A fair share of the pie

A report has been published in The New York Times (NYT) about Pakistan’s real motives for arresting Mullah Baradar, a top Taliban commander, at the beginning of this year. The report alleges that Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, duped the CIA into helping them find Baradar and arresting him. Some American officials agree that this could have been possible given the ISI’s double dealing in the past while others claim that Pak-US cooperation is increasing and the arrest was the result of intelligence sharing. But some Pakistani officials have now broken their silence and claimed that the arrest was actually made because Baradar had been involved in secret talks with the Afghan government and was “trying to make a deal without us”.

The NYT report quotes one Pakistani official as saying, “We protect the Taliban. They are dependent on us. We are not going to allow them to make a deal with Karzai and the Indians.” The allegation about Karzai may be true but what interest India would have in Baradar or vice versa is beyond comprehension. Maybe this is a case of the usual India paranoia on the part of our security establishment. As for Karzai, the security establishment only had a problem with the negotiations because they themselves were not in the picture. Baradar’s secret negotiations with the Afghan government had taken place at least a couple of months before he was arrested. This means that the timing of the arrest had nothing to do with the ‘undesirable’ negotiations but was only meant to serve as a message to Afghanistan and the world at large that unless and until ISI was part of such ‘deals’, they would not be successful. There were also reports of some Afghan officials holding a meeting in the Maldives last year with a faction of the Taliban, under the aegis of Saudi Arabia. The meeting was not successful because that faction was a marginalised one and did not have much influence within the Taliban circles currently.

The implication of the NYT report is that the ISI has got the US-led NATO forces where it wanted them in the first place: negotiations with the Taliban, our security establishment’s cat’s-paw. What the ISI does not realise is that by supporting the Afghan Taliban and considering them ‘Good Taliban’, they run the risk of putting Pakistan in danger once again. The nexus between the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban can no longer be ignored or wished away. If the Taliban come back to power in Afghanistan, the blowback on our security could be very serious.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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