The visit of the Afghan High Council for Peace delegation led by Burhanuddin Rabbani to Islamabad is a major development. Look at the sheer irony of it: Rabbani who led the anti-Taliban resistance now heads the process of reconciliation with the Taliban. A salutary lesson for Indian analysts. A young Afghan intelligence officer from Panjshir attached to me confided once as we were coming out of a meeting with Rabbani in the presidential palace in Kabul that “Ustad” was secretly funding the Taliban in their fight against Gulbuddin Hekmatyar at that time in 1994. That was when I first began sensing this was essentially fratricidal strife and the battle lines would be increasingly blurred. Later that day, I had a second bit of Afghan shock therapy when I came to know that about 5 buildings away from the Afghan “safe house” where I was put up, Ahmed Shah Massoud had another guest - by name General Hamid Gul - who was on a mission to try and reconcile the Lion of Panjshir with Gulbuddin so that the latter could join Rabbani’s government (which he later did for a while before their old personal enmities erupted again.)
In short, Pakistan has its strange ways of dealing with the Afghans - and vice versa. Pakistan publicly mocked at Rabbani’s High Council when Hamid Karzai formed it a few months ago, but is now rolling out the red carpet. Rabbani is expected to meet Asif Zardari and Yousuf Gillani - and, conceivably, his old friends and mentors in the Pakistani security community. Why is this happening? One, it is a gentle reminder that Pakistan can turn on and off the tap of the Afghan peace process at will - something we already know but might forget momentarily. Interesting, isn’t it, that Pakistan has scheduled Rabbani’s visit in the same week as external affairs minister S M Krishna’s Kabul trip?
Two, Rabbani has just been to Tehran. Following his footsteps, the Northern Alliance supremo Gen Mohammad Fahim also visited Tehran
. There has been a lot of traffic between Tehran, Moscow and Kabul lately. Is Rabbani bringing some “value-added” input to islamabad? There are divergences in the Pakistani and Iranian perspectives on Afghanistan. But Iran’s alienation from India is a matter of utmost interest to Pakistan all the time, especially at this juncture. Finally, Pakistan is taunting US with the prospect that there can be Taliban reconciliation even without Washington being in a lead role - a sort of “closing-of-ranks” with Karzai. Again, Pakistan has snubbed US
with its decision to release Qari Saifullah Akhtar , HUJI chief with al-Qaeda links. Akhtar was seriously injured in a drone attack in North Waziristan in August and Pakistani agencies brought him over to Lahore, provided him with the best medicare possible, rehabilitated him and have now sent him back into the field to fight the NATO forces.
Posted in Politics.
– January 5, 2011