Are Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban Separating? | Asia | An in-depth look at current events from across the continent | DW


At the end of September, just over a month after taking control of the Afghan capital, Kabul, Taliban fighters stopped a Pakistani truck at the Torkham border post and removed the country’s flag there.

The incident angered Pakistan, but Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid quickly denied reports of emerging divisions between the new Afghan rulers and Islamabad.

But there are other sensitive points between the Taliban and Pakistan.

The Taliban’s refusal to recognize the Durand Line as a permanent border separating the Pashtun-majority regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan has also raised eyebrows in Islamabad.

A majority of Pashtuns – most of the Taliban leaders and fighters are from the ethnic group – do not accept the 2,670 kilometer (1,660 mile) Durand Line as the international land border between the two countries.

The Durand Line was established by the British in 1893 and has remained a bone of contention between Afghanistan and Pakistan since the latter gained independence from British rule in 1947.

The Taliban in search of legitimacy

Pakistan played an important role in facilitating the 2020 US-Taliban deal. It has also supported the Taliban regime since it regained power in Afghanistan on August 15.

But Pakistan has yet to recognize the Taliban as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan, possibly due to pressure from the United States.

Experts say this could also be the reason for growing friction between Islamabad and the Taliban.

On Wednesday, the Taliban urged the international community to recognize its government in Afghanistan at a summit in Moscow. But nothing can yet guarantee that regional and international players will be attentive to their requests.

Islamabad has urged world leaders to recognize the Taliban regime, but those efforts were hit hard when the Taliban failed to announce an inclusive interim government involving different stakeholders and ethnicities.

The group’s crackdown on protesters and restrictions on human rights have also put Pakistani authorities in a difficult position when they advocate for the Taliban to the international community.

In turn, the Taliban believe that Pakistan can do more to convince the world to accept their domination.

Pakistani support for the Haqqanis

In addition to these international affairs, there are pressing internal issues that are deteriorating the ties between the Taliban and Pakistan.

Analysts say some veteran Taliban commanders are upset that Islamabad is trying to keep the new Afghan regime under control through its support for the Haqqani network, which is part of the transitional government.

“In the 1990s [after the Soviet forces left Afghanistan], Pakistan supported Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a warlord, to control Afghanistan. Islamabad now supports the Haqqanis, who have been given key ministries in the interim government, ”Said Alam Mehsud, a Peshawar-based expert on Afghan and Pashtun affairs, told DW.

“This support, however, angered some Taliban factions,” he added.

A former Afghan official told DW on condition of anonymity that Mullah Abdul Salem Zaeef, a senior Taliban commander, Mullah Yaqoob, the country’s acting defense minister, and many other Taliban leaders were not happy with the situation. Pakistani support from Haqqani.

Reports of a standoff between Taliban factions first surfaced when a guard facility was set up in Afghanistan.

The transitional configuration suggested that the new Afghan rulers were unable to unify their ranks.

Mullah Hasan Akhund was eventually appointed interim prime minister, while Sirajuddin Haqqani was appointed interim interior minister.

Experts say the decision to delegate a leadership post to Haqqani is proof that the Taliban did not want to anger the powerful Haqqani network, which has reportedly become a full-fledged Taliban sub-organization.

“The Haqqanis sacrificed a lot during the war against the United States. They are also close to Pakistan since the [1980s] Afghan jihad, “Pakistani defense analyst DW Amjad Shoaib told DW.

But Shoaib, who retired as a general in the Pakistani army, insisted Islamabad also has good relations with other Taliban factions.

Afghan public pressure

Despite Pakistan’s historic good relations with the Taliban, many Afghans see Islamabad as a country that interferes in their internal affairs.

Islamabad has tried to change this perception by providing crucial aid to Afghans, but some of its recent measures have angered the Afghan people.

Latif Afridi, a security analyst based in Peshawar, says the frequent closure of trade routes along the Afghan-Pakistani border causes problems for many Afghans.

“Pakistan is the biggest market for Afghan agricultural products. Border closures have made Afghan fruits and vegetables rotten and unusable, ”he told DW.

“These unilateral steps have dealt a blow to an already faltering Afghan economy and angered even Afghan officials, who have historically been pro-Pakistan,” Afridi added.

The expert also said that Pakistan International Airline (PIA) took advantage of the crisis in Afghanistan and sold expensive tickets to Afghan passengers in the aftermath of the fall of Ashraf Ghani’s government.

The PIA recently suspended flights from Kabul, citing the problematic behavior of Taliban officials.

Analysts say the Taliban also realize that many Afghans are unhappy with Pakistan, which is why they have also criticized some of the measures.

The alliance will last

Talat Ayesha Wizarat, an expert in international relations based in Karachi, believes that some members of the former Afghan government are trying to exploit these divisions between the Afghan Taliban and Pakistan, adding that the Pakistani authorities and the Islamist group must sit down. together and sort out these issues. problems.

Sanna Ejaz, an expert on Afghan affairs, believes that the ties between the Taliban and Pakistan are unlikely to be severed despite these divisions.

“They [the Taliban] will not turn against Islamabad. They are essentially agents of Pakistan, ”she told DW.

Ejaz admits that there are some differences between Islamabad and the Taliban, but they can be resolved.

Additional reporting by Shah Fahad.

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