Watandost in Urdu, Turkish and Farsi means "friend of the nation or country". The blog contains news and views about Pakistan and broader South West Asia that are insightful but are often not part of the headlines. It also covers major debates in Muslim societies across the world.
The Taliban have reportedly agreed to open a representative office in Qatar. What is unclear is who are these ‘Taliban’. There is deafening silence in Pakistan, which should have been bestir with excitement that a defining moment has been reached in the Afghan endgame. The silence needs to be interpreted.
Nor is it likely that the Iranians are in the loop. The Iranian army chief Gen. Ataollah Salehi has just warned the US Fifth fleet not to its depute aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf again. “We advise and insist that this warship not return to its former base in the Persian Gulf.” (USS John C. Stennis, one of America’s biggest warships, is apparently cruising in the Sea of Oman at the moment.)
However, the big question is whether Mullah Omar is part of this Qatar affair. From the latest reports, he seems to be rallying the various Taliban groups to form a united front to launch a renewed offensive against the US and Nato forces in Afghanistan. Not exactly the kind of thing he should be doing when he is reportedly sitting down to talk? Good question.
So, who are these ‘Taliban’ who are in parleys with the US? Conceivably, they include the folks coming under the rubric of ‘moderate Taliban’ who have been living in Kabul under Hamid Karzai’s lock and key and enjoying state hospitality. In sum, they could be shifting residence from the ’safe houses’ in Kabul to the ’safe houses’ in Doha. Then, there are the interlocutors who pop up as Taliban ‘representatives’. No one is in any position to know who they are or what credentials they enjoy to speak on behalf of the Taliban.
Finally, the question arises whether there is a unified Taliban opposition as such that the Americans can engage. It seems Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s son-in-law is currently camping in Kabul to meet the NATO officials, possibly seeking accommodation in Qatar, while he himself is living in Peshawar.
The crunch time comes when the Taliban’s former commander-in-chief Mullah Mohammed Fazl arrives in Qatar on a long tiring flight with mid-air refuelling from Guantanamo Bay. Mullah Fazl’s ‘reintegration’ into the Afghan jihadi tapestry will need to be skillfully handled.
The guy has a lot of blood on his hands. While living and working in Tashkent, I heard terrible stories about his activities in Mazar-i-Sharif. Such as packs of wild dogs eating up the corpses of hundreds (or thousands) of Hazara Shi’ites including women and children executed there in that horrendous period of August-September 1998.
His metamorphosis as an Islamist politician in a democratic era will be something to watch. That is, if he doesn’t go berserk after having lived in a 2 metre x 1 metre underground cell in Guantanamo Bay for 9 years. How will he take to the sight of the sea? And all the good things in life that Qatar is famous for? This is by far going to be one of the epic stories of the entire Arab Spring.
What is crystal clear is that the Barack Obama administration is in tearing hurry to take peace parleys to some visible point by the time the NATO summit is held in Chicago in May. Or else, it will become increasingly difficult to persuade the Europeans to take any more interest in the war at such a time when their own house is on fire. Their debt repayment liabilities alone in 2012 apparently work out to some 500 billion euros and they can’t afford this war anymore.
Inside Story about Musharraf-Mahmood Tussle Hassan Abbas: September 24, 2006
General Pervez Musharraf’s memoir In the Line of Fire is expected to generate a lot of debate and discussion in the days to come. Except some western journalists and Musharraf’s close friends (three ghost writers) hardly anyone has had a chance yet to read the book from cover to cover. The excerpts of the book leaked through Indian media and General Musharraf’s statements to some American media outlets however have already created some controversies. In the United States, controversy is considered a positive thing, so the book is bound to become a bestseller here, but in Pakistan probably the opposite is true.
This article is not a review of the book (as I haven’t got hold of a copy yet), but it endeavors to throw some light on the widely reported Musharraf comment about the Armitage threat conveyed through Lieutenant General Mahmood Ahmed, the then Director General of the ISI. I had done research on this speci…
Confronting Extremism Through Building an Effective Counter-Narrative This article was originally published in the Development Advocate Pakistan on April 25, 2016.
While Pakistan is using kinetic means to push back terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda and Tehrik-i-Taliban in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), it is still struggling to find an antidote to religious extremism and bigotry that provides space for extremist thinking and consequent violence across the country. The ideas of pluralism, religious harmony and openness to diverse political views have slowly given way to narrow mindedness, sectarianism and intolerance. The democratic experience is equipping Pakistan to revive its balance in the socio-political domain, but it is a fact that the social space in the country today is highly contested between extremist and progressive elements of society.
The blame for these trends within the media and policy circles of Pakistan is often directed towards regional confli…
The News, June 24, 2006 Saudi ban on umra visa Rahimullah Yusufzai
As expected, the government of Saudi Arabia has refused to lift the ban on Pakistanis below the age of 40 years from performing umra. It was futile on the part of federal religious affairs minister Mohammad Ejazul Haq to visit Riyadh to try and make the Saudis change their mind on the issue. The Saudis formulate their policies after much thinking and in line with their national interest and decisions once taken are rarely changed.
Back home, Ejazul Haq sounded defensive when he told reporters that the ban would stay because the Saudi government had complained that over 100,000 Pakistanis had overstayed in Saudi Arabia after reaching there on the pretext of performing umra. Before leaving for Saudi Arabia, he had expressed concern over the Pakistan-specific umra restriction and had promised to take up the matter with the Saudi authorities. One could understand that he was on a weak wicket and could only request the Saudis…