WEBDESK: In the wake of allegiance pledged to Mulla Mansour now by the late Mulla Omer’s family as supreme leader of Taliban movement the chances of a negotiated end to decades-old Afghan turmoil have considerably brightened.
His emergence as the movement’s leader was expected all along given complete confidence reposed in him by the late emir – he was de facto head of Taliban movement for many years – but given his country’s particular history and political culture there had to be rejectionists, and there were too many.
To this Dr Ashraf Ghani-headed government in Kabul lent an added cheer, perhaps unwittingly. It put on hold the nascent reconciliation move alleging how come Pakistan could be an honest broker when it held on to the secret of Mulla Omar on its soil for so long. Pakistan promptly denied that Mulla Omer died in Pakistan, but Kabul remained stuck in denial groove – much to the delight of India and a few others, including the purveyors of Daesh worldview whose best option remains a fragmented Afghan society at perpetual war with itself.
Hopefully that is behind us now that Mulla Omer’s family says that the late emir died at home of natural causes but also accepted Mulla Mansour as supreme leader of Taliban movement. An understanding is said to have been reached that though Mulla Mansour would be the emir and movement’s chief commander the ultimate decision-making powers would rest with a 20-member Taliban Shura.
His rivals’ reaction to the latest development is awaited and it may be anything, though the concern over conceding ground to Islamic State fighters permeates throughout the Afghan Taliban movement. Not only does, therefore, the rise of Mulla Mansour as uncontested leader of Taliban movement augur well for Afghan national reconciliation, it also takes care of international concerns over the expanding influence of Islamic State in Muslim countries.
How critical to Afghan national reconciliation is the latest turn of events in Afghanistan even the United States is quite optimistic. “We are absolutely hopeful that the peace process can be resumed … it is for the Taliban to resume,” says the United States Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Jarrett Blanc after his recent meetings in Kabul and Islamabad.
But no less revealing is his understanding that the Afghan government was already willing to restart the process and “there were no other issues blocking its recommencement.” If so, why the special envoy’s insistence that it is for the Taliban to resume. Important it is that anti-government forces in Afghanistan are confident of their capacity to deliver as an equal stakeholder on the commitments made at the negotiating table.
Caught in the midst of a power transition struggle it may not be feasible for Mulla Mansour to join the peace process without having established his supremacy in the movement right now, a concern shared by Pakistan. PM’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz told the Senate that ‘completion of transition in the militant group was being awaited for resumption of Afghan reconciliation process’.
One would have no beef with US diplomat’s perception that both Pakistan and Afghanistan “firmly recognise” that security of each other is inter-dependent, unless it was trying to convey that Afghan Taliban are the foot soldiers of Pakistani establishment. Such a misunderstanding tends to undermine Pakistan’s resolve to help materialise an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned solution to the lingering imbroglio on its western border.
As a collateral victim of the Afghan war Pakistan has suffered more than any other country in the world, and this must be accepted without any caveats. No other country would be keen than Pakistan on early a resumption of Afghan peace process. But it is also a fact – and should not be overlooked and trivialised by big powers’ regional interests – that there are states and their agents whose interest are best served with Afghan cauldron always on the boil.
They had succeeded in derailing the follow-up of the July 7 Murree meeting between the Taliban and Kabul officials. They will try again, perhaps more vigorously given their avowed opposition to the emerging reality of game-changing China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.