A former senator of Pakistan from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has accused Islamabad of joining hands with the Taliban to "destroy" Afghan identity and its culture.
In an interview with the Amsterdam-based European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS), Afrasiab Khattak, who is also a Pashtun rights activist said, "Pakistan expanded into Afghanistan through its strategic depth policy. During the Afghan civil war, the Pakistani military establishment, aided by the US and the Arab Gulf States, enrolled Afghan refugees in Pakistani madrassas to brainwash them with extremist Islamist ideologies".
Khattak believes that these measures were aimed at ultimately emphasising the Afghans' Muslim identity over their identity as Afghans and Pashtuns, and thereby deconstructing the Afghan/Pashtun component of their communal identity.
He observed that this erosion also played out in practice as the Taliban sought to destroy cultural products and practices that were seen as Afghan, replacing them with the Taliban's interpretation of Sharia law.
The Taliban, according to Khattak, were thus programmed to destroy Afghan identity and thereby serve the Pakistani military establishment's aim of ultimately transforming Afghanistan into a cultural extension of Pakistan.
From the late 1980s onwards, this strategic depth policy was also expanded towards India's Jammu & Kashmir. Here too, the identity of Kashmiris as Muslims was and is prioritised over other identity markers.
However, as Khattak argued, this is a "suicidal policy" for Pakistan, because while Pakistan invests all its efforts in militarisation, its economic development eventually deteriorates. While Pakistan has the potential of becoming even a regional economic power, this strategic policy of Talibanisation has hindered its socio-economic development.
In view of the Pakistani military establishment, Jammu & Kashmir as well as Afghanistan should be treated as extensions of Pakistan aimed at hegemonizing it under Pakistani rule. The Taliban, Khattak concluded, were the most important element of this policy approach. Therefore, the current Pashtun Tahafuz Movement, which aims to protect the Pashtun identity, while being non-violent is met with so much brutality by the Taliban.
Khattak said that Pakistan continues to be home to a hybrid system in which the parliamentary democracy of the country remains heavily influenced and controlled by the Pakistani military establishment and its intelligence agencies, especially the ISI.