Pakistan is in a hurry to somehow recognize and boost the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, but is being restrained by other stakeholders who want to continue to exert pressures to ensure an inclusive government that would have representatives from non-Taliban, especially ethnic minorities and women.
There is concern after a Pakistani minister openly promoted the Taliban regime, while the official line is that recognizing the new regime should come only after these conditions, that the Taliban themselves have assured, are actually met.
An informal agreement had been reached for not resuming international flights to Kabul until these conditions were met. But Pakistan is seen as having breached it by sending the first PIA (Pakistan International Airlines) flight on September 13, and publicising it.
While Pakistan officially insists on preconditions, the unofficial argument is made through media.
Dawn newspaper, for example, has argued in its editorial that a world that has “no qualms” in dealing with Saudi Arabia, should not be insisting upon the nascent Kabul regime.
The unstated part of the argument is that Saudi Arabia is a monarchy that has all types of restrictions on its people in terms of religion and democratic norms.
This reference to Saudi Arabia, a leading Islamic nation, OIC member and the highest seat of Islam is significant.
While the OIC has not taken a stand, so far, Riyadh has issued a statement that does not seek the Taliban to be inclusive or include women in their government. Obviously, Saudis do not practice this, so they cannot preach it.
This is also a possible effort to go past Qatar, a rival of Riyadh, that has become the most important hub of all diplomatic and political activity on the Afghanistan front for several months now.
The Turkish ambassador’s remarks about the Taliban government also need to be seen in that light – that the provisional government is “not inclusive”, that it does not have non-Taliban individuals and that other ethnic groups are not included.
A relatively liberal Turkey, when compared to Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Islamic world, also talks of including women and of “human rights.”
Turkey also has long-standing rivalry with Saudi Arabia, bilaterally and within OIC, wherein it sees itself as the fount of the faith and its political, military and cultural past, while the Gulf nations are latter-day imposters – effectively, a Turkey with a post-Ottoman hangover.
The envoy denied that Turkey was part of any ‘axis’ with China, Pakistan and Iran, or with Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. He maintained that there had be no “highest level contact” so far between his government and the Taliban.
The envoy insisted that keeping its mission in Kabul fully operational did not mean that Ankara was recognizing the Taliban regime.
Also, he insisted there was “no consensus” among countries in Afghanistan’s immediate neighbourhood, in the region and stake holders located at a distance, like Turkey itself is, on how to deal with the Taliban. Every country is acting as per its own perceptions and interests, but an ‘inclusive’ government is the common point of all, according to him.
The unstated part here is the fear of inviting anger and disapproval of the U.S., the European Union and influential countries like Australia, Canada, Japan and others, besides the United Nations. The Kabul government includes several persons who are proscribed by the UN, the U.S., the EU, and the Taliban as a group itself stands labelled as a ‘terrorist’ body through formal resolutions.
Removing the label and the restrictions and sanctions that it carries would take much conferring, consensus-building and hence, time.
Seeking to circumvent this, Pakistan influencers are warning of “humanitarian disaster” to the ordinary Afghan suffering.
There is a strong element of mutual distrust that remains unstated – the ‘relief’ through UN agencies. At the end of the day, everybody is eyeing business opportunities and exploitation of untapped Afghan resources.
A way out for the Kabul regime could be finding some “show pieces” among the minorities, with no political standing or stake, and install them as ministers. They may be found within Afghanistan, or brought in from the outside, to give a representative character to the government as it is sworn in formally.
Prolonging the current crisis guarantees mass migration. There fears of more refugees than have managed to leave Afghanistan, walking/travelling hundreds of miles in search of safety.
The Turkish envoy made the point that there about 500,000 internally displaced Afghanis, which means continued internal strife.