Where is the difference between Islamic state and Taliban terror?


By Samuel Baid

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s final offer to the Taliban for talks, frankly speaking, may not yield any positive response.  Similarly, the threat that otherwise they would have to face consequences is very likely to impress the Taliban who enjoy reassuring external support.

The strength of the Taliban lies in the support of some countries, who for their vested interests want to see the Taliban reinstalled into power in Afghanistan and the progress this country made in the past 16 years reverted.  These friends of the Taliban can then exploit this country’s natural resources and impose on it their political will. Afghan leaders are not oblivious of these intentions.  In the past a number of international conferences for peace in Afghanistan have taken place.  In almost all these conferences Pakistan enjoyed a centre-stage importance because of its influence on the Taliban. It was expected that Pakistan would use its influence to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table to talk peace.  These peace talks were responded by terrorist activities in Afghanistan.  Countries, which had genuine interest in peace failed to understand that Pakistan did not share their views of peace in Afghanistan.

At the latest international conference in Kabul on June 6 named as the ‘Kabul Process’ the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said the problem and the challenge before his country was Pakistan’s attitude which it cannot understand.  He said Afghanistan was constantly subjected to undeclared war from Pakistan.  Pakistan, he said, must understand that a stable Afghanistan was a must for its own stability.

Ghani made this statement to the representatives of 24 countries (including India), European Union, United Nations, NATO and others.  This statement which was a reiteration of Kabul’s earlier complaints, came amid Afghans anger against repeated Taliban terror. Less than a week before this international meet, a truck loaded with 1500 kg of explosives sailed into the high security diplomatic area in Kabul and exploded killing 150 people and wounding some hundreds.  The Taliban said they had not done it.  But, mindful of their public image, they deny their acts of terror if a large number of civilian die. The Afghan government said it was the work of Pakistan-based Haqqani network and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Pakistan denied this charge and made its oft-repeated claim that it was itself a victim of terrorism.  Pakistan must be told that as a cradle of Jihadi terrorism it was itself responsible for terrorism in the country.  May be, it remembers the advice of the former US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton that it must get rid of the poisonous snakes in its backyard before they start biting it.  Pakistan did not care for this advice because it treated these poisonous snakes as its assets against India and Afghanistan.  When these snakes bite, Pakistan at once blames her two neighbours.  But when they bite Pakistan, the Pak leadership denies it but innocent Pakistani civilians, including women, children and old people experience the horror.

Those who try to play neutral between Pakistan and Afghanistan blame the Afghan Taliban in Pakistan and the Pakistani Taliban hiding in Afghanistan.  But they should remember that the Afghan Taliban have not been given safe havens in Pakistan right since 2001 attack in Afghanistan. On the other hand, a faction of Pakistan Taliban (TTP), led by Maulana Fazlullah fled to hide in the caves of Afghan mountains bordering Pakistan in the wake of military operations in 2007 in the Swat valley. There is no evidence that the Fazlullah group’s terrorist activities in Pakistan enjoyed an Afghan nudge.  But the Afghan Taliban who staged terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, were projected as good terrorists by the Pak establishment.

Those, who keep on organising international conferences on peace in Afghanistan, should realise that pre-conditioning peace in Afghanistan on the goodwill of the Taliban is absurd. The countries, which want the Taliban to be a part of peace talks, should consider one truism as said by Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, who is currently a senior fellow at Hudson Institute in Washington. He said: ‘Political negotiations are fine, but we must be aware that this is 21st century negotiation with the seventh century group’.  Those who insist on the Taliban’s participation in Afghan peace talks want to legitimise a terrorist organisation and impose it on Afghanistan as was done by the Pakistan Army in 1996.  If god forbid, that happens, the Afghan people will be whipped back into seventh century.  That will be ideal for some countries for exploiting Afghanistan.

The question, now, is: if the Taliban are not legitimised and not pushed into power in Afghanistan, what should be their fate? The Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 not with the Afghan people’s mandate but by their guns and will of Pakistan.  The people submitted to them in a state of terror.  Thus, the Taliban were terrorists in power and terrorists out of power. Out of power, they have killed thousands of innocent Afghan children, women and men in the past about a decade and a half.  Yet they are not treated as a group of terrorists as is the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  World powers have vowed to crush IS but have simultaneously allowed the Taliban terrorists to prosper with their material and moral support.

Where is the difference between the terrors committed by the two? Both kill to take the society back to the seventh century. The Taliban want to establish an Emirate in Afghanistan. Both hate historical and cultural heritage. The ISIS destroyed most of the pre-Islamic (Biblical) and Islamic heritage in Iraq. In Afghanistan, the Taliban destroyed precious Buddhist heritage.  Both are strongly anti-Shia Sunnis.

The world’s stand on these terrorist groups is very hypocritical.  That is the reason why terrorism has currently been apart reaping the Western world.  Afghan President Ghani cannot hope to bring peace in his country by giving chances to the Taliban to come to the negotiating table. Even if we suppose that the Taliban agree to talk, the common Afghan will be terrorised whatever the results of the talks.  President Ghani’s National Unity Government (NUG) has already wasted precious about three years.  He should concentrate on governance and deal with the Taliban as a terrorist outfit – as is the demand of Afghan Vice-President Rashid Dostum.