Pakistan Ambassador at Kabul Muhammad Sadiq has pinpointed the right way to undo the Afghanistan tangle when he says that President Hamid Karzai should set up a “representation government” to pave the way for reducing insurgency and tension. Mr Sadiq was speaking ahead of the arrival in Islamabad of Salahuddin Rabbani, who replaced Burhanuddin Rabbani as head of the High Peace Council that was created to achieve peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. The issue has assumed urgency as the foreign forces are due to leave by the end of 2014 and as yet the government’s efforts to engage the Taliban, which symbolise resistance, to secure the chances of peace, post-troop-withdrawal, have not made any headway.
There is plain logic in Mr Sadiq’s observation. A government that does not give due representation to any of the ethnic groups its population strength requires would be seriously hampered in achieving reconciliation, especially in a milieu torn with bitter antagonism like Afghanistan’s. The Taliban, ousted by the US with the help of Northern Alliance, which was on the defensive when the foreign troops landed in the country in 2001, would not countenance being short-changed in any new political dispensation that follows their departure. As it is, the Northern Alliance holds a dominant position in the existing civilian and military upper hierarchies and chances are that it would not easily stomach a reversal of its fortunes, expecting to retain their strength as a reward for helping the US. Besides, the Northern Alliance would not feel comfortable with a weakened position, fearing the Taliban to settle scores with it afterwards. Unless things are ironed out beforehand and there is some credible guarantee of peaceful coexistence its fears would most likely turn out to be true, considering the age-hold tradition of revenge in Afghan society. It was for this reason that Ambassador Sadiq said that he feared opponents of the Taliban, more than the Taliban themselves, not to jump on the reconciliation bandwagon. Pakistan, he said, was busy holding negotiations with the insurgents as well as others.
Against this backdrop, the younger Rabbani spends three days here holding meetings with President Asif Zardari and other top officials to see how progress could be made, with Islamabad and Kabul having different perceptions of the need to tackle the Haqqani network peacefully or militarily. While Pakistan believes that talks, not tanks, are the way forward, both the US and the Afghans think in terms of talks-plus-military solution.