By Samaul Alam*
As the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces are withdrawing from Afghanistan, dark clouds are looming over the land of abundant resources. Either a Taliban government or a civil war seems to be imminent with severe repercussions for the entire region. This is because the peace talks have hit an impasse and neither the Ashraf Ghani government nor the Taliban leaders have reached any consensus of forming a national coalition government. The current stalemate is not easy to resolve because both parties are unwilling to yield. Consequently, if there is no negotiated result between the two rivals, there are possibilities that the country will slide into another civil war or fall into the grips of the Taliban regime.
In the last few months, the Taliban have gained significant control over more than 30% of the areas. According to Long War Journal, the Taliban, out of 407 districts, have more than 157 districts in their control. Therefore, analysts apprehended that by the end of this year, big cities and provinces including Kabul, Kandahar will be taken over by the Taliban forces.
The aftermaths of the resurgence of another Taliban regime or a civil war would be severely dreadful for the whole region, especially for Pakistan. As evident from the previous experiences, it would be Islamabad, which would face the brunt of the wrath of the Taliban regime in the region. The perilous repercussions on Pakistan would be multifarious with catastrophic consequences as noted below.
For decades, the Taliban tyrants have been persecuting and executing the Hazara Shias. Consequently, there are already 2.8 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan who fled for safe shelter due to fear of persecution. Therefore, another civil war would result in a fresh influx of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, which would further exacerbate the burden that Islamabad is already shouldering with its ailing economy. Although PM Imran Khan has claimed in a recent interview that he has fenced almost 90% of its border, the Pakistani Premier must remember that in the case of an ethnic massacre, an influx cannot be prevented by fencing borders. As evident by the Rohingya influx in Bangladesh in 2017 following the Tatmadaw’s ‘ethnic cleansing’ operation in the Rakhine state of Myanmar and, since then, Bangladesh has been suffering heavily from the ethnic cleansing of Rohingyas orchestrated by the genocidal regime of Myanmar.
Recalibration of Tehreek-e-Taliban
A looming civil war in Afghanistan would have a spill-over effect on the western border of Pakistan by deteriorating the volumes of violence and militancy. The recent attack by Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP), which resulted in the killing 2 Pakistani soldiers on Pakistani soil, proves that the militant organization has already based its foothold in the Paktika province of Afghanistan. The armed outfit is consolidating power and strength day by day to unleash a reign of terror on Pakistani establishments. The return of another Taliban regime will undoubtedly make the current situation worse and more turbulent.
Strife over Durand Line
The long-standing historical dispute over the demarcation of Durand Line could further fuel the intra-regional insurgency recalibration and mobilization and thus escalate trans-boundary terrorism. Unlike the present participatory government in Kabul, the Taliban may not go for a peaceful resolution to the dispute rather exploit it to their ends. So, Pakistan’s fencing along the western border, keeping the other side of it unstable, will not live up the Islamabad’s enduring endeavour for peace in the western frontier.
Vulnerability of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)
The success and benefits of CPEC, a game-changing infrastructure plan for Pakistan’s future, will be threatened if there is a civil war on the other side of the border. Experts believe that a Taliban regime in Afghanistan would provide TTP ample conducive grounds to inflict attacks on the Pakistan projects, especially on the projects of CPEC. Hence, China has already taken matters into hand realizing that peace in Afghanistan is needed for the successful completion of its BRI mega project.
Thus, a peaceful, stable and democratic Afghanistan is a must for the tranquillity of this region and especially for Pakistan. Therefore, being a major role player in the region, Pakistan, with the support of Turkey, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other regional players, should play a crucial and pro-active role to pursue the Taliban leadership into negotiations and compromise with other Afghan stakeholders on power-sharing arrangements. It is up to Pakistan as to which role it will play in Afghanistan — its old game with the Taliban using as a pawn for geo-political gambit or facilitate the process of perpetual peace with its proximate neighbour for regional peace and economic development.
*About the author: Samaul Alam, a Dhaka based independent analyst. His research interests are South Asian Politics & Security