Today a great deal of media attention is focused on the North West Frontier Province (“NWFP“) of today’s Pakistan and the rapidly increasing control of the Taleban over this province. The New York Times is especially focused on this topic:
- Ragtag Taliban Show Tenacity in Afghanistan – August 4, 2008
- Taliban Breached NATO Base in Deadly Clash – July 15, 2008
- The Taliban’s Rising Tide – Editorial – July 11, 2008.
We present our perspective below. You will find it totally different from what you see in American Media (TV or Print) or in Indian Media.
A Country Partitioned, A People Divided – By England in 1893
The reality is that the NWFP and Panjab, the heartland of Pakistan, are two separate people, ethnically, historically and geographically. Pakistan is dominated by Panjabis, the people from the Panjab province of Pakistan, kin to their brothers on the Indian side. In contrast, the population of NWFP is Pashtun, the same ethnic people who dominate Afghanistan. The assertive Pashtun have started calling the NWFP province as Pashtun-i-Stan, the land of the Pashtuns. Even this nomenclature does not tell the full story.
The historical reality is that Pashtunistan is South Afghanistan and it has always been so. The British-led Indian Army seized Pashtunistan and made it a part of British-India under the 1893 Durand Agreement. Today’s Pakistan inherited this province from the British. The line that divides South Afghanistan or Pashtunistan from the rest of Afghanistan is called the Durand Line because it was established by Mortimer Durand, the then foreign Secretary of the British-Indian Government.
The Durand Line is now the de facto border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. But Afghanistan does NOT recognize this border and still considers South Afghanistan as its rightful territory. In fact, Afghanistan, in 1949, officially declared the Durand Line invalid.
The Pashtun Taleban do not recognize Pakistan’s authority over Pashtunistan and consider the province as a part of their Afghanistan. Naturally, they do not consider the Durand Line as valid and cross it at will. On the other hand,.the American Forces cannot cross this border because America recognizes the Durand Line as the official border of Pakistan.
Afghanistan is an ally, a a partner and a protectorate of America. America should recognize the historical claims of Afghanistan and recognize Pashtunistan as a part of Afghanistan. Then, American Forces in Afghanistan could enter Pashtunistan and carry out the necessary missions against the Taleban.
At the very least, American should declare Pashtunistan as disputed territory, which it is by definition (two different countries claim the province as their territory). America should be able to tell Pakistan that it would not choose between Afghanistan and Pakistan, two allies of America and therefore America considers Pashtunistan as disputed territory. Once America designates it as disputed territory, it would have the same right (on behalf of Afghanistan) as Pakistan to take action in that territory.
(Durand’s Partition of Afghanistan ) (Afghanistan before the 1893 Durand Agreement)
A “No-Man’s” land becomes the Epicenter for Terror
Pakistan does consider it disputed territory. Therefore, it gets to deny any real responsibility for activities of the Pashtun Taleban in that region. Yet, at the same time, Pakistan gets to deny America any access to this region. So, Pakistan gets to have it both ways.
This ambiguity has allowed the Taleban to take control of most of the province. Recently, the Taleban attacked the outskirts of Peshawar, the capital of this province. They have also extended their influence as far south as Attock, the town of the Indus River that is considered to be the gateway to Panjab and India. (See our article – “Attock – If you have not heard of Attock, Read this Article”)
As long as the Taleban have sanctuary in Pashtunistan, they have the freedom and the ability to sneak across the mountains to North Afghanistan and attack American & Afghan troops at will. After the attack, the Taleban sneak back to Pashtunistan while American Troops cannot cross the border in pursuit.
This situation is frighteningly similar to Vietnam. Recall that American Forces controlled South Vietnam and its Government, but the Viet Cong stayed in North Vietnam and used the porous border to enter South Vietnam at will and return to North Vietnam. American troops could not pursue the Viet Cong into North Vietnam.
