanis depict? Pervez Hoodbhoy in an opinion piece in Dawn captures the normal of the Taliban aura and future very succinctly….As the Taliban conquer ever wider swathes of territory….and once the cities fall, there is no reason to expect that things will be any different from 1996 when corpses dangled from Kabul’s lamp posts, beards and prayers were forced onto men, women were thrust into burqas, and girls’ education was halted… Wild-eyed men who have forcibly seized power will lead the country from one disaster to the next. The Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban — the ones who slaughtered children at the Army Public School in December 2014 — are ideological brothers. One wants to capture Kabul (and likely will) whereas the other hopes for Islamabad…The Taliban have already given snippets of the future through a few massacres, slaughters and killings of criminals, comedians, girls and surrendered soldiers already. Taliban Khan says they are normal men! They must be normal since he is one of them. 

Some  other people in Pakistan have expressed clear opinions about the ‘Normal Men of Taliban Khan’ coming to power in Afghanistan…it is in Pakistan’s best interest not to play favourites in Afghanistan….It must dispel the impression that it wants a Taliban government in Kabul….If Pakistan is seen as favouring a Taliban dispensation in Kabul, it will isolate this country(Pakistan) globally….A Taliban ‘victory’ in Afghanistan will embolden their ideological comrades in Pakistan, including the banned TTP, and will create a logistical and training hub for anti-Pakistan militants across the border….Al Qaeda is present in at least 15 Afghan provinces, and that in Kandahar, Helmand and Nimruz provinces. Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, operates under Taliban protection and consists mainly of Afghans and Pakistanis…the Afghan Taliban’s assurances that they will not allow transnational Islamist outfits to operate from its soil cannot be taken at face value…the Afghan insurgents and Al Qaeda have had a mutually beneficial relationship which goes back decades. Those links have clearly endured and may even strengthen further…well..well..well, let us not forget, that the Islamic State (daesh) is also growing in this fertile Pakistani soil of terror…anti-Pakistan terrorists such as the TTP also maintain a presence in Afghanistan as do Central Asian militants and members of the IS-Khorasan ‘chapter’….NORMAL men indeed! 

Maleeha Lodhi calls it back to the future . As per her.. ‘Pakistan will be faced with a serious threat to its stability if civil war erupts in Afghanistan and spills over into its border areas’ (yawn, yawn ) …. She should then advise the Pakistan Deep State to back off. ‘The principal but not only threat is from the TTP (the Pakistani Taliban) whose 6,500 members are based in Afghanistan and launch cross-border attacks from there. A reunified TTP has reinforced its capacity…. The TTP’s links continue with the Afghan Taliban, which are acknowledged by Pakistan’s security officials’. It is a future created by her fellow Pakistanis. Another view opines that ‘the Taliban, despite Pakistan’s support to them over the years, have never condemned any atrocity carried out by the TTP in this country should indicate where their sympathies lay’… ‘As many analysts had long predicted, the ‘strategic depth’ policy is proving to have been a one-way street, affording the TTP space to regroup and replenish its ranks rather than bringing any discernible benefit to Pakistan…. Several attacks in Pakistan have been claimed by the TTP over the past few months, perhaps due in part to this development. Worse may follow if the Taliban manage to seize control of Afghanistan’. Sigh! Taliban Khan has a difficult role. He has to resort to blatant lying being the only amenable puppet of the Deep State. Well. He should heed the winds. The Deep State has started cultivating the younger Bhutto as the next puppet. He is in danger of being booted out.  

The core issue with the Taliban is that they say one thing and another is done on ground. The Taliban political leadership is making every effort to appear more moderate and flexible in their views on social issues. However the evidence is that the commanders leading the fighting are in the old mould. Their teachers in the Pakistani madrassas would be proud of the barbaric values they distilled into these ‘Normal’ men. Once these normal men are in power, aided and abetted by Taliban Khan and the Deep State,  they will be unguided free to fire missiles. That much is certain about these Normal Men! Very interestingly,  China is treating the Taliban as a government in waiting! The greedy Chinese are obviously seeking benefit through the Talban but are also worried about Afghanistan becoming a haven for militancy from where ETIM will blossom into Xinjiang!  No wonder they are building an air base North of the Wakhan corridor. They are clearly bracing for the time when they might have to put boots on the ground! They are trying to outsource Afghanistan to the Deep State in the hope that Pakistan will put their boots on the ground! However, Bajwa and his brand of brothers of the Deep State, are smarter and ruthless. Why should they put boots (Army) on the ground against their own boots (Taliban). It is like saying that the left foot does not know what the right foot is doing! They will lead China into it squarely. One can see that coming. It is just over the horizon. Over all the years of seeing Pakistanis and their Generals, it is clear that when it comes to their interests, they will not be squeamish and will sell anyone down the alley! When they could sell half of their country away through brutality they can do anything! What are their interests? Once upon a time it was sorting out India. Today it is skimming the top of the failing state of Pakistan and stay on the top. Self-Preservation in eternal richness is their order of the day.

When one analyses issues, a few things stand out. All these cartoons (mainly by Pakistanis)  tell you a story. That story is about the reality of the Taliban and their backers in PAKISTAN. The second issue is that one should follow the money. The Deep State has created this money spinning system of making a pile through turmoil. This art has been perfected over seven decades. Till the cauldron is on the boil,  money will flow into the coffers of Pakistani generals and will keep the country going. Earlier the bakra was USA. Later the bakra was the Middle East. The new bakra is China. Between the Taliban and the Deep State, they will skin the Chinese cat.  For all purposes, China will give loans. They will be forced to be written off. There is a constituency in Pakistan which wants to put the Taliban in power as their surrogate. Not very difficult to guess who that lot is. The fear in Pakistan is that as days go by, the control might shift and Pakistan might end up as the reactive surrogate. In all cases many in Pakistan feel that they are heading into trouble. All the Pakistanis keep bleating about the sacrifices the country has made in the war against terror! However it is their Deep State which has created the terror machinery. A major factor is that Taliban is uncontrollable externally or internally and we must expect gory days ahead. Despite everything, Pakistani duplicity will always come to the fore. Taliban  Khan and his backers will continue their merry ways with the Normal men. If anyone wants to sort out Afghanistan right and proper, they have to first sort out Pakistan! The  snake lies in the Indus!  

PSMany of you will wonder that this article is garbled and cockeyed with out any semblance of logic or purpose. I agree. It is definitely so. It is based on Pakistani writers and their views and their cartoons on an international issue called Afghanistan which is equally senseless and confusing. There is nothing original in this article except the staple produce of Pakistan – The Taliban!  

I am still confused by the Pakistanis. Who is their enemy? Who is their friend? What do you say about a state  which is hell bent on killing its countrymen while trying to pose as their saviour? —–THE DEEP STATE!

(This blog was originally published on www.gunnersshot.com with the link: https://www.gunnersshot.com/2021/08/the-normal-men-of-taliban-khan-by-lt.html?m=1 and is being republished with the permission of the writer.)

-The writer is former DG Artillery, Indian Army. He is presently working at Department of Aerospace, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras. Views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of https://strategicaffairsindia.in

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