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It's Bad News For Pakistan

It's Bad News For Pakistan

Author: Tashbih Sayyed
Publication:
Date: November 16, 2001

Pakistan Warns Of A Bloodbath As Taliban Retreat

Los Angeles: What Pakistan dreaded for a very long time became a fact when victorious Northern Alliance forces, entered Kabul yelling "Death to the Taliban!" and "Death to Pakistan!" Now Pakistan has on its western borders, a government that has reasons to be hostile toward it. Northern Alliance is supported by Russia, Iran and India - all hostile to Islamabad. Pakistan, for the first time in its over fifty years history, had found in Taliban a government in Afghanistan that was not unfriendly. And now its back to square one.

According to New York Times, an immediate rout of the Taliban by the alliance would place Pakistan, a nuclear power, in a very difficult position. Pakistan would find itself surrounded by countries with capitals hostile to Islamabad: Tehran to the west, New Delhi to the east, Kabul to the north, and only the Arabian Sea to the south. According to Washington Post, Pakistani officials and international observers expressed fears today that the retreat of Afghanistan's ruling Taliban and the advance of opposition forces could create a dangerous vacuum and lead to a bloodbath among warring factions. They called on the United States, its allies and the United Nations to speedily impose security and establish an interim government in Kabul.

According to a report, UN aid officials in Islamabad said their workers inside Kabul reported seeing Northern Alliance soldiers looting homes and executing alleged Taliban soldiers and supporters. Islamabad and women's groups feared that the Northern Alliance would shoot Taliban supporters, loot homes and assault women, as they had done during the civil war in Afghanistan that raged from 1989 to 1996. "These men are animals. They, like the Taliban, are not human beings," said Sahar Saba, spokesman of the Revolutionary Association of Afghan Women, a women's advocacy group. "I fear for all the women inside Kabul, Herat, Mazar-e Sharif," Saba said. "Afghanistan, under the Northern Alliance, will be lawless."

Witnesses, according to reports in the press, said that the alliance's defense and foreign ministers drove into the capital in a black Land Cruiser, followed shortly by a column of military police and hundreds of opposition fighters. The alliance insisted it was not occupying Kabul, but providing security until a government can be formed. "We have not entered here to establish a government," alliance Interior Minister Yunis Qanuni told Iranian television. "We are based on a mission to provide security to Kabul and I am not here in the capacity of a government official," Qanuni said. "The forces who have entered the city are only security forces. Our troops are not in the city, they are merely positioned on the outskirts of the city."

USA Today quoted a Pakistani political analyst Rifaat Hussain as saying, "This marks the end for any U.S.-Pakistan effort to put together a broad-based government for Afghanistan." He said that the new government there, the Northern Alliance, isn't going to give any ground. "It's not only bad news for Pakistan but for the entire political process." The fall of Kabul appeared to have presented a serious complication for U.S. efforts to rout the Taliban without further alienating Afghanistan's ethnic Pashtun majority, most of which is in the southern half of the country and is believed to harbor ill will for the Northern Alliance. The alliance is made up predominantly of ethnic Tajiks and Uzbeks, and many of its leaders were accused of brutality during various pre-Taliban governments.

Washington Post was in sync with the experts when it reported that If opposition forces take over Kabul, and foreign powers do not bring in security forces or announce concrete plans for a broad-based post-Taliban government within days, Afghanistan could erupt in the kind of factional conflict that left thousands dead and the nation in ruins in the 1990s.

Underlining the urgency for a broad based government in Kabul, Secretary of State Colin Powell met with the foreign ministers of Pakistan and five other countries surrounding Afghanistan at the United Nations on Monday. The officials endorsed efforts by Lakhdar Brahimi, the top UN envoy for Afghanistan, to put together a new government "on an urgent basis." But how that plays out now is in question. On Monday, President Bush had echoed the same sentiments when he welcomed the Northern Alliance's advances in the north but emphasized that he wanted Kabul to have a "multi-tribal" government. "In order for there to be a stable future in Afghanistan, all parties must be represented in a post-Taliban government," he said.

