By Samuel Baid
The Taliban's strategy is not to allow peace in Afghanistan unless it is allowed unchallenged power to rule the country in the name of Islam. That reminds one of the strategies of the Muslim League led by Mohammad Ali Jinnah, to keep peace at bay by making communal demands that strained India's unity.
There are many similarities between the Taliban of today and the pre-partition Muslim league. The Taliban want power without reference to the people's choice whether they want an Islamic system of democracy. They hate elections which they blame for all the ills in Afghanistan.
The Muslim League, on the other hand, did not oppose elections in the United India, but it subverted the meaning of elections in democracy by splitting electorate on communal lines. Hindus and Muslims, who had lived together as one nation for centuries, were now called two separate nations who must vote separately.
The Taliban do not have the art of splitting the Afghan people into fundamentalist Muslims and others to create a safe constituency for themselves. The Taliban's fear of their rejection by a large majority of Afghans (if they agreed for elections) had also haunted the Muslim league in United India where a very big Muslim majority did not subscribe to Leagues' policies. The Indian Muslim's attitude to this party was reflected in the 1937 provincial elections and the choice of a large majority of them to stay back in India which the league had succeeded in breaking up. The 1937 provincial elections results busted Jinnah's claim that the Pakistan League was Indian Muslims' only party. But it could win only 109 seats out of the 482 Muslim seats. In Punjab, it won only two out of 86 Muslim seats.
That exposed League's acceptance among Indian Muslims. That frustrated Jinnah who became more poisonous. In 1940, he launched his two-nation theory which said Hindus and Muslims were two separate nations who cannot live together. That was his argument to break up India. The Taliban have so far not shown any desire to divide Afghanistan on sectarian and ethnic lines. The reason, why Jinnah wanted the break-up of India to create Pakistan and the absence of the Taliban's interest in dividing Afghanistan is simple. The British backers of Jinnah were interested in the creation of Pakistan. But the Pakistani backers of the Taliban thought any division of Afghanistan will harm Pakistan's own interest. Between the end of the Afghan war in 1988 and the installation of the Taliban into power in Kabul by the Pakistani Army in 1996, Pakistani newspapers were full of expert assessment predicting break-up of Afghanistan into five to seven provinces.
During the Afghan war in 1980s, a coterie of Pakistan's then Military ruler Gen. Zia Ul Haq toyed with the idea of bringing Afghanistan under Pakistan's sway after the war to use that country for strategic depth and to keep inimical powers away from that country. The Taliban were most suited to Pakistan's designs. Elections, democracy and constitutionalism in Afghanistan defeats Pakistan's designs and threaten to demolish the Taliban's identity. One has to very critically analyse Pakistan oft repeated statement that peace in Pakistan depends on peace in Afghanistan. This statement creates an impression that Pakistan is dying for peace in Afghanistan for its own sake. But the analysis shows that this country used its Taliban guests and terrorist activities in Afghanistan to kill peace and progress efforts in that country. The Taliban terrorists were given safe heavens in Pakistan's tribal areas adjoining Afghanistan.
Besides Pakistan, the Taliban enjoy the support of Russia and China in much lesser degree, though all three of them are not particularly interested in democracy in Afghanistan. All of them are interested in some kind of peace not so much for the sake of the goods of that country as for their country's vested interests. If the Taliban rule Afghanistan: (i) Pakistan may try to realize its dream of holding sway over this country, (ii) China may more freely exploit its natural resources and expect the Taliban not to let Afghan territory be used by Chinese Muslim rebels and (iii) Similarly, Russia may hope the Taliban will not let anti-Russia terrorists to use the Afghan territory.
The question arises: who is interested in peace in Afghanistan for the sake of Afghans?