Pakistan sees ‘civil war’ in Afghanistan if Taliban fail

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has warned of the risk of a “civil war” in Afghanistan if the Taliban is unable to form an inclusive government there.

“If they do not have an inclusive government, and gradually it descends into a civil war, which if they do not include all the factions sooner or later [will happen], that too will impact Pakistan,” Imran Khan told the BBC network during an interview aired on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Imran Khan

Imran Khan said his country was primarily concerned about the possibility of a humanitarian and refugee crisis if a civil war breaks out, as well as the possibility of Afghan soil being used by armed groups that are fighting the Pakistani government. “It will mean an unstable, a chaotic Afghanistan,” he said.

“That would mean an unstable, a chaotic Afghanistan and an ideal place for terrorists. That is a worry,” he observed.

The prime minister further said that in case, there had been fighting on Afghan soil, it would lead to a humanitarian crises and refugees issue for Pakistan.

Responding to a question, he said after twenty years of civil war, the Taliban have come into power. It had been few months since they had been in power. He said that Taliban leadership’s statements after coming into power had been very encouraging.

Afghanistan’s ‘strong’ women

Imran Khan said Afghan women were “very strong” and likely to assert their right under the Taliban rule. Khan was responding to a question about the rights of women in Afghanistan after the fall of the US-backed Ashraf Ghani administration and the emergence of the Taliban regime.
Women were not allowed to work and girls could not go to school when the conservative Afghan faction came into power between 1996 and 2001. While the Taliban have said they will not implement their previous policies, they recently closed the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in Kabul and replaced it with the Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.
“Their women are very strong,” the Pakistani prime minister told the British news channel. “I feel give them time and they will assert their rights.”
Asked how much time would be required for that to happen, he said: “A year, two years, three years … It’s too early to say anything because it has just barely been a month. After 20 years of civil war, they have come back into power.”

Imran Khan said his biggest worry about the situation in Afghanistan related to a possible humanitarian disaster that could lead to another refugee influx in the region.
Imran Khan has said preventing women from accessing education in neighbouring Afghanistan would be un-Islamic. He laid out the conditions that would need to be met for Pakistan to formally recognise the new Taliban government.

Pakistan Prime Minister, Imran Khan gestures during his interview to BBC’s John Simpson in Islamabad, Pakistan, on September 21, 2021.

He called for the leadership to be inclusive and to respect human rights. Mr Khan also said Afghanistan should not be used to house terrorists who could threaten Pakistan’s security.

Last week, the Taliban excluded girls from secondary schools with only boys and male teachers allowed back. But Pakistan’s leader said he believed girls would soon be able to attend.

“The statements they have made since they came to power have been very encouraging,” he said adding “I think they will allow women to go to schools. The idea that women should not be educated is just not Islamic. It has nothing to do with religion.”

Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in August, fears have grown over a return to the regime of the 1990s when the hardline Islamists severely restricted women’s rights.

Its leadership maintains that the rights of women will be respected “within the framework of Islamic law”.

The decision to exclude girls from returning to school last week prompted an international outcry, with a Taliban spokesman later saying they would return to the classroom “as soon as possible”. But it is not yet clear when girls will be able to return or what form of education will be provided if they do.

When pressed on whether the Taliban would realistically meet his criteria for formal recognition, Mr Khan repeatedly called on the international community to give the group more time. “It’s just too early to say anything,” he said, adding that he expected Afghan women to eventually “assert their rights”.

Pakistan has not been seen by all as a firm ally in the battle against jihadist terrorism. It has long been accused by many in the United States and elsewhere of providing support for the Taliban, something it denies.

Taliban are divided in various fraction and have differences

After the 9/11 attacks that were planned in Afghanistan, Pakistan positioned itself as an ally of the US in the so-called “war on terror”. But at the same time, parts of the country’s military and intelligence establishment maintained links with Islamist groups like the Taliban.

Imran Khan said that Pakistan would make a decision on whether to formally recognise the Taliban government alongside other neighbouring states.

“All neighbours will get together and see how they progress,” he said. “Whether to recognise them or not will be a collective decision.”

Worries over civil war

Imran Khan also called on the hardline group to form an inclusive government, warning that a failure to do so could see the country descend into civil war.

“If they do not include all the factions, sooner or later they will have a civil war,” he said. “That would mean an unstable, chaotic, Afghanistan and an ideal place for terrorists. That is a worry”.