New Age Islam Edit Bureau
13 August 2015
Ramifications of Mullah Omar’s Death
By Dr Raza Khan
Terrorism, Money Laundering and NGOs
By Imtiaz Gul
Afghanistan: Ghost War, Ghost Peace
By Dr Mohammad Taqi
Ramifications of Mullah Omar’s death
By Dr Raza Khan
August 13, 2015
With the death of Mullah Omar confirmed, a debate has started regarding the likely ramifications of his demise. Mullah Omar has been a man of iron will and nerves, who led his movement to seize power in Afghanistan in September 1996 and ruled the country until November 2001, when US-led forces dislodged his regime. Since then, he had led a militant struggle against foreign forces. The inability of the allied force to mop up the Taliban insurgency and restore stability and order in Afghanistan demonstrates the strength of the Taliban movement. Against this backdrop, the death of Mullah Omar is an irreparable loss for the Afghan Taliban and it would have far-reaching consequences for the future of peace in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the wider region.
The foremost consequence of Mullah Omar’s death would be factionalism within the Taliban movement. Mullah Omar had kept the Taliban united since they surfaced in 1994. Already, factions led by Mullah Mohammad Hassan Rahmani and Syed Tayyeb Agha, in charge of the Taliban political office in Doha, Qatar, have opposed the appointment of Muhammad Akhtar Mansoor as Mullah Omar’s successor. Mullah Omar’s family, including brother Mullah Muhammad Manan and son, Yaqub, have also refused to swear allegiance to Mansoor. Factionalism within the Afghan Taliban ranks would mean the stalling of the peace process between them and the Afghan government. The process started after 13 long years of militant struggle by the Taliban in July with the inaugural meeting in Murree. Seeing the situation within the Taliban, some of the bigwigs in the Afghan security establishment might just consider torpedoing peace talks with the Taliban. Thus, peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban could be a casualty in the post-Mullah Omar period.
Most of the rank and file of the Afghan Taliban remained part of the movement, largely due to the recalcitrance and fastidiousness of Mullah Omar in the face of the opposition posed by the movement’s rivals. Now that he is no more, they may explore new avenues for themselves. As no former Afghan militant group appears to be up in arms, including the Hizb-e-Islami of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the most obvious option for estranged Taliban commanders and fighters would be to join the Islamic State (IS), which has formed its franchise in Afghanistan. The IS and the Afghan Taliban became bitter rivals because of their turf war in Afghanistan, resulting in the capture and killing of several Taliban fighters by the former. The growing strength of the IS in Afghanistan, if it remains uninhibited, would mean the start of a new kind of insurgency. This would be somewhat similar in scope to the anti-Soviet Mujahideen resistance. This is because, unlike the Taliban, who never vowed to wage a global jihad and limited their struggle to the liberation of Afghanistan, the IS has an agenda of establishing a global caliphate.
However, it remains to be seen how the US and other international forces, as well as the Afghan security forces, which have serious capacity and commitment issues, respond to the IS threat. The recent drone strikes by the US in Afghanistan, killing large numbers of IS fighters, including former commanders of the TTP, demonstrate that Washington is cognisant of the threat.
The Pakistani Taliban had given allegiance to Mullah Omar, but unlike the Afghan Taliban, their commanders had vowed to wage global jihad long before the appearance of the IS. Now with Mullah Omar gone, the IS and the Pakistani Taliban have some common ground with regard to global jihad. Thus, more Pakistani Taliban leaders might end up joining the IS in Afghanistan at a time when the Pakistani military is carrying out Operations Zarb-e-Azb and Khyber I and Khyber II, and have pushed them to the wall, with most TTP fighters having fled to Afghanistan. This scenario would be disastrous for Pakistan; therefore, there is a need for a coherent and effective strategy to nip this emerging evil in the bud.
The globalist radical sectarian agenda of the IS, and its presence and increasing strength in Afghanistan would be a cause of concern not only for Afghanistan and Pakistan, but also for neighbouring China, currently fighting separatist ethnic Uighurs spearheaded by the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, and for Iran as well. All regional players need to study upcoming developments very carefully.
