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Pakistan playing ‘Good Taliban, Bad Taliban’ game again for bigger clout in Afghanistan

Pakistan is playing its usual tricks in the Afghan mine field (Photo: IANS)

Although the Pakistani military establishment makes public statements about not have any “connections” with top leaders of the Taliban and Pakistan says it is not in favour of the Taliban forcibly taking over Kabul,  in reality the situation is quite different.

Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid came out in full support of the Taliban’s advance in Afghanistan on Sunday when he told Pakistani media that the “good Taliban” were advancing and gaining power in Afghanistan.

“It is important, not only for Pakistan, but the entire region to initiate talks with the Afghan Taliban,” Pakistani daily The Nation quoted the minister as saying. The Minister said the Talibans are part of Afghanistan and like all Afghans, they do have the right to “choose” their government. 

The good Taliban and the bad Taliban theory has been Pakistan’s hypocritical strategy towards heavily-armed militant groups fighting either in Pakistan or Afghanistan. Pakistan’s all-pervasive security services, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), is reported to have close links with the Afghan Taliban. The ISI has long been obsessed with the idea that controlling Afghanistan would give Pakistan the “strategic depth” needed to challenge its main adversary, India. A Taliban regime in Kabul is the best guarantee for that. 

Sheikh Rashid is not alone in cheering Taliban’s “victories”  in Afghanistan. Maulana Fazlur Rehaman, president of Jamait Ulema e Islam (JUI) and chief of Pakistani Democratic Movement (PDM) was seen celebrating at a political rally last week.

“After the US withdrawal, the situation is changing in Afghanistan. Inshallah, Taliban will be victorious,” Rehaman declared. Rehman is a pro-Taliban Pakistani politician. Ironically, while he is fighting for democracy in Pakistan, he is also praying for a strong Taliban rule in Afghanistan.

On Friday, a number of people on motorbikes and in cars were seen in a viral video on social media, chanting slogans in favour of Taliban on the main University Road near Hayatabad of Peshawar. Some people were also seen carrying Taliban’s Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan flags. The people in the video were said to be returning after attending a funeral in Regi.

Senior opposition leader of Pakistan People’s Party Farhatullah Babar took to twitter to condemn the incident.

“Dead bodies of Pakistanis fighting in Afghanistan brought back for burial. Taliban regrouping in ex-tribal districts. Apologists raise Taliban flags and slogans in broad daylight in a provincial metropolis,” Babar said.

“Taliban seem supported by proxies to secure military victories enough to negotiate a favourable political settlement but not enough to overrun the country militarily. Their backers may take pride in devising a calibrated policy. But this calibration has ruined two generations,” he added.

Last month, in an interview to an Afghan news channel, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Quereshi denied that there were Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan and said most of their leaders “are in Afghanistan.”

When asked specifically about the presence of Quetta and Peshawar Shuras, or councils, he denied the existence of such institutions in Pakistan and said he “has been hearing of these terms for decades now.”

But a few days later Imran Khan’s Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid contradicted his cabinet colleague by openly saying that families of Afghani Taliban militants live in various regions, including Islamabad's famous areas, and are sometimes treated in local hospitals.

"Sometimes, the bodies of their soldiers are brought to hospitals, and sometimes they come here for treatment," Rashid told Pakistani Channel Geo TV.

Pakistan is clearly aiming to increase its influence in Afghanistan and play a greater role in the region to checkmate India.

Also Read: We brought them up but today Taliban is “closer” to India, says Pakistan’s former security Czar

Also Read: Pakistan’s Qureshi warns Afghan President to stop pointing fingers at the ISI