Hindu Vivek Kendra
«« Back

OPINION | Has Pakistan bitten more than it can chew in Afghanistan?

Author: Gaurav Sawant
Publication: Indiatoday.in
Date: August 24, 2021
URL:      https://www.indiatoday.in/amp/opinion-columns/story/has-pakistan-bitten-more-than-it-can-chew-in-afghanistan-1844568-2021-08-24?__twitter_impression=true&s=03

In Afghanistan, Pakistan may have ensured a Taliban government in Kabul but in the long run will the 'Bhasmasur' devour its master?

Where is Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, the amir ul momineen, or commander of the faithful, chief of the Taliban? As Taliban fighters occupy the Presidential Palace in Afghanistan and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar & Co hold talks over taking full control of running Afghanistan, Haibatullah Akhundzada, the head of Taliban is conspicuous by his absence.

This has led to chatter in the intelligence and diplomatic circles that he may be in Pakistan Army and its Inter-Services Intelligence’s (ISI) custody to give Pakistan unhindered power to call the shots over government formation in the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

On India First, Vishnu Prakash, a seasoned diplomat who has served in Pakistan spoke of speculation that Haibatullah Akhundzada was being held captive by the Pakistan Army. It is a known fact that Mullah Baradar, tipped to play a key role in the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was held in a Pakistani prison for eight long years and released in 2018 only to facilitate talks between the United States and the Taliban.

Pakistan controls the Haqqani Network and may push its case through Pakistan-based factions of the Taliban but for full control of the process of installation of the Islamic Emirate government in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s ISI wants total control of all the factions of the Taliban and the speculation is that it after having invested so much in nurturing and sponsoring Taliban wants to leave nothing to chance.

In fact, experts argue the real reason Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar spent eight years in a Pakistani jail was that he was trying to negotiate both with the US and India independently and the ISI was very unhappy being kept out of the loop.

Lt Gen Ravi Sawhney, former Director General of Military Intelligence (DGMI) spoke of jockeying for power by various factions of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Competing factions of the Taliban have occupied the Presidential Palace, the offices of the vice-president, ministries of interior and defence and have taken control of other government buildings.

The factions were all together in the quest for taking over Kabul. But once that aim was achieved, factional feuds and jockeying for power was expected to intensify. Now when it has, Pakistan’s ISI wants to be in control of the process. The Taliban’s cold shoulder to Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pakistan's foreign minister shows just how irrelevant and unimportant Pakistan's civilian leadership really is.

The Pakistan Army controls the Taliban but wants to maintain its vice-like grip not through coaxing and cajoling the Taliban but by keeping its spiritual leader and chief qazi in their custody till the situation in Afghanistan is in Pakistan Army's full control.


The resistance in Panjshir has thrown a spanner in Pakistan's works. Instead of focusing on forming the government in Kabul, the ISI will have to further invest resources in tackling the resistance that has the potential to fire the imagination of Afghans demoralised by the lack of resistance by the Afghan national security forces and the nation's President Ashraf Ghani quietly slipping out of Afghanistan, perhaps, when he was needed the most by the people.

Amrullah Saleh, the vice-president of Afghanistan did not run away from Afghanistan. He rushed to Panjshir barely 150 km from Kabul and along with Ahmad Massoud, son of the legendary Tajik warlord Ahmed Shah Massoud announced the ‘Resistance’ against the Taliban.

Soon from different parts of Afghanistan the remnants of the Afghan National Army rushed to Panjshir with their weapons and armoured fighting vehicles. There are reports that indicate apart from 8,000 to 10,000 Tajik fighters loyal to Ahmad Massoud, there are another at least 3000 or so Afghan soldiers with weapons en route Panjshir.


There is an old saying about Pakistan Army generals that their plans are tactically brilliant, succeed in achieving the element of surprise but strategically very ill thought out and do not see the fallout of the situation.

That is as true of the Kargil conflict of 1999 and the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack. Here in Afghanistan, Pakistan may have ensured a Taliban government in Kabul but in the long run will the 'Bhasmasur' devour its master?


The Pashtuns of Afghanistan have for long eyed a separate Pashtun homeland. That cry for the 'Pashtunistan' has been gaining ground in Pakistan too. Pakistan Army has tried to put down Pashtun freedom fighters with brute force but will the Taliban at the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan be content being the ISI's puppets or will the cry for Pashtunistan gain ground.

As Taliban advanced to Kabul from prison after prison in Kandahar, Kabul and Baghram close to 5,000 Taliban, Islamic State, Al Qaeda and Tehreek-e-Taliban fighters were released.

Long Read: The rise, fall and rise of Taliban

Prominent among them was Maulvi Faqir Mohammad, the former deputy chief of TTP, a banned terrorist organisation once raised by Pakistan Army but later it went rogue. It was responsible for killing close to 150 children, teachers and Staff at the Army Public School, Peshawar.

Will Faqir Mohammed join hands with Taliban to launch more attacks on Pakistan and establish the Islamic State of Pakistan?


The Pashtuns of Afghanistan claim a part of what was known as Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and a part of Balochistan too. Both Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa and Balochistan remain Pakistan Army's Achilles’ heel. Beyond Pakistan's bravado, hardly a day passes without information of Pakistan Army soldiers being killed in action in Balochistan and Waziristan surfaces.

Afghanistan government recognised the 2,670-km-long Durand Line only in 1976. The Pashtuns on either side still do not. Will the fire that Pakistan lit in Afghanistan now singe it in the restive Pashtun belt? Will there be a rise in demand for a greater Pashtunistan and what will the Pakistan Army do then?


The demand by millions of Pashtuns led by Manzoor Ahmad Pashteen for the formation of Pashtunistan has Pakistan's ISI and army on edge. The Durand Line was drawn by a British civil servant Sir Henry Mortimer Durand in 1893.

This was seen as 'a line in sand' to mark the British and Afghan spheres of influence. The Pashtuns have opposed the 2,670-km-long Durand Line. Afghanistan does not accept the Durand Line and once Taliban are in control of Afghanistan, the Pashtun fighters in TTP could launch more attacks to establish an Islamic Emirate even in Pakistan.

The fire could also engulf Balochistan where Baloch freedom fighters have been relentlessly attacking Pakistan Army over ceding land and resources to China. Pakistan's troubles may only just have begun on either side of the Durand Line.

«« Back
  Search Articles
  Special Annoucements