By Deepika Bhan
The Taliban’s rise in Afghanistan has given certain elements in Pakistan an opportunity to portray the Taliban victory as a gateway to Kashmir also. Their imaginations may be running riot, but the reality is that the happenings in Afghanistan may not be as helpful to Pakistan as it is claiming. But it may use the Taliban rise to stir up the ‘Islamic sentiments in Kashmir to fuel the separatist agenda.
The Taliban has too many challenges at hand. Its struggles to form a government, run it, sustain it and save it from many other virulent groups are too many for it to export its help to Pakistan in its Kashmir mission. The Taliban have brought the whole of Afghanistan under its control except the Panjshir province. But it is the Islamic State-Khorasan and the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) which have the potential of keeping it engaged.
The IS-K has already thrown a challenge to the Taliban by launching several attacks since the Taliban takeover, including the two at Kabul airport. The IS-K has refused to acknowledge Taliban’s supremacy and is prepared to engage in a long-drawn battle that could result in civil war in Afghanistan and cause problems in neighbouring nations. Khorasan involves parts of Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia. Now that the US is not there, IS-K feels that it has an opportunity to take on the Taliban.
The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) or Pakistan Taliban has had an off-on relationship with the Taliban depending upon the situation and the timing. Pakistan regards it as one of the most dangerous terror outfits. As the Taliban was launching its offensive in Afghanistan, the TTP was carrying out attacks in north Waziristan. It wants an independent state comprising Pakistan’s tribal areas which have faced subjugation for decades from those at the helm in Pakistan. The TTP also has ties with Uyghur groups and has targeted Chinese workers associated with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Since China is supporting the Taliban, controlling and containing the TTP will be a hard task.
What Taliban had been for the erstwhile Afghan governments, the IS-K and TTP could be the headaches for the new Taliban dispensation.
Keeping Afghanistan intact and running it are the Taliban’s foremost challenges. And the challenges are too engulfing for it to spare its men for ‘jihad’ in Kashmir.
However, the feeling that terror activities may get a new push in Kashmir is not unfounded. Pakistan will increase activities on the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, including infiltration and drone attacks. But, more dangerous is the fanning of the Muslim sentiments regarding the Taliban’s resurrection and its ‘successful’ fight against the ‘invader US’. The radicalization of the youth in Kashmir over the decades has been a major worry for the security forces. And this is what comes in handy for the elements which are working round the clock to fan the separatist agenda.
Al-Qaeda has given a call for the ‘liberation’ of Kashmir and other so-called Islamic lands. This might pose more security challenges in the valley in the sense that Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba may increase terror activities in the valley to cash in on the rising sentiments of a Taliban win over the superpower US. ‘If Taliban could overthrow the US, why can’t a similar thing happen in Kashmir’ — this sentiment will probably become the new weapon for these terror outfits and their mentor, as has been flagged by Al Qaeda.
One of the conditions of the peace deal signed by the US and the Taliban in 2020 was that it should sever ties with all terror groups and not let its land be used for carrying out terror activities. And whether the Taliban will stick to this is a million dollar question.
After the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019, the Central government took J&K’s administration directly in its hands and a number of promises were made. Although political activity has been restored with the conducting of local body polls, the feeling of alienation has not ebbed.
The Taliban’s rise in Afghanistan is fodder for Pakistan’s ISI to again work on the religious sensitivities of Kashmiri Muslims and that is the challenge for the Indian security agencies now.
(Deepika Bhan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)