Taliban's win could soon be Pakistan's loss, say experts

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Peshawar [Pakistan], August 20 (ANI): Even as the Taliban has talked of honour women's "rights" under Islamic law, experts have said Islamabad will share in the blame if and when the terrorist group's takeover starts to go wrong.

They have said that the next phase of Afghanistan's conflict is "the destabilization of Pakistan itself" after the Taliban is now firmly in power in Kabul.

FM Shakil, writing in Asia Times said that as the dust settles in Kabul there will be rising calls to sanction Pakistan for abetting if not orchestrating the Taliban's offensive.

Pakistan's powerful Inter-Service Military Intelligence (ISI) has been widely accused by many observers and analysts of playing a decisive role in the Taliban's strategy to encircle and besiege Kabul and knock President Ashraf Ghani's government from power, reported Asia Times.

Before his overthrow, Ghani claimed at a conference in July in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, that "10,000 jihadis" had travelled from Pakistan to join the Taliban's offensive against his national forces, a claim Pakistan robustly denied at the time.

However, no official denials came amid widespread media reports that the Taliban's leadership was allowed to move around freely in Pakistan while they were waging war against Ghani's US-backed government, said Shakil.

In late June, Pakistan Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed openly declared that the family members of several Afghan Taliban militants lived safely in Pakistani cities, including in Islamabad's leafiest districts.

With Pakistan's support for the Taliban now in the open, Islamabad is under diplomatic pressure to keep a rein on the group and use its leverage to coax it into seeking a political settlement rather than meting out bloody retribution against Ghani government supporters.

That pressure is coming from high places. The UN Security Council (UNSC), last week called a special session on the situation in Afghanistan, notably declined Pakistan's request to be a part of the deliberations.

At the same time, some US lawmakers have suggested to President Joe Biden to impose sanctions on Pakistan unless it "changes course" for "covertly assisting the Afghan Taliban."

Certain US congressmen have stated their belief that ISI strategists dictated orders to the Taliban, which helped guide the terrorist outfit to its quick and decisive victory through a geographical strangulation tactic that quickly hemmed in Ghani's government in Kabul, said Shakil.

Moreover, as the Taliban's anti-government offensive intensified and more Afghan provinces fell to the militant group, Afghan netizens - many now likely in hiding or on the run, launched a hashtag #SanctionPakistan in protest against Islamabad's role in the conflict.

The hashtag, which is still trending on Twitter, was launched last week just days before the fall of Kabul and after a prominent news reporter formerly with the Wall Street Journal accused the Pakistan military of "waging war" against Afghanistan, reported Asia Times.

This sparked wider calls on the UNSC to sanction Pakistan for supporting "terrorism" and causing a now unfolding human catastrophe in Afghanistan that is likely to result in a mass exodus of refugees.

Prominent Western voices are giving the sanctions call high-profile resonance. Chris Alexander, a former Canadian minister and diplomat, took a dig at Prime Minister Khan in a tweet, "Putin's Russia invaded Ukraine: the world sanctioned them. Pakistan is invading Afghanistan: what are we waiting for? #SanctionPakistan."

In a letter to President Joe Biden, Republican congressional representative Michael Waltz proposed that the US could stop the Taliban offensive and support Afghan national forces through the use of airpower. Waltz said in the letter that Biden should send a very clear message to the Taliban's backers in Pakistan that enough was enough.

"The Pakistani military is integral in the Taliban's resurgence. At best, the Pakistanis are turning their backs and complicit in what is happening. At worst, they are actively aiding and equipping the Taliban. The US must suspend all aid and consider sanctions on key military and intelligence officials," Waltz wrote to the US leader.

It's an open secret that the Afghan Taliban were allowed to use Pakistani territory to treat their wounded fighters, recruit insurgents from religious seminaries, raise funds for their self-described "holy war", and even educate their children in Pakistan's elite schools, reported Asia Times.

"Pakistan will have to share the blame if and when the rebel group's takeover starts to go wrong as the Taliban promised to take a moderate stance, allowing US citizens to flee Kabul unhindered under a "blanket amnesty" and vows to honour women's 'rights' under Islamic law," Shakil said. (ANI)

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