Recently, a dramatic revelation was made that Sirajuddin Haqqani, the head of the notorious Haqqani network and the Home Minister in the interim government of Taliban, had a Pakistani passport and it has been cancelled. This development was a bit strange because the Haqqani network is considered an old ally of Pakistan. But recently it has been seen that all is not well between Pakistan and its favorite Haqqani network. Sirajuddin Haqqani criticized Pakistan’s Afghan policies, describing the Pakistani government’s decision to expel Afghan refugees from Pakistan as “un-Islamic”. Many analysts believe that by canceling Haqqani’s Pakistani passport, an attempt was made to send a strong message to the Taliban regime. Last month, Pakistan’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Asif Durrani reiterated his warning, saying Afghans would “have to choose Pakistan or the TTP”. The temperature between Islamabad and Kabul has been rising for some time. By refusing to rein in the TTP, Pakistan believes that the current Afghan regime has already made its choice. And now Islamabad is trying to force the Afghan Taliban out of Pakistan by expelling millions of Afghan refugees, closing key border crossings and temporarily blocking Afghan transit goods in recent months. Many experts tracking the Af-Pak region believe that relations between Pakistan and the Taliban, who have been close allies for decades, have reached a crisis point as further escalation of tensions will harm the security and economic interests of both countries. There may be loss.
Currently, the main cause of dispute between Pakistan and Afghan Taliban is Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) better known as Pakistani Taliban, but there are other reasons also which are contributing to the deterioration of bilateral relations. . Let’s take a look at these.
Deep mistrust – Taliban does not want to work or even be seen as a representative of Pakistan. They no longer trust the Pakistani government, especially its military establishment, which soon became its enemy due to American pressure and went to the extent of handing over Taliban leaders to the United States. Taliban always remembered this betrayal of Pakistan and expressed their displeasure. While US forces were in Afghanistan, the Taliban established and maintained ties with Pakistan out of political convenience and the need for safe havens. But now there is no need for safe havens, hence there is no need for Taliban to depend on Pakistan for its survival.
Border Dispute- Another important cause of tension between Pakistan and Afghan Taliban is the Af-Pak border commonly known as the Durand Line. The Taliban, like all previous Afghan governments, is unwilling to recognize the Durand Line as the border between the two countries. In fact, there have been a series of border skirmishes between the Pakistani Army and Taliban forces, a development that initially took many by surprise.
Exploitation of peace talks by Pakistan – At the request of the Pakistan Army, the Afghan Taliban acted as mediators between the TTP and Pakistan and hosted peace talks in Kabul. However, the dual role played by Pakistan during negotiations with TTP angered the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan used the talks as a trap to bring senior TTP commanders to the negotiating table and several of them were targeted and killed inside Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s economic blackmail- Pakistan always wants Afghanistan to be economically dependent on it. Afghanistan is a landlocked country and most of its international trade passes through the port of Karachi in Pakistan. This dependence of Afghans has been used many times by Pakistan as a tool for blackmailing and creating pressure. Recently the Pakistanis temporarily halted the transit of thousands of containers filled with imports bound for Afghanistan that had been stranded in the port city of Karachi for months. The Taliban have approached the Iranians for access to Iran’s strategic Chabahar port, located in the south-east of the country, in a bid to open alternative international trade routes.
Strategic diversification – The Taliban regime seeks to diversify its geopolitical portfolio by establishing working relations with all important major powers in the region. This is why the Taliban has tried to re-establish traditionally relatively cordial India-Afghanistan relations. Taliban officials (including those once involved in attacks on Indian targets) have requested Indian companies to resume work on stalled infrastructure projects, which New Delhi is actively considering. This is increasing concern among Pakistani policy makers.
Islamabad’s long-term objective of creating a highly dependent government in Kabul has now finally been dashed. As is the case with the currently ruling Taliban regime, which, rather than providing any strategic advantage to Pakistan or contributing to security, has become a worrying thorn in the side of Islamabad. Pakistan is taking unilateral decisions like expelling Afghan refugees to force the Afghan Taliban, but these steps will destroy what little diplomatic goodwill Pakistan still has left in Kabul. On the other hand, it will further strengthen the anti-Pakistan public opinion already prevalent in Afghanistan. Policy makers in Islamabad must acknowledge that their Afghan policy has failed miserably and needs reform.
(The author is a columnist for the Middle East and Af-Pak region and editor of geopolitical news agency ViewsAround)