By Samuel Baid
The man, whose network split the decades-old friendship between the United States and Pakistan, is dead or looking at it from another angle, Pakistan chose to sacrifice its lucrative friendship with the US for the sake of this terror network, said to be a “veritable arm” of Pak intelligence. It is not clear when and where founder of the network Jalaluddin Haqqani died. He was said to be in bed for the past ten years. Afghan sources said he was already in his grave for the past three years. But the Taliban chose to announce his death on September 4 just about 24 hours ahead of the arrival of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Islamabad. It was generally speculated in Pakistan that the visitor’s discussion with the new Prime Minister Imran Khan focussed on the US concern about Islamabad’s inaction against the Haqqani network. Perhaps it was presumed in Islamabad that the news of Haqqani network’s founder would have some palliative effect on the US Secretary of State. Pakistanis have worked themselves into believing the Americans are very gullible people.
Did Jalaluddin die in Pakistan or Afghanistan? There are doubts about it. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed Jalaluddin had died in Afghanistan on September 3. This means he was asserting that the terror mastermind did not die earlier than September 3 and that he did not die in Pakistan. Mullah Mujahid’s claims cannot be taken without a pinch of salt, because firstly, the Taliban hid Mullah Omar’s death for about two years by issuing false messages in his name when the news of his death could not be suppressed any more, a controversy was created about the country where he died – Pakistan or Afghanistan? Pakistan claimed he died in Afghanistan. But he died in Karachi, where he had been shifted from Baluchistan in view of the US threat to a drone attack against the infamous Quetta Shoora. Pakistan denied the existence of Quetta Shoora. Then a rumour circulated among the rank and file of the Taliban that Mullah Omar did not die a natural death: he was done in.
Coming to the question whether Jalaluddin Haqqani died in Pakistan or Afghanistan, we may remember the confession of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz he made more than two years ago about the presence of the Haqqani network fighters and their families in Pakistan. He said some of these people were in Pakistan for medical reasons. This is a fact that the people of Afghanistan come to Pakistan for medical treatment. One, therefore, fails to believe that Jalaluddin Haqqani, the most important terrorist for Pakistan’s objectives in Afghanistan was not in Pakistan for medical treatment at the time of his death whenever it occurred.
It could be that the choice of the timing of the announcement of Jalaluddin’s death was made by Pakistan and thrust on the Taliban in the childish hope that it would give US Secretary of State Pompeo some relief and the US chorus of “do more“ to crack down on the Haqqani network would melt. The “do more “chorus is a US 17-years old appeal to Pakistan to drive out Haqqani network and other terrorists from their safe havens in the country. The US had designated the Haqqani network as a terrorist organisation. It very rightly expected of Pakistan that as a coalition partner in the US-led War against Global Terrorism, it must drive out this network. Pakistan promises but its covert support to the network has made it the most powerful and daring of all the Taliban factions. Since 2001, as President Donald Trump said, Pakistan had received US 35 billion dollars to fight global terrorism but instead it helped these very terrorists taking Americans as fools.
Pakistan has shown that it is willing to lose 64-year old friendship with the US and its billions and billions dollars for the sake of the Haqqani network. This gives a clue to Pakistan’s designs on Afghanistan. Towards the closing years of the Afghan War in the 1980’s the impending defeat of the involving Soviet troops had inspired Pakistan rulers to conspire to take control of post-war Afghanistan. After the war in 1989 Pakistan deeply involved in the making and marring the successive administrations in Kabul. Finally, in 1996 it further strengthened its influence on Afghanistan by installing the Taliban from its Madrashas into power in Kabul.
Pakistan’s apple cart was upset in 2001 when the US bombed out the Taliban administration in Afghanistan despite cringing appeals of then Pakistan Army Chief and President Gen Pervez Musharraf. The Taliban’s grouse against the US is that it thrown them out from “their legal power”. They believed the power snatched by them with the force of gun was legal whether or not the people accepted it. But Pakistan, which should know better, seems to share the Taliban’s belief. And that is why its hospitality to the Taliban terrorists in the hope that it will regain its influence on Afghanistan if the Taliban again succeed to retake power in Kabul. Pakistan knows that the Taliban cannot achieve that with any accepted legal method. Thus, terror is the only hope. Afghan intelligence’s accusations that Pakistan has been behind the latest spate of terror in different parts of Afghanistan including the most ghastly in Ghazni, need serious examination in the light of Pakistan’s real Afghan policy.
Much has been made of Jalaluddin Haqqani’s death. But will it lower the level of Haqqani terror? It does not look like. His network is very much intact under the leadership of his son Sirajuddin Haqqani who has been carrying on bloodshed of Afghan men, women and children while his paralysed father was in his sick bed. In Afghanistan, Jalaluddin’s death has caused no relief. It believes as long as terrorists have their safe havens in Pakistan there cannot be peace in Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan has promised to make the country a ‘Naya Pakistan’. He has not spelled out his vision of New Pakistan. Nor he has said how he will get the country rid of old dirty baggage of backwardising militant Islamic intolerance which has poisoned the Pakistani society and its relations with her immediate neighbours. In other words, can he eradicate Islamic intolerance from a New Pakistan or cleanse the country of terrorists who attack Afghanistan and India? Will New Pakistan of his vision be without the bone of contention between his country and the US – the Haqqani network? The Haqqani network is too sensitive for Imran for two reasons: Firstly, if the Army’s baby and Imran Khan dare not earn his benefactor’s displeasure by thinking of any action against it and secondly, Imran Khan has good relations with the Taliban and obscurantist Islamists. The evil influence of Islamists on him was shown recently when under pressure of Khatam-i-Naboobat zealots he removed, a noted economist Atif R Mian from the Economic Advisory Council (EAC) because he was an Ahmediya.
In Imran’s New Pakistan there is a possibility that groups like the Haqqani network will be strengthened further. It does not seem likely that Imran can jerk off the Army-supported anti-progress Islamists’ influence on him. His claim that Quaid e Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah has been his only leader notwithstanding the Army-higher judiciary–Islamists combine has made him the Prime Minister. He, therefore, cannot think of any action against terror groups like the Haqqani network who carry on their activities in the name of Islam.