Pashtunistan has now become the world’s epicenter for terrorism. Understand that this is a much better sanctuary for the Taleban than their control of Afghanistan. In 2001, America could bomb and seize control of Afghanistan. Today, to retaliate against a Taleban attack, America would have to attack Pakistani territory, a very different proposition.
This is an untenable situation, which if left unchecked will lead to increasing level of terrorism. The Taleban and their sponsors in the Pakistani Army believe that the American Troops will leave in a few years and the Taleban can then rush back to seize control of North Afghanistan.
Pakistan has placed the majority of its nuclear arsenal deep into Pashtunistan, away from the Indian border. As the Taliban take control of Pashtunistan, they get close to their ultimate prize, the nuclear arsenal of Pakistan.
The dangers to America and the rest of the world are clear. What is not understood is the significant danger to Pakistan itself, especially to Panjab, the core of Pakistan.
Danger to Pakistan – What kills you is the danger you don’t see
For the past 1,000 years, the Afghans and the Panjabis have fought for supremacy and for the most part, the Afghans won. In fact, the reason Panjabis in Pakistan are Muslim is because Afghans conquered Panjab and converted the Panjabis to Muslims. Panjab finally got better of Afghanistan during the rule of the Sikh King Ranjit Singh. The British then defeated the Sikhs and took control of the region. The Pakistani Panjabi Muslims inherited this control from the British.
Today, the Pakistani Panjabi Army feeds and encourages the Pashtun Taliban because they think they can use the Taleban against India. They believe that they can control the Taleban and use it as an instrument of their policy.
The Pakistani Panjabis seem to be forgetting their history. In building up the Taleban, they are militarizing the Pashtuns and supplying them with weapons. The Pashtuns now constitute 25% of the Pakistani Army. The Pashtun soldiers in the Pakistani Army and the Pashtun recruits of the Taleban come from the same villages. They are brothers so as to speak. This is a key reason that the Pashtun-dominated Pakistani Frontier Regiments have been both reluctant and unable to fight the Taleban despite pressure from their Panjabi Generals.
This has enabled the Pashtun Taliban to establish their
sway over all of Pashtunistan. They are now poised to penetrate Panjab itself with their entry into Attock, the gateway to Panjab (See our article, “Attock-If you have not heard of Attock, Read this Article”).
Yet, the Pakistani establishment keep looking the wrong way. The bulk of the Pakistani Panjabi Army faces India, while behind their backs, the Pashtuns are increasing their control over Pakistan. If this goes on unchecked, we might see a struggle break out for control of Panjab between the Panjabis and the Pashtuns marching southward as they have done for the past 1000 years. This will be a struggle for all of Pakistan and its nuclear arsenal, which already resides in Pashtunistan.
America as England’s successor; its opportunity and challenge
America needs to protect Pakistan against itself. America has the historical claim and the geostrategic capability to do so. America is the natural successor to the British Empire in almost every aspect. In fact America has greater power and more moral suasion than England had.
America, as England’s successor, can reverse the English mistake of 1893 and return control of Pashtunistan to Afghanistan. The British Government will support this decision. Remember, the 1893 Agreement was between Afghanistan and British-India, a state which does not exist today. This renders the 1893 Agreement ex parte. Afghanistan concurs with this argument.
America and England can together declare the 1893 Agreement ex parte and invalid. This will allow the reunification of Afghanistan. Then the unified Afghanistan can be stabilized and rendered free of terror by the Pashtun-Afghan Army with support from American and NATO forces.
This step is also necessary to protect Panjab and the rest of Pakistan. Sensible elements in Pakistan should welcome this move and the Pakistan Civilian Government should support this decision by voluntarily withdrawing the Panjabi Army from Pashtunistan.
The unification of Afghanistan would:
- Eliminate the Sanctuary that Taleban-Al Qaeda enjoy today,
The alternative is to allow the terror virus to spread through out Pakistan and allow the Pashtuns to become masters of Panjab again. The consequences for America, Europe and Asia will be terrible.
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