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…
From Stalemate to Settlement: Lessons for Afghanistan from Historical Insurgencies That Have Been Resolved Through Negotiations
by Colin P. Clarke, Christopher Paul, RAND, 2014
In June 2013, the Afghan Taliban opened a political office in Qatar to facilitate peace talks with the U.S. and Afghan governments. Negotiations between the United States and the group that sheltered al-Qaeda would have been unthinkable 12 years ago, but the reality is that a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan is one of several possible end games under the current U.S. withdrawal plan. Negotiating an end to an insurgency can be a long and arduous process beset by false starts and continued violence, but a comprehensive review of historical cases that ended in settlement shows that these negotiations followed a similar path that can be generalized into a "master narrative." This research examines 13 historical cases of insurgencies that were resolved through negotiated settlement in which neither sid…
Jinnah and Colonel Blimp Khalid Hasan The Friday Times, May 16, 2005
Although everyone says what a superb lawyer Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was, rarely does one get to read anything about the court appearances that earned him that reputation.
I remember years ago in Lahore, Safdar Mir, the great Zeno of Pakistan Times , telling me about the Quaid's contribution to the "Indianisation" of the British-led and officered army. Though I never made the effort to look up how and where the Quaid had made his contribution, what Safdar Mir has said remained engraved in my memory.
The other day, while reading the autobiography of the late Maj. Gen. Ajit Anil "Jik" Rudra, who originally came from Lahore, served in three armies, fought in both World Wars and died in India in 1997 at the age of 93, I came upon an episode that showed that the Quaid's reputation as a brilliant lawyer was not a Pakistani myth but a fact.
The Government of India appointed a committee of the legi…