Terrorism, Money Laundering and NGOs
By Imtiaz Gul
August 13, 2015
The issue of registration of local and foreign NGOs and the case of model Ayaan Ali in recent weeks have brought terror-funding and money laundering into the public discourse. Ms Ali has been given bail due to the competence of her high-profile lawyers. But the case of registration and funding of NGOs is still before a three-member bench of the superior judiciary, which is asking the authorities some tough, probing questions. During a hearing of this case in August, the bench observed that foreign funding was like oxygen to the NGOs operating in the country and if the government choked its supply, terrorism will come to an end for good, and that the government should take practical steps to block foreign funding to NGOs. Similar observations were made on two different occasions and quoted by at least two national newspapers. These thoughts, on the correlation between the source of funding of NGOs and terrorism, require guarded scrutiny.
There is a school of thought that would consider it naive and unfair to link NGOs with terrorism. There is a view that all NGOs in Pakistan are instruments of terror funding, disregarding the fact that a lot of public-focused legislation on human rights, including the right to information, the right to education, dealing with harassment at the workplace, improved labour laws, and minorities’ protection inter alia are the result of the hard work that a number of NGOs have put in.
To underscore the possible negative consequences of such a view, let us look at the example of a Norwegian government action in May this year against a Norway-based NGO, Global Network for Rights and Democracy (GNRD) — based on similar presumptions. The Norwegian police raided the GNRD offices, accusing it of money laundering. The GNRD has branches in New York, and many Arab, Asian and African countries, and is known for its intellectual independence, with its narrative on human rights challenging the one that originates from Western capitals. Its founding members agree that Western democracy is good, but not ideal for all, and the entire human rights discourse must be anchored in cultural diversity rather than the ideals of the West only. Norwegian authorities are still investigating GNRD, despite the fact that its accounts are registered with the external Norwegian accountant’s office, to maintain transparency. It is entirely possible that the GNRD is operating according to the law of the land, but the police raid and investigation has tainted its image and it still awaits clearance by the authorities.
Similarly, it’s quite ironic that the Pakistani government appreciates the work put in by NGOs, but there are those in positions of power and influence who view them with suspicion. This invariably creates doubts and confusion among people. The suspicion with which those in positions of power and influence view NGOs is often as a result of the influence of the electronic media, which treats even the most serious issues in a very cursory manner. Such a simplistic view also ties into the right-wing’s narrative on NGOs, branding most of them as Western agents.
As a whole, the picture that emerges when one understands the issues surrounding Pakistan is quite alarming. The discourse simply overlooks the extremely poor rule of law. Crime, terrorism and extremism emerge and flourish when there is poor rule of law. Motivated external funding may be one reason for terror and crime, but this funding takes advantage of already compromised security structures, as well as of the corruption and expedience of the political elite, which then leads to crime, terrorism, extremism and the abuse of law. It is not a surprise that Pakistan ranks 98 out of 102 countries, surveyed for the prevalence of rule of law by the World Justice Project. The main question facing the government and the judiciary is whether they are ready to reform the dated Criminal Procedure Code of Pakistan to improve the rule of law.
Afghanistan: Ghost War, Ghost Peace
By Dr Mohammad Taqi
August 13, 2015
Over the past several days, Kabul city experienced one of the worst waves of terrorist attacks during the present Afghan conflict. It started with a massive truck bombing in the small hours of Friday morning in the Shah Shaheed district. The apparent target was an Afghan intelligence complex but 15 civilians perished and dozens — mostly women and children — were injured in the attack, which reportedly destroyed almost a full city block. Later during the day a suicide bomber killed 29 cadets right outside the police academy when he blew himself up. The third attack of the day targeted the US special forces headquarters killing one US personnel and eight Afghans. And then at noon, on Monday, another suicide car bomber struck outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport, killing five people and injuring over a dozen. The string of attacks had the Haqqani terrorist network written virtually all over it.
With the Afghan Taliban just having chosen their new emir (head), Mullah Mohammed Akhtar Mansoor, and deputy emir, Sirajuddin Haqqani, on Pakistani soil by most accounts, it was inevitable that Afghan President Dr Ashraf Ghani would lambast Pakistan for failing to put a leash on assorted Taliban groups. Within hours of the airport attack Dr Ashraf Ghani held a press conference laying the blame squarely on Pakistan’s doorsteps. Dr Ghani, who is recuperating from foot surgery, spoke while sitting down with his war cabinet lined up behind him. He spoke in both the Afghan national languages — Dari Persian and Pashto — and minced no words about whom and from where death is raining on the Afghans. Dr Ghani’s scathing critique of Pakistan’s policy vis-à-vis the Taliban was a clear departure from his 10-month-long diplomatic overtures to Pakistan’s civil and military leadership. He spoke resolutely but came across as someone feeling betrayed and profoundly incensed. The Afghan president said: “Pakistan still remains a venue and ground for gatherings from which mercenaries send us messages of war. The incidents of the past two months in general and the recent days in particular show that suicide training camps and bomb making facilities used to target and murder our innocent people still operate, as in the past, in Pakistan.”