As far as Pakistan is concerned, the rapid success of Northern Alliance was not only unaccepted but has caused a great deal of alarm as it has captured Kabul before a political solution had been worked out on the government of Afghanistan. Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman Aziz Ahmed Khan said no single group would be able to bring peace to their war-ravaged neighbors and that it wanted to see a UN presence in Kabul until the situation stabilizes.

"It is our hope that calm prevails and bloodshed is avoided," Khan told a news conference in Islamabad. "Pakistan holds to the view that the Northern Alliance forces must not occupy Kabul," he said. "Pakistan would like to see an early return to durable peace and stability to Afghanistan." He said that pending the establishment of a political solution, Kabul should remain a demilitarized city under the control of a UN peacekeeping force or a multinational force.

Pakistan found its stand supported by the Exiled king Zaher Shah, Abdul Sattar Sirat, a senior adviser to the king, said the Northern Alliance had broken its agreement with the monarch by entering Kabul. "We did not expect that they would enter Kabul. We wanted Kabul to be demilitarized and that the Kabul government and administration should come under a political process," he said from Rome. The United Nations has proposed use of the exiled -king as a neutral figurehead under whom Afghan leaders could meet to decide a permanent government since he was not involved in the past 20 years of war in Afghanistan.

The Northern Alliance, it seems is aware of these concerns as its Interior Minister Yunis Qanuni said in Kabul on Tuesday his troops were in fact not occupying the Afghan capital and that his movement wanted to set up a council to prepare for a transitional government. "We have not entered here to establish a government," Qanuni told Iranian television monitored in the United Arab Emirates. Asked if he was worried about U.S. and British pressure on the decisions of the alliance, he replied, "We follow our own strategy and our own plans, and we are not looking for the leadership or recommendations of anyone outside of Afghanistan."

According to Washington Post, some Pakistani analysts said the alliance would be reluctant to take over Kabul without the approval of Washington and its allies, since it has become heavily dependent on U.S. air strikes and operational support to advance as far as it has. President Bush, after meeting in New York on Saturday with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, said the Northern Alliance should be encouraged to move toward Kabul but not to enter the city yet. "I think they are in a position to take Kabul now, but if the Americans say they are on their own, they won't move," WP quoted Gohar Ayub Khan, a former Pakistani foreign minister. "They don't want to antagonize the Americans."

But others said that despite the calls for restraint by Bush and other foreign leaders, the Northern Alliance had little incentive to stop short of Kabul. With the military situation changing so rapidly and no political plan in place, they said, it may already be too late to prevent deterioration of law and order, and perhaps the breakup of Afghanistan into fiefdoms controlled by various armed ethnic factions. According to a media report, the stunning advance came after Northern Alliance victories were reported in a string of cities over the weekend and Monday, beginning Friday with the seizure of Mazar-e-Sharif, which had been considered the fulcrum of Taliban control in the north. The victories, if substantiated, would put the whole of northern Afghanistan, representing roughly 40 percent of the country, in Northern Alliance hands.

According to Afghan Islamic Press (AIP), Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar pressed his fighters to fight on, "I order you to completely obey your commanders and not to go hither and thither," Mullah Omar as who was addressing in the Pashto language over the wireless sets, warned, "Any person who goes hither and thither is like a slaughtered chicken which falls and dies," He urged them to regroup, resist and fight.

Giving credence to reports that desertions in the camps of Taliban were taking place Mullah Omar in his wireless address, repeatedly urged his fighters to obey their commanders. The Taliban revere Omar as their supreme leader and call him Amir ul- Momineen, or leader of the faithful, and are not generally known to have disobeyed him since they have took over power in Afghanistan. Stressing once again that it is a fight for Islam, Mullah Omar urged Taliban fighters not to be deceived by what he described as propaganda by "enemy media" and told them that he remained at the heart of the movement in Kandahar.

Sudden fall of Kabul has given rise to a number of theories into its reasons, most prominent among them has been discussed in an NBC report. The report quoted senior intelligence sources, that Taliban and al-Qaida fighters apparently fell back because defending Kabul would have subjected them to devastating attacks by U.S. warplanes. U.S. defense officials told NBC separately, however, that intelligence reports indicated a possible split between bin Laden and the Taliban over the Taliban's conduct of the war, raising the possibility that al-Qaida was abandoning government forces in some instances.
 


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