In Pakistan, we cultivated the Taliban, and then we turned against them. Now we can only hope they forgive us | Mohammed hanif
NOTtoo long ago, Pakistan and Afghanistan were called Af-Pak: two countries hugging each other, doomed to live and die together. You couldn’t choose your neighbors, we were told. Geography, we were taught, was our destiny.
There has been a lot of talk about geostrategic importance – this was how the Pakistani military said there were great benefits to be gained from our hapless neighbors.
Over four decades ago, our leaders insisted that we had to help the Afghan Mujahedin fight the Soviets, because that would help us push back communism in our own country. Having lived most of my life in Pakistan, I have probably met half a dozen Communists – and even they never came to an agreement.
This first jihad made generations of Afghans homeless, but it also made some people in Pakistan very wealthy. The Soviet-Afghan war also supported our brutal military dictatorship, brought us plentiful supplies of cheap and high-quality heroin, and introduced what is called the “Kalashnikov culture”, which facilitated the settlement of disputes. political and personal by killing each other.
Pakistan won this war. Our seasoned generals and defense experts keep bragging about that not only did we defeat the Soviet Union, but we also brought about an end to communism. The United States and the rest of the free world surely owe us. But they increased and left. It was then that we learned what the rest of the world already knew: America had no shame.
But when the victorious Mujahedin finally took power in Kabul, a few years after the Soviets left, they turned out to be the wrong guy for Pakistan. After all the years we spent training and welcoming them, they still didn’t like us very much. So we had to start another war to get rid of our mujahedin.
Taliban fighters, educated in our madrasas and sometimes armed by us, marched to Kabul and took care of these wicked Mujahedin. Finally, there was peace. We envied the rustic justice of the Taliban and longed for our own caliphate. But after a few years we realized once again that they didn’t really like us and our way of life, even though we were one of the only ones. three countries in the world to recognize their Islamic emirate. When a Pakistani football team went to play a game in Afghanistan – wearing what footballers are wearing, shorts and shirts – the Taliban shaved their heads and fired them.
We were still wondering what to do with those cunning Taliban when the World Trade Center fell – and the world let us know that we accidentally slept with the bad guys. Apparently our Taliban harbored world-class terrorists like Osama bin Laden. Are you with us or with them, we have been asked: choose wisely or you will be sent back to the Stone Age. And who knows, if you side with us, you might make some money.
Make no mistake, we still loved the Taliban – and we believed in our hearts that they were better Muslims than us. But we loved our country more and our new military dictatorship had cash flow problems. We turned on the Taliban. We pretended that we were just responsible members of the world community in doing so. We hoped the Taliban would understand. We handed over the Taliban ambassador in Pakistan in the United States; we gave the Americans our air bases to bomb the Taliban, which we then sent to Guantanamo Bay.
We have collected the bonus money but we also tried to protect some of the Taliban. We fed them with one hand and stabbed them with the other. And while doing all of this, we kept whispering in their ears that it was for their own good. It was a smart strategy, our strategists told us.
Consider the story of Mullah Baradar, one of the founders and leaders of the Taliban. We supported him when he was in the Taliban government, and then left him alone for a while while he and some of his Taliban friends lived for a while in Quetta, just on our side of the border. Unfortunately, in 2010 we had to stop it again. But then we released him eight years later. Now it turns out he’s the new king – or maybe just the kingmaker – in Kabul. But we live in the hope that he will remember our hospitality.
Hamid Gul, former head of the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI and one of the many self-proclaimed ideologues of the Afghan jihad, once said that we have defeated the Soviet Union with America’s help, and that a day the world will say that we have conquered America with America’s help.
Now, many Pakistanis are jubilant, while others warn of the future. We are doing a victory dance, but there is terror in our hearts. We talk about things like women and children, free media, and international consensus, but we hope the Taliban will remember the good times we had together. We hope they will not remember their suffering too much.
We hope that they will also remember our suffering. The last time we betrayed the Taliban, their Pakistani cousins brought Taliban-style combat to our streets, mosques and schools. For many years, we thought there were good Taliban (mainly in Afghanistan) and bad Taliban (mainly in Pakistan). While trying to maintain this distinction, more than 70,000 Pakistanis were killed – including 132 at an army-run school, murdered within hours. The US military has lost more than 2,300 lives in 20 years.
We already have a third generation of Afghans growing up in refugee camps, and now a new generation of Taliban is taking over Kabul. We have always hoped that the Afghan Taliban would somehow curb the Pakistani Taliban and turn them into workers of civil society. So far they have Free them Afghan prisons.
We were told not to celebrate the Taliban victory in Afghanistan. But some of us couldn’t help it. Our Prime Minister, Imran Khan, who gets along very well with many of our old friends, took a moment during an announcement about a new education program to declare that the Afghans had finally broken the the chains of mental slavery. Pictures of American military dogs Being on planes while Afghans cling to American planes taxiing proves once again what most of us learned three decades ago: that America is not ashamed.
Yet although we won in Afghanistan, many of us fear that a new, even more deadly war will start any time.