By Hamid Mir
October 24, 2014
Noted philosopher and the poet of the east, Dr Muhammad Iqbal, had once explained the geo-strategic position of Afghanistan in a Persian poem in the following words: “Asia is comparable to a living body. The heart that beats inside the body is one of the homeland of Afghans. The destruction of Afghans would be the destruction of Asia. In their (Afghans) progress and prosperity lies the well being of Asia.”
Despite being floated a long time ago, the abovementioned idea still leaves room to explore Dr Mohammad Iqbal’s thinking if one would want to discover the future of Asia. Such a paradigm would begin with an in-depth insight into the past and the present of Afghanistan and its neighbouring states. Some important events that took place in the last two decades in this region could be useful to gain the required ‘insight’.
Whenever the origins of the Taliban are dug up, their creation will always date back to the middle of the last decade of the 20th century – 1994 to be precise. At that time, Pakistan backed the Afghan Taliban and an American oil company – Unocal – financed the Talibs to convert their militia into its ‘pipeline police’.
India was then supporting the Northern Alliance against the Taliban in Afghanistan and thus Iqbal’s ‘heart’ of Asia was negligently and indifferently polluted with certain regional and international bacterium inserted into the very bloodstream of the Afghan’s homeland, thus depriving it of becoming a fulfilment of Dr Iqbal’s prophecy.
Moving on towards the end of the last decade of the 20th century 1999, which brought upon us the Kargil war, created further tension between Pakistan and India. This time around, the Mullah Omar-led Taliban regime in Afghanistan openly supported Pakistan against India. This conflict led to a regime change in Pakistan. A few weeks after the political jostling in Pakistan, an Indian plane was hijacked and the drama ultimately ended up in Afghanistan with the release of three Pakistani and Kashmiri militants.
Interestingly, this was followed by the Al-Qaeda attacks in New York and Washington on 9/11, which not only brought Afghanistan right in the centre of the map of the world but also created tumultuous changes inside Afghanistan. The Taliban were pushed out of Kabul which hardly made a difference to their strength as proven by their display of power and hold during the international war on terror. The toughest war in history had begun.
One could go on for hours debating the pros and cons of this war, but the bottom-line would always be the hurtful and stark truth – the war itself never brought an ounce worth of peace into the region itself. Rather, the double games played by regional and international powers created more terrorism and extremism.
Osama bin Laden was killed but Mullah Mohammad Omar is still at large and now busy in indirect talks with the US. Al-Qaeda is far from being uprooted, dismantled or weakened. The global terrorist organisation still seems alive and kicking.
In a recent development, Dr Ayman Zawahiri announced on September 4 the establishment of a South Asian franchise of Al-Qaeda led by Maulana Asim Umar to raise the flag of ihad across the Subcontinent. Asim is an Indian citizen. He spent the last couple of years with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Now he is a threat not only to India and Afghanistan but also to Pakistan.
Unfortunately, despite mirroring each other’s diverse cultures, sharing geographical boundaries and having sections of their wider populace with blood and filial relations on the ‘other side of the border’, these three countries lack a joint strategy to fight common enemies.
As things stand, Afghanistan has become a proxy battleground for India and Pakistan whose security establishments simply fail to understand that a proxy war there will only benefit their common enemies. But still decision-makers on both sides of the Indo-Pak border continue to live in their past.
India produced the Prithvi missile many years ago. The name of the warhead takes a history student back to the days of the earliest decade in the twelfth century - Prithviraj Chauhan, a Hindu king who defeated Afghan ruler Shahabudin Ghauri in 1191. Pakistan got the wrong message on the launching of Prithvi missile. Within a few years, Pakistan launched the Ghauri missile because Ghauri defeated Prithvi in 1192 thus redeeming himself of his fall.
The original Ghauri and Prithvi must have called it a day after taking turns at victory but to Pakistan and India this was just a start at throwing historical references at each other. Pakistan launched another ballistic missile in the name of Sultan Mehmood Ghaznavi – an Afghan ruler who had attacked India 17 times. Pakistan launched yet another short range ballistic missile in the name of Ahmad Shah Abdali who is known in India for his battle of Panipat. While there is no doubt that many great warriors were born in Afghanistan, the fact also is that many great Sufis were also born in Afghanistan.
Warriors are controversial in our history but Sufis are not. Sufis spread the message of peace in this region. Hazrat Ali Hajwairi (Data Ganj Bakhsh) came to Lahore from Ghazni (Afghanistan). His follower Hazrat Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti (Khawaja Ghareeb Nawaz) came to Delhi from Herat (Afghanistan). These Sufis still enjoy respect in the whole region by the followers of different religions. While many of the warriors are not our mutual heroes, the Sufis are a binding factor between Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
Allow me to stress here that the security of Pakistan lies in the security of Afghanistan. And it would not be wrong to say that this formula works the other way as well. Instability in these two countries is not in the interest of India either. I will not go into the distant past. We cannot change our history but we can make joint efforts to create a new history. But the only thing we need as a pre-requisite to such high aims is peace. War and dirty double games cannot solve our problems.
To be continued
Hamid Mir is the executive editor of Geo TV.