1947 and 1948 were horrible years for the self-determination of both Pashtuns and Palestinians. A Zionist regime has completely handicapped any right of Palestinian nationhood. The independence of Pashtuns (the largest Afghan ethnicity who call both Pakistan and Afghanistan their ancestral homeland) has been set back due to the inception of Pakistan. Status quo deems it sacrilegious to speak ill of the Israelis. This is similarly expressed among Afghans of all ethnicities in regards to Pakistanis, and among Pashtuns with Pakistani citizenship. I resent this. A sense of “Islamic brotherhood” between the two nations prevents any imposition of accountability on the Pakistanis. This is the exact political agenda of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which I will explain further. But a common religion should have absolutely nothing to do with criticizing an unjust, destructive, and poisonous foreign policy.
I would argue that the Pakistani ISI has done more to cripple Afghanistan than any nation on the face of the earth, including the Western powers and the Soviets.
While the West drops shells and artillery on the Afghans, it is Pakistan that perpetuates this defense policy, by not only spreading the Taliban cancer from within, but also erasing with an iron fist any sense of Pashtun nationalism. Divide and conquer to it’s greatest extent. It is virtually unknown amongst the international community that almost 30 million Pakistanis are ethnic Afghans, the largest group outside of Afghanistan. Around 12 million Pakistanis speak the Afghan language of Pashto. It is also unknown that Afghanistan, to this day, does not recognize the arbitrarily constructed border, called the Durand Line, which separates Pakistan and Afghanistan, that was signed in 1893 between Afghanistan’s Amir Rahman Khan and Britain’s Foreign Secretary for India, Sir Mortimer Durand. The line was intended to mark the “limit of their respective sphere of influence, so that for the future, there may be no difference of opinion on the subject.” (Should “any difference of detail” arise, the agreement stated, they were to be “settled in a friendly spirit.”) This border lies smack-dab in the middle of the Pashtuns, dividing them into Afghans and Pakistanis. However, as the Afghan government has unrecognized the border, so too have the unruly Pashtuns who live on it. The Pashtuns freely travel back and forth between the two nations, proving that bloodlines triumph borders.
What must be explored, is how severe the damage is to not only Afghans, but specifically Pashtuns, at the hands of Pakistani national policy. There is absolutely no way to tackle the Afghan problem unless we hold Pakistan accountable. Forget the status quo, forget your common faith. Because the ISI has forgotten it. They ruthlessly perpetuate the mass killing of Pashtuns and Afghans, completely unrecognizing our Islam. So to save ourselves, we must do the same.
The ISI has continued to meddle with Afghan security by backing terrorists, dating back to the 1970’s. As former President Hamid Karzai told an Indian news channel, terrorism was “nurtured” and “supported” in Pakistan, where the militants had their “ideological roots.” Why would Pakistan want to do this to their Muslim brethren? Two reasons:
- Creating a strong Pakistan against India
- Preparing for the looming withdrawal of international forces from the region, thus leaving Pakistan to deal with the Taliban
Since the United States waged a war against the Soviet Union, Pakistan has played a “double-game”, publicly “helping” the West while secretly securing its borders. In the 1980’s, Pakistan provided a base for the Mujahideen, who were used as proxy-fighters by the U.S. to defeat the Soviets. Pakistan found this to be a golden opportunity to cause chaos in Afghanistan. They supported Islamist groups within Afghanistan, as this pan-Islamism would quell any sort of Pashtun identity. (Remember when I said Islamic brotherhood prevents us from holding Pakistan accountable? Ya).The specific Pakistani agenda, and a genius one at that, was to crush Pashtun nationalist groups that wanted to create an independent Pashtun state from Pakistani and Afghan territory, our original homeland. These Pashtun political groups, as well as thousands of local supporters, had ambitions of redrawing the Durand Line and essentially “taking back that which is ours”. Thus, recognizing this threat Pashtun unity, Pakistan strategically stood behind the Hizb-i-Islami party of Mujahideen warlord, thug, and lifelong international criminal Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. His campaigns led to the deaths of around 50,000 civilians in Kabul alone. And they continued to back radical Islamists who most of the time, were uneducated, extremely orthodox in their views, and highly violent. There were tons of other credible, reformist, intelligent and liberal Afghans, including my great-uncle and former governor Taj Mohammad Wardak, who were eager to help in stabilizing Afghanistan. But no, Pakistan fed the terrorists instead.
How did Pakistan fund Hekmatyar? The U.S. had given extraordinary leverage to Pakistan in covert assistance to the Mujahideen through the CIA. By channelling CIA funds of around $2-3 billion to Pakistan, the ISI was able to provide covert assistance to the Mujahids, training over 80,000 of them. Hikmatyar and his minions spread like a plague within Afghanistan, thanks to Pakistan’s unabashed support.
As the Mujahids mounted a catastrophic civil war within Afghanistan, Pakistani policy shifted to create the Taliban. I say “create”, because Pakistani officials have stated they did just that:
In 1999, Benazir Bhutto’s Minister of Interior, Nasrullah Babar, who some call the “Taliban Architect” admitted it, pronouncing, “We created the Taliban”.