Dr Ashraf Ghani’s speech and press conference indicate that after fighting the war against the ghost of Mullah Omar he is not willing to accept the ghost peace presented to him a la the Murree talks. No doubt, in diplomacy one holds one’s cards close to their chest till an opportune moment but outright deceit like conducting war and peace in the name of a dead man was simply not going to fly. Following that treachery with a barrage of attacks inside the Afghan capital seems to have just compounded Kabul’s deep mistrust of both Pakistan’s motives and its ability to deliver on the pledges it has made. The Pakistani leadership’s mantra that it is desirous of an “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process” comes across as an abject farce when Taliban leaders live and die — both politically and physically — on its soil. Some Pakistani analysts and newspaper editorials seem to make light of Dr Ashraf Ghani’s blistering remarks and have dismissed them as something he had to do for domestic consumption. These pundits, unfortunately, underestimate the Afghan anger at the murder and mayhem unleashed on them and Dr Ghani’s anger at being double-crossed. Unless there is an immediate and verifiable change in Pakistan’s policy of allowing sanctuary to the Afghan Taliban any change in Dr Ghani’s new geopolitical posture is extremely unlikely.
The Afghan people, parliament and intelligentsia have thrown their full weight behind Dr Ashraf Ghani while that country’s chief executive, Dr Abdullah Abdullah, has reiterated his president’s sentiments in a separate interview saying that he has seen no evidence of Pakistan changing its tack. The problem is that the one-trick jihadist pony that Pakistan backs is simply not capable of changing into a political outfit, which could compete even in a primordial, collective decision-making process like a tribal jirga let alone in an electoral democracy. The Kabul bombings indicate that the new Taliban leadership is trying to remain relevant and assert itself against its jihadist rivals as well as the Afghan people and the government through the only means they know: violent terrorism. Both the Taliban and their patrons seem oblivious of the diminishing political returns from these gruesome assaults. The Afghan people are getting angrier rather than feeling terrorised. Influential voices within Afghanistan are calling for their government to take the issue of Taliban sanctuaries east of the Durand Line to the United Nations. And such robust international diplomacy is what it may eventually boil down to.
Afghanistan does not have a military option and using any tit-for-tat proxies is a patently bad idea that would gain little but cause loss of the moral high ground. Dr Ashraf Ghani built a case for peace through what he described the concentric circles engaging regional and then international powers. He may just have to use the same template to internationalise the Taliban sanctuaries’ issue. China, India, Iran, Russia and the Central Asian countries have no desire whatsoever for the Taliban or any other jihadist outfit upending the democratic order in Kabul. Pakistan’s diplomatic position is likely to become untenable even with China if the former cannot or does not restrain the Taliban. The US’s functionaries, especially its Department of State, cannot play dumb endlessly. The State Department’s spokesperson’s remarks, in the wake of the Kabul attacks on how it “is in the urgent interest of both countries to eliminate safe havens and to reduce the operational capacity of the Taliban on both sides of the border” are patently disingenuous and create a false equivalence.
Major questions have arisen about the US knowing about but playing down Mullah Omar’s presence and then death in Pakistan. The US letting a terrorist outfit keep the appearance of a unified force under a figurehead, who was suspected dead, was truly a weird way of prosecuting the war against the Taliban while the latter attacked and killed US troops. The State Department can choose to eat out of the palm of Pakistan’s hand but it certainly cannot tell Afghans to do that. The Murree peace process that the US diplomats sat through was a dud; the ghost of Mullah Omar could make war but certainly cannot make peace. To stop the cycle of ghost war and ghost peace imposed upon Afghanistan the international community, including the US, will have to hold Pakistan’s feet to the diplomatic fire. Dr Ashraf Ghani has an uphill task ahead but his straight talk indicates he is not only gearing up for it but that speech may also be his roadmap.