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Islam and Politics ( 21 Sept 2011, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Afghanistan End Game: Pakistan’s Little Great Game - I

By Dr Mohammad Taqi

September 15, 2011

 Two generations of Afghans and Pakistanis have been lost to the latter’s misadventure in Afghanistan — the little Great Game that it has sought to play, as the successor to the British, for over four decades now.

“When everyone is dead, the Great Game is finished. Not before” — Rudyard Kipling in Kim.

The expression ‘endgame’ has made it to the current geopolitical parlance thanks to its antecedent terms, the ‘tournament of shadows’ used by the imperial Russians and their British counterparts, who used the phraseology ‘The Great Game’ coined by Arthur Conolly aka Khan Ali. The context obviously was the strategic hegemony or balance of power over Central Asia, and Afghanistan happened to alternate between being the buffer state and the battleground in the midst of the great powers of the time.

Many want to know what the endgame in the Afghanistan will be like in the present conflict. Kipling, who subsequently popularised the phrase, the Great Game, had cogently answered them in two words noted above. Every single one of the so-called players on the grand chessboard that has partaken in sowing the winds of death in Afghanistan has reaped the whirlwind. But they will not stop, especially not the Pakistani security establishment as it still looks for a hand to play in the endgame in Afghanistan.

Sadly, for the mothers whose children were abducted by the Pakistani Taliban in Bajaur or bombed in Peshawar on their way to school, or the Afghan and Pakistani soldiers and policemen being targeted on a daily basis by the Haqqani terrorist network, the Afghan Taliban’s Quetta Shura and their bloodthirsty underlings, every day is an end — literally the end of the world — and not merely an endgame. My heart goes out to every Afghan and Pakistani individual and family that has suffered at the hands of the religious zealots not just in the last two weeks but since the modern-day hostilities were unleashed on Afghanistan.

Two generations of Afghans and Pakistanis have been lost to the latter’s misadventure in Afghanistan — the little Great Game that it has sought to play, as the successor to the British, for over four decades now. The Pakistani security establishment would have the current generation believe that everything was hunky-dory as far as Pakistan’s policy vis-à-vis Afghanistan went, before the Soviet bear and then the big bad American wolves descended on Afghanistan and therefore if somehow the status quo ante was restored, things will be back to that imaginary normal again. Neither did the Pakistani intervention in Afghanistan start with the arrival of the Soviets nor are its designs on Afghanistan about to vaporise with the departure of the US, which it badly craves.

It is pertinent to remind readers that Pakistan and Afghanistan first recalled their ambassadors after breakdown in diplomatic relations in the aftermath of the Indo-Chinese war of 1961-62. The setting up of the Frontier Regions and Tribal Affairs ministry, headed by Major General (retired) Jamaldar Khan under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the early 1970s was not a result of the US presence in Afghanistan. President Daud Khan responded by creating a similar ministry in Afghanistan. It was around the same time that Pakistan took in the very first batch of Islamist militants like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Burhanuddin Rabbani and Maulvi Nabi Muhammadi and put them under the patronage of Major-General Naseerullah Babar in Peshawar. General Babar was to later take pride in creating the present-day Taliban and affectionately called them his ‘boys’!

One welcomes that Ambassador Humayun Khan and national security analyst Ms Nasim Zehra, who were part of a recent exercise by the Islamabad-based Jinnah Institute (JI) and United States Institute of Peace (USIP), Washington, DC resulting in the report titled ‘Pakistan, the United States and the End Game in Afghanistan: Perceptions of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy Elite’, have come forward to debate the merits and demerits of the whole process. In her two-part op-ed contribution to this paper, Ms Zehra notes:

“Criticism on the actual points made in the report is necessary. A genuine debate on a crucial policy issue is urgently needed. The critics must contest with the participants’ perception of how the current policy-makers are evaluating the challenge and their options. The issue of what the policy must be has still to be addressed” (‘All power to informed debate but... — II’, Daily Times, September 14, 2011).

I say to Ms Zehra that this indeed is the spirit. I thank her and I thank the Editor of Daily Times for affording Ms Zehra the space to candidly put forth her point of view. In the same spirit it would be highly desirous that Ms Zehra, who anchors a television programme on (political) policy matters now invites and hears out the critics of the JI-USIP report just like she gave space to Ms Sherry Rehman of the JI and Mr Moeed Yusuf of USIP. The debate must not end in the pages of the English press only. Regardless of whether the report represented the views of the so-called foreign policy elite, the debate ought to be elevated now both to the target audience at the highest possible level as well as opened up to the common man and woman to participate, not just in Pakistan but in Afghanistan, the US and also India.

The first sentence of the JI-USIP report states: “the importance of Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan and as a US partner in South Asia is indisputable”. Will and Ariel Durant had noted in The Story of Civilisation that ‘inquiry is fatal to certainty’. But, the opposite is also true. Nothing kills inquiry and scientific method like prejudicial certitude. This holds for both natural and social sciences whether it is a review, report, research, analysis or meta-analysis. We must, therefore, focus on the critical analysis of this report and what it purports to bring to the table.

Source: The Daily Times, Lahore