Sustaining and manipulating the ongoing fighting was and still is done through:
-Soliciting funding for the Taliban
-Bankrolling Taliban operations
-Providing diplomatic support as the Talibans virtual emissaries abroad
-Arranging training for Taliban fighters
-Recruiting skilled and unskilled manpower to serve in Taliban armies
-Planning and directing offensives
-Providing and facilitating shipments of ammunition and fuel, and on several occasions apparently directly providing combat support
-Having a lax policy towards jihadists. Pakistani madrassas preaching jihadi narratives have soared from 900 in 1971 to 32,000 in 1988. The men at these schools have gone on to join the Taliban and al Qaeda.
-Persuading the Taliban to keep Osama bin Laden’s location a secret. The Taliban were prepared to hand him over, but numerous intelligence suggests the Pakistani ISI were instructing the Taliban to provide a safehouse for him, unbeknownst to the Talibs, to instigate the occupation of Afghanistan by the international coalition led by the U.S.
The highly paranoid idea that India will invade Pakistan through an alliance with the Afghans has pushed an aggressive agenda to weaken Afghanistan.
As Pakistani dictator Zia ul-Haq told one of his generals: “Afghanistan must be made to boil at the right temperature”.
Pakistani ambition is to create an anarchic vacuum within Afghanistan, allowing Pakistan to control the territory. And their continued funding of terrorists is doing exactly that. This policy is known as “strategic depth”, perceived in the 1980’s by Pakistani Chief of Army Staff General Mirza Aslam Beg, working under Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Strategic depth prevents encirclement from India and Afghanistan, who have a long peaceful history and modern solidified alliances. Delhi and Kabul have loved each other for centuries, and the Pakistanis deplore this. Afghanistan is therefore controlled, and used as an instrument of geo-political security in the fight against India. Simply put, controlling Afghanistan will give Pakistan a safe-haven if an attack or occupation by India ever occurred (which is highly far-fetched). Furthermore, controlling Afghanistan will also give the Pakistanis a chance to form economic and cultural ties with Central Asia, who could also be used as allies against the Indians.
Which other country uses strategic depth? Israel, against the Palestinian population.
This continued policy of controlling Afghanistan, supporting terrorists, and manipulating the West, has no doubt contributed to the over 1 million Afghans killed in the Soviet War and 21,000 killed since Operation Enduring Freedom. Not to mention the massive refugee diaspora. Afghanistan has taken the title of the largest refugee-producing country in the world, for the past 32 years. And although Pakistan houses the largest refugee population, it continues to produce more due to its policies.
Now, as NATO troops withdraw from Afghanistan and the Taliban are beginning talks with a new reformist President Ashraf Ghani, timing is highly important for not only Afghans, but Pashtuns specifically. I am calling for the Pashtuns of Pakistan to recognize that you are pawns in a greater fight, one that relies on the crippling of your people, regardless of Pakistani citizenship or Afghan. The Peshawar attacks, the suicide bombings, all which the Taliban claim responsibility, were allowed to happen because of the Pakistani ISI. How much longer will we allow Pakistani nationhood to get in the way of a unified Pashtun identity? How much longer will Afghanistan burn, while our Pashtun people die on both sides of the border? This border between us has singlehandedly led to the extremely high number of Pashtun casualties. Our right of self determination and self identity has been muddled because of Pakistan’s existence. Remember that we have been Pashtuns for 6,000 years, that we are the fiercest warriors on the planet. Remember that it was not Afghans alone who made us the Graveyard of Empires, but that it was the whole Pashtun diaspora, regardless of Afghan or Pakistani citizenry.
Patriotism and nationalism are extremely sensitive and private subjects. I understand Pakistan is home to my Pashtun brethren, specifically my generation and my parents generation, who may know nothing beyond Pakistan’s borders. But don’t you see what is happening? Divide & conquer in the most extreme form. I challenge you to stop viewing your identity through a politically-created lens. Approach it through culture, not colonialism. As Pashtuns, we must objectively look at what is the best for us, what is best for the security of Afghanistan and the Pashtun people. This is unified Pashtun nationalism. Recognizing a distinct Pashtun national identity that is blind to borders.
May I remind you that your grandparents were Afghan, and your great-grandparents, and all those who came before them, who believed in a unified Pakhtunkhwa. I challenge you then to view your identity through this personal lens, in your language, your food, your traditions and customs. Through our great Pashtun leaders who understood this need for a strong Pashtun identity, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Khan Abdul Wali Khan. Through the songs we sang and continue to sing. Through the poetry of our Khushal Baba, who said,
“Pull out your sword and slay any one, that says Pashtun and Afghan are not one! Arabs know this and so do Romans: Afghans are Pashtuns, Pashtuns are Afghans.”
Remember the land of your ancestors, and what it was before the borders of this modern state. Remember the melodic beating of our drums during our Attan. Our wars, our blood, that is one in the same. As our great leader Ahmad Shah Durrani stated so lovingly:
By blood, we are immersed in love of you.
The youth lose their heads for your sake.
I come to you and my heart finds rest.
Away from you, grief clings to my heart like a snake.
I forget the throne of Delhi when I remember the mountain tops of my Pakhtunkhwa.
If I must choose between the world and you, I shall not hesitate to claim your barren deserts as my own.
When the Pashtuns of Pakistan have been awakened, when the Lion-Hearts of the East realize we have been pawns, only then can we combat Pakistani foreign policy that continues to rape our homeland.
As the great Khan Abdul Wali Khan once stated, when a journalist questioned his loyalty and his first allegiance, to which his reply was, “I have been a Pashtun for six thousand years, a Muslim for thirteen hundred years, and a Pakistani for twenty-five.”
YAW PASHTUN. YAW AFGHAN.