Guns and Roses: New Ripples in AF-Pak Policy

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Post Mullah Mansoor we are experiencing quite an extravagant and intriguing turn of events to say the least, not only for the ones who apparently felt betrayed by it but also for the ones who benefited from it. For the sake of mere speech it might feel like just an assassination of an outlawed warlord from US’s perspective as Americans are quite habitual of seeing things in plain black and white. As mostly, a large section of their demographics is predominantly moved by a strong urge of taking problem with old Wild West approach of coming down all blazing while always sticking to their guns.

From the Pakistani point of view the way this whole event was covered surrounds a thick mist of ignorance. The expression of major main stream national media outlets in covering the killing of Mullah Mansoor is a classical example of scratching the surface without actually analyzing the scenario, profoundly ignoring to measure the impact it may cause.  It is clearly unfortunate that yes for now not only this action from the US and its allies has thrown the Afghan peace process over the cliff but also has raised more questions. From Pakistan’s perspective, droning Mullah Mansoor on Pakistani soil served firming a lot of clichés of the Af-Pak policy matters from Pentagon i.e. Pakistan is harboring the evil and is among the most notorious players of this game of shadows. This is the status, both Dehli and Washington, would dearly want to abide by, Kabul and Tehran would simply love to oblige with it. Most of the media personals here were providing the bases to this narrative.

In the backdrop of all the divides and controversies among Afghan Taliban after demise of Mullah Umer, the newly appointed leader Mullah Mansoor was trying to establish himself as a firm hardliner to earn the respect and command of all Taliban factions and in doing so perhaps got carried away a notch or two. He was more of a battle field commander and less of a religious-political figure who could harvest cohesive unanimity among the ranks. Attributes which in case of Mullah Umer were combined in one personality. Mullah Mansoor’s uncompromising brute actions such as authorizing attacks in Kabul and beyond which claimed lives of number of civilians as well as a rigid stance of pre-conditioning the talks in reinitiating of negotiations were a result of this same desire of being considered a “no nonsense man in business” kind of persona. In order to achieve this objective he was attempting to think out of the box by looking to expand his ties with other regional powers specially looking beyond Pakistan. Particularly forging an alliance with Tehran in order to get himself a hefty bargaining chip if it came to sit on the tables alongside other chaps. On the other side it was only natural on Iran’s part to accept something like this as Iranian interest in Afghanistan in context of Chabahar and a rise in Indian investment. So, to carve a way inside Afghanistan became their priority to safe guard their interest and look for allies in every ethnic/tribal base which would not only be acceptable for the current government of Afghanistan but also other power players within Afghan society, most prominently the Taliban.

Pakistan’s major interest in creating ease for the Taliban is clear. Pakistan wants to establish a lasting peace in Afghanistan by taking all parties of conflict on board, since Taliban represent a vast majority of Afghans therefore any Afghan solution which will leave them out cannot be considered as an answer. At the same time Pakistan would ideally want to limit Indian influence on its western border which has always been porous to several proxies and will always lead to destabilize Pakistan. Enemies of Pakistan have historically found it convenient to take refuge in Afghanistan which continues to this day, something Pakistan would love to change.

In the above demarcated de facto realities, Mullah Mansoor seemed to be becoming a point of concern for the most. He was lagging behind in getting support from Pakistan because of his rather individualistic, independent approach and demands, at the same time flattering across the board with other players, that too all at once which was somewhat creating confusion resulting in the whole situation oozing with insecurities from all directions. With all of this in mind, maybe someone in Rawalpindi perhaps decided to look the other way when a UAV got airborne with the mission to terminate Mullah Mansour’s command; it’s more of a speculation considering what it could bring in long run.

After witnessing the downfall of TTP command structure, courtesy of the effective military directive by Zarb-e-Azb, which was tasked to bring havoc in Pakistan on much broader scale than what it was actually able to achieve. Perpetrators and mentors of TTP with a little reconditioning of the earlier outfit are now looking desperate to launch a global agent of chaos in Pakistan in the form of ISIS. ISIS if comes into action in Pakistan have all ready access to all the physical fault lines to exploit and manipulate. Presumably they will be tasked with similar objectives with even familiar functional approach i.e. the top brass of it is supposed to train/meditate and thrive in terror heavens of Afghanistan which should be kept as buffer between occupied NATO forces and Afghan Taliban and operate in every nook and crony of Pakistan, create mayhem, bloodshed, disorder and challenge Pakistan’s ability to protect its interests and integrity. This is the place where Afghan Taliban became even more noteworthy for Pakistan because of having mutual interest of not affording existence of any more ultra-extreme ideologies in Af-Pak hemisphere, in more straight words Afghan Taliban also have a role to keep ISIS in check.

Great game has just taken a leap forward, elimination of Mullah Mansoor is more than just an assassination, the new chief of Taliban has to start bringing distant factions closer to mutual agreement, and as far as Pakistan is concerned, we will have to pick our guard more rigorously. We have a lot on the line considering approaching future projects of CPEC and its implications on Pakistan’s socio economic infrastructure, amount of commitment and hope we have channelized in it is too much to just leave it to fate. Specially now when we have evidence of the eyebrows its causing to raise in the region, all these parameters should be in consideration when it will come down to devise adjustments in the ongoing Afghan policy, we should remember one thing that there are no friends or brothers in this for us there are only enemies and the allies, every apparent bouquet has hidden barrels behind roses.

Ahsan Malik is an IT professional with a passionate & candid version of his own on national and international issues relating to Pakistan, he tweets @MohdAhsanMalik and can be reached at m.ahson.malik@gmail.com

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