The Punjabi Taliban Threat to Afghanistan
The Afghan Foreign Ministry Affairs has summoned a Pakistani embassy diplomat over statements made by Pakistani Punjab Taliban leader that the group would focus on fighting in Afghanistan. Two days earlier, Asmatullah Muaweya, the leader of the Punjab branch of Pakistani Taliban announced the group was going to lay down arms against Pakistani army and cease fighting in Pakistan instead they would intensify fights against ‘infidel’ forces stationed in Afghanistan. The Foreign Ministry of Afghanistan has labeled the remarks an open and dangerous announcement and continuity of involvement of Pakistan’s intelligence agency in Afghanistan’s internal affairs. The Ministry said in a statement that Afghanistan has lodged its strong protest against the militant leader to the Pakistani diplomat in Kabul.
The official summoning of the diplomat of Pakistan’s Kabul embassy is coming a week after reports that Pakistan is working on a 480-kilometre-long trenches on the Durand line apparently, and allegedly, aimed at fencing off the militant groups entering the country from Afghanistan. The move to dig a ditch stretching several miles along the Durand border line infuriated the government of Afghanistan who believes the trenches are being an attempt from the Pakistani government to give official political status to the Durand Line which is not yet recognized by Afghanistan. Afghanistan has set a dedicated commission to investigate the Pakistani plan along the border lines.
The statement from the Punjab group of the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan is signs of Pakistan’s once-again-suffocating policy of the Pakistani military and intelligence in Afghanistan as the Afghan election is yet to produce a clear winner and the US-led NATO is preparing for a final exit from the country. In recent months, the militant groups in Afghanistan, who are believed to have overt support of the Pakistani military, have been raging a fresh wave of war and violence. The fresh surge of violence in Afghanistan is attributed by analysts to the Pakistani spy agency. It is believed Pakistan is trying to exert renewed pressures over Afghanistan ahead of the NATO withdrawal to force Afghanistan limit its expanding relations with India.
In recent months, Afghanistan has further developed relations with New Delhi through widening of areas of cooperation between the two countries as well as boosted donations of India to Afghanistan. From Pakistan’s point of view, expanding relations between Kabul and the New Delhi is a red line that is intolerable for Pakistan. As in the past, it seems that Pakistani is going to uphold its policy of interfering in Afghanistan affairs and undermining its security to ensure its influence over Kabul regarding its foreign and particularly regional ties. However, Afghanistan sees India a major backer of the development efforts in the country as India is playing a crucial role in supporting security and educational sectors as well as other development projects in Afghanistan.
Given the looming withdrawal of the bulk of the foreign forces and the prospect of an expanding relation between Afghanistan and India, Pakistan is even more likely to continue supporting the militant groups. Pakistan has now almost suppressed the Taliban threat in the northwestern tribal areas in the country. This provides a fresh opportunity for Pakistan to back the Taliban in Afghanistan as it has relatively tamed the domestic militancy at home.