In July 30, 2021, the United Nations compound in Herat, Afghanistan, was attacked. A few days before, a comedian from Kandhar, Nazar Mohammad, better known as Khasha Zwan, known for his comic social media posts, was abused, beaten up and then killed. A journalist of Bharatiya origin was brutally killed after verifying his nationality. Many working women, ranging from journalists to judges, have been killed or attacked in the last few months. Taliban does this and accepted the responsibility for such incidences. Still, ‘Taliban is changed’, ‘there is no option but to talk to Taliban’, is the talking point worldwide. Unless we understand the nature of the ‘changed’ Taliban, we cannot address this global threat.
After almost a two-decade war in the rugged terrain of Afghanistan, the US entered into negotiations with the Taliban and came up with a peace deal on February 29, 2020. A similar agreement was signed with the Afghanistan Government in May 2020, and false hope was created about peace and stability in the war-torn country. A timeline for the withdrawal of all US and Coalition forces from Afghanistan and a political settlement through negotiations between the Taliban and an inclusive negotiating team of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan were the key points of this peace deal. Since then, the US-led forces have been in the withdrawal mode, while the Taliban is back to its basic ideology and methods. The Afghan forces are attacked. The demands for removal of the President and the release of the Taliban terrorists are pushed for. Pakistan sees this as a victory, while China is happy to negotiate with the radical group to gain space in the troubled region. While the ‘changed’ and, therefore, inevitable, Taliban is being talked about by the so-called liberals.
Yes, the Taliban has changed. It is no longer a naïve force of a few radicals as it used to be in the 1990s. They now have a special force, assessed to be around sixty-five thousand radicalised soldiers, a standard police force, and learnt few tricks of diplomacy. They have captured national TV stations and are in a position to run their propaganda through various media platforms. They see the real opportunity of establishing their Emirate in Afghanistan, making a mockery of intra-Afghan dialogue for power-sharing. Getting into negotiations with the Taliban without elected Afghanistan Government on board was itself a wrong beginning. Unless essential human, gender and religious rights for the people are ensured, and the Taliban recognises the legitimacy of the elected Government, no peace is possible on Afghan soil.
The Taliban rule is not new to the Afghan people. Besides the bombing of Bamiyan Buddha, burning of schools and restrictions on women in the areas they have overrun are still fresh in the memory of masses and revised again in the newly controlled territories. Therefore, ordinary people of Afghanistan are out on the streets in support of the Government and security forces which cannot be brushed aside. In any case, a free run to the Taliban is not a guarantee for peace. At the most, it is just an excuse for the NATO forces to withdraw. The UN peace-keeping forces with a clear mandate to oversee negotiations and elections can be a possible alternative to the same.
Bharat has been part of the negotiations and is ready to talk to the Taliban without compromising the people’s interests. Until Pakistan stops providing safe havens to senior Taliban leaders and their families, Afghanistan can never be a stable, peaceful nation. It is our stated national position, and we should stick to it. Taliban, Al-Qaida and the Islamic State all are part of the same mindset, the same set of ideas that led to the creation of Pakistan. Democracy and peace is anathema to those fundamentals. The changed Taliban is a more lethal and disastrous force with the same objectives of creating an emirate based on stringent Islamic laws led by the emir of Ummah, the global Islamic community. Giving it a free run means recognising growing radicalisation as a new normal. Glorifying such a ‘changed Taliban’ is a sure recipe for the many more 9/11 like attacks worldwide.