By Senator Rehman Malik
IT was midday in March 2012 when I landed at Kabul Airport as Interior Minister and was welcomed and received accordingly by my Afghan counterpart. We went straight to the newly-renovated Afghan Palace thereafter, as I was there to deliver a special letter of goodwill to President Hamid Karzai sent by President Asif Ali Zardari—we also committed to extending full support to his government.
The wheel of time started turning and the influence of India crept in while increasing its strong foothold on the ground of Kabul. Afghanistan started to be hostile even though they had full cooperation and support from us in the war on terror. Around the same time, we had detained Mullah Baradar in Pakistan and there were direct pressing personal requests from Kabul to hand him over to Afghan authorities. The then Afghan Interior Minister, Mohammad Hanif Atmar had also visited us in Pakistan with a similar request.
We had to decline all the requests as we were not getting any cooperation from Afghanistan.
In the meantime, terrorist activities in Balochistan increased from Afghan soil by a lot. We received credible intelligence with solid evidence that India was not only training the Baloch Youth Militants but also launching terrorist attacks in Balochistan. I had also briefed the Senate for more than four hours about the joint Indian and Afghan terrorist activities. This was the same period when a US national, John Soloki UNHCR Balochistan Head, was abducted from Balochistan.
He was rescued later and how I got him recovered is a matter of public record and I will narrate the whole story some other time. Given that numerous terrorist incidents with Afghan signatures on our soil were increasing day by day, we decided to make a formal complaint to President Hamid Karzai accordingly. Therefore, Prime Minister Gilani, Gen Zaheer Ul Islam, the DG ISI and I paid a one-day visit to Kabul.
We met President Karzai and the difficult task of informing President Karzai about the five Indian terrorist training camps duly supported by Afghan NDS was performed by me. As expected, President Karzai denied the accusation in his usual smiling and cool way, but when I presented all the audio and visual proof, it became quite difficult for him to outrightly reject it. He finally showed some honesty and stated that it was not in his hands, hence, we were either supposed to talk to the Americans or we hand over Mullah Baradar to them and they will talk to the Americans on our behalf. So basically, he wanted to make a quid pro quo deal with us to give him Mullah Ghani Baradar and then he will recommend to the Americans to decamp terrorist centres.
In fact, it was the hot desire of President Karzai to get hold of him because he knew that “he is the man who actually wants to weaken the Taliban”. Gen Zaheer also played a very aggressive role with his information too. We were happy that we had conveyed to President Karzai and his intelligence that we are a competent nation and know how to protect our national interests.
We were back but the requests from Kabul kept coming in, also around the same time Kabul was helping Brahamdagh Bugti. In the meantime, Chairman Peace Committee Mullah Rabbani was killed in a terrorist attack and Kabul levelled this allegation against Mullah Baradar alleging that the suicide bomber had met Mullah Baradar before going to Kabul to kill him.
I deputed a competent team to confront and investigate Mullah Baradar based on the shared by NDS on the said murder, but no sustentative evidence was found against Mullah Baradar.
Kabul wanted Mullah Baradar to be deported to try him in the alleged murder case. Eventually, we allowed 20 investigators from Kabul to come and interact with Mullah Baradar and interrogate him about this murder incident in the presence of our investigators.
He was proven to be innocent, hence Pakistan declined to hand him over to Kabul. We endorsed all the reports showing the innocence of Mullah Baradar. The combination of Siraj Haqqani and Mullah Baradar has been a lethal one. More on this some other time.
Pakistan had been doing a lot of work to bring peace to Afghanistan but the then Afghan government and India’s Raw kept on sabotaging the peace process. Peace in Afghanistan does not suit Indian interests, which is why it keeps making efforts to ruin it.
The crucial peace negotiations initiated by the US through Zalmay Khalilzad entered into the final phase lately where the US made its mind to get out of Afghanistan whereas Pakistan had done its best by getting most of the factions in Doha to follow the peace process. At this very point in time, the US requested Mullah Baradar to lead the talks. Mullah Baradar was the second in command after Mullah Umer and he was the one who raised the Kandhari Taliban. In one of my conversations with Mr Zalmay Khalilzad, I had mentioned that ultimately Afghanistan will go into the hands of the Afghan Taliban, though he did his best to bring Ashraf Ghani on the table with the Afghan Taliban, it could not work out, but still his role remained historic.
I had my assessment that the US might have struck some underhand deal with Mullah Baradar which is why I had predicted two months before that I foresee the Taliban entering Kabul with or without violence. Eventually, it happened, that too without resistance and I stated on record that the Americans would help install Mullah Baradar to lead the Taliban government; this has also come true. I was overwhelmed when I saw the video of Anis Haqqani entering the palace—and the Taliban leaders in the same drawing room where once, President Karzai was sitting and pressing us hard to hand over Mullah Baradar. Kindly read my historic statement where I had outrightly said that they could only be allowed to interact with Mullah Baradar as per our law as handing him over to them was out of the question. I had played my desired role as Interior Minister purely in the national interest.
The context of my statement is as follows:
Interior Minister Rehman Malik on 12 August 2012 also said that Islamabad had granted Afghan officials access to Baradar. “They had access at the required and appropriate level,” Malik told Reuters. “We are fully cooperating with Afghanistan and whatever they are asking for the peace process, for developing peace in Afghanistan. We are giving every kind of help.”
I am sure this article will remind Mullah Baradar and President Karzai that the wheel of time does not stop, it keeps revolving and eventually comes back to the point from where it begins. President Karzai would have never thought he will be shaking hands with Mullah Baradar as his ruler and the same Siraj Haqqani, the most wanted head of Haqqani network would now be the head of the Kabul security and that all the former rulers would be at their mercy today. Twenty years after the United States (US) militarily invaded Afghanistan and ousted the Taliban from power, the Taliban are back in Kabul with a bang as the US fled the scenes just like they exited Vietnam.
Taliban entry reminds me of the great historic entry of Imam Khomeini after a long struggle from France. These incidents are natural revolutions as per the will of God. It is obvious the US indirectly facilitated the Taliban’s intentions and capabilities and supported them under the cover of peace processes where or the Taliban played the fast one and intelligently won the international legitimacy keeping their ideology intact.
In fact, the withdrawal of the USA with no exit strategy provided the space to the Afghan Taliban led by Mullah Baradar and let us see now, how women and minorities get their due protection. I hope the Taliban will play wise this time and show flexibility otherwise they will reduce the age of their rule and internal rifts would increase. This will also attract propaganda and pressure from the international community and their opponents.
I will be looking forward to a handshake between President Karzai and Mullah Baradar soon. It is a lesson for us that time keeps changing but the values do not change.
Pakistan has heavily suffered in the hands of the “do more syndrome” of the US against the Haqqani network. History will narrate the suffering of Pakistanis for their Afghan brothers and I hope Mullah Baradar will hand over Maulvi Faqir Mohammed, Haji Noor Wali Mahsud, Head of TTP Pakistan and Ikram Ullah, the second suicide bomber of the SMBB attack to Pakistan.
The views expressed are solely mine and do not necessarily represent the views of my party.
(The writer is a PPP Senator, former Interior Minister of Pakistan, and Chairman of think tank “Global Eye” and Senate Standing Committee on Interior. He can be reached at: email@example.com, Twitter @Senrehmanmalik)