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One year of Taliban 2.0. – I

The Taliban regime in Afghanistan is still in the quest for formal recognition after having completed a year in power. Its leaders’ visits to regional countries and world capitals (Moscow and Beijing) were motivated by the need for early recognition and subsequent economic assistance from the world community. It is postulated in this piece that short of taking a binary position (recognition or non-recognition) under the special conditions now being faced by Pakistan, it is in enlightened national interest that the latter engage with the Taliban regime and yet keep on insisting on the conditions set out by the UN.

The Taliban leaders have made regional visits to Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and the UAE in a bid to seek support for recognition. All the regional countries, including Pakistan extended humanitarian aid. Pakistan sent the then National Security Adviser, Dr Moeed Yusuf, and arranged OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) foreign ministers’ conference in Islamabad to support the Afghan people and regime. Talks were also held in Oslo, where the Taliban leaders and some Western representatives met together. Norway, as a Scandinavian country, has built a reputation for conflict-resolution. Yet the Afghan meeting did not go beyond listening to the Afghan regime’s point of view. While sympathetic to humanitarian concerns it has strongly linked recognition to Afghan reforms in human rights, education, rights of women and end of terrorism.

Formal recognition to a nation grants legitimacy through trade, aid and investments from big powers, the UN, world bodies and regional organisations. Sadly, the Taliban regime despite promises before coming to power in the Doha accord has neen dragging its feet on many issues though they have made some incremental moves. The Afghan government’s position is that differences with TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan) should be mutually settled by Pakistan and TTP through talks. It seems the incumbents are still beholden to Taliban, their ‘ideological cousins’: either for fear of losing their support or exercising some leverage against Pakistan. As for the TTP demands, e.g., freeing terrorists responsible for attacks, reverting tribal areas to erstwhile FATA status and making Islamic amendments in the country’s Constitution — cannot be accepted by Pakistan as a sovereign, independent nation.

The US initially blocked nearly $ 9.5 billion worth of Afghan assets in its banks, out of which $3.5 (victims of 9/11 and humanitarian aid for Afghan people) is now released, bypassing the Kabul regime. Besides, many Western nations and world organisations are waiting for Afghan situation to crystallize before getting a ‘go-ahead’ from the UN and the US.

Here, a distinction needs to be drawn between de facto and de jure Afghan government. That the Taliban regime have been able to physically control the country more or less, does give it de facto status; however, de jure recognition is still required to become a credible and responsible member of international community. Formal recognition is, in addition, essential for trade, aid, and entering into economic compacts and other international agreements in the comity of nations. Besides, legitimacy is important in securing diplomatic immunities and privileges as a nation state.

This aspect of recognition is a sticking issue with the UN, US and many Western nations. But legal precedents show that, short of that, provisional or temporary recognition could occur in ‘special cases.’ From Pakistan’s perspective, Afghan-Pakistan security is closely intertwined. As an immediate western neighbour, what happens in Afghanistan directly impacts its immediate eastern neighbour, Pakistan. While the US and Europe are far away, Pakistan has suffered colossally — humanly, economically and socially — due to the prolonged Afghan turmoil in the last decades. Lately, Pakistan’s economic distress has become more acute and international pressures are building up. As a nuclear power, it has exercised restraint with rival India, another neighbouring nuclear power, despite provocations by the Hindutva-led Modi government.

Nation states have followed different forms of governments: military dictatorships, monarchies, emirates, theocracies, democracies, communist and other hybrid forms. In the past decades, US efforts to effect regime change through military interventions have not fared well and only created manifold problems. Most of the Third World states, including the Islamic world, are organically developing societies which are wedded to indigenous cultures and traditions and cannot easily adopt Western norms and concepts.

Afghanistan is still a highly tribalized society and any switch to democratic norms and values seem quite remote at least in the foreseeable future. Yet it has followed under its quasi-semi-presidential system, elections, albeit not always fair and free like many developing world. Moreover, some basic educational, women reforms and human development have taken place.

Since the Afghan nation has been physically invaded by two superpowers (the Soviet Union and US) with frequent meddling by neighbors, its tribal infrastructure has been greatly destroyed. With broken infrastructure and poor economy, as a land locked state, it has remained dependent upon neighbours.

Professor Dr Maqsudul Hasan Nuri, "One year of Taliban 2.0. – I," Business recorder. 2022-09-08.
Keywords: Economics , Islamic Cooperation , World states , Poor economy , world organisations , Dr Moeed Yusuf , Pakistan , Afghanistan , US , FATA , UN , OIC , TTP

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