Shahzavar Karimzadi, in a podcast interview with Medya News, has suggested that the trajectories of Pakistan and Afghanistan, after the Taliban assumed power in Afghanistan, point towards further conflict, war and even the break-up of the states.
Indeed, in the wider region, “in Iraq, in Turkey, in Syria, this region is burning,” he states.
Karimzadi, a Baloch economist, human rights activist and Senior Lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire in England, is the author of several books, including ‘Methodology of Deception,’ ‘Dialectic of Regressive Errors’ and ‘Money and its Origins.’
In the podcast, he pointed out that we have to appreciate and understand, at the outset, the questionable manner in which Pakistan was historically created as a state. The historical context in which Pakistan was artificially created has a bearing on ‘how’ and ‘why’ it is quite possible that with current developments unfolding with the Taliban’s assumption of power in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan may be subjected to further conflict, war and fragmentation.
‘Pakistan’ – an artificial construct
As he explains in the podcast, Pakistan is an artificial construct that was named and created through the geopolitical and geostrategic post-war and ‘Partition-linked’ intrigues of the British government, the Islamo-fascist ideologue Choudhry Rahmat Ali, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the Punjabi military establishment.
“The British wanted a base in that region” after ‘partition’ and Pakistan fulfilled that role. Consequently, “the British created” and certainly facilitated “the Frankeinstein state of Pakistan,” he noted.
The boundary with Afghanistan, maintaining the Durand Line that had been created by the British to delineate its Empire’s territories between Afghanistan and British India (and which divided the Pashtun tribal lands into two, causing much acrimony, with the more heavily populated Pashtun lands ‘integrated’ into the newly formed state of ‘Pakistan’), has never been officially recognised by any Afghan governments, notes Karimzadi.
The Durand Line wasn’t even recognised when the Taliban first assumed power in Afghanistan, even despite its assuming power significantly through the intervention and backing of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
The Durand Line will continue to be a source of tension between the governments of the two states, Karimzadi observes, even despite the Pakistan military and intelligence agency ISI’s support for the Taliban whilst it was embarking on its most recent take-over of Afghanistan.
The term ‘Pakistan’ itself is drawn from fascist imaginings, Karimzadi clarifies, and it is an offensive term to many for these reasons. Myra MacDonald, indeed, similarly noted in ‘Defeat is an Orphan: How Pakistan Lost the Great South Asian War’, that “even the name Pakistan – the Land of the Pure – came from the early 1930’s, at the high point of fascist zeal in the supposed purity and glory of unmixed races” and religions (Here, where ‘Pakistan,’ the ‘Muslim’ land of the ‘pure’, was to be contrasted, Karimzadi observes, with ‘Hindustan,’ by implication housing ‘impure’ non-Muslim ‘Othered’ peoples).
Karimzadi, in the podcast, describes how Pakistan via the Punjabi military establishment went on to ‘occupy’ a part of Baluchistan using military force and underhand dealings, with British imperialist support. In an earlier interview with Medya News, he had also noted how, “on 3 August 1945, Churchill asked Wavell to ‘keep a bit of India’ (quoted in R. Ankit’s 2011 ‘Wavell – The Prophet Maligned, Epilogue’). This is how the theocratic state of Pakistan was created in 1947 and this is how, in 1948, Pakistan was able to invade Balochistan. As a result of this invasion, the Baloch have been experiencing the most violent, destructive, and barbaric period of their entire history. Ever since, they have been subjected to state terror, murder, torture, dispossession of their land, cultural assault, and escalating disappearances.”
Since the creation of this artificial state, the Punjabi military establishment has continued to ‘guide’ and dominate the politics of the state, he noted. It has continued to severely repress ‘occupied regions’ like Baluchistan and it has also severely repressed Pashtuns (amongst other ethnic ‘minorities,’ including Sindhis), fearing a call or initiative to create an independent ‘Pashtunistan,’ which by its very nature would mean a significant breakup of the state territory.
Karimzadi explains that great efforts were expended by the Punjabi military establishment to halt a ‘Pashtunistan’ independence movement or one where Pashtuns in Pakistan would request the integration of their lands with Pashtun lands within the borders of Afghanistan (on the other side of the Durand Line). The strategy used by the Punjabi military establishment was to focus on making the Pashtun area an extreme fundamentalist area, one that became “a factory for all the [militant] Jihadist movement.”
Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI and the Pakistan Punjabi military establishment was able to draw upon billions of dollars worth of funds from the Pentagon, the CIA and Saudi Arabian and other Arab connections to maintain and develop, as he describes it, a “Frankenstein state” which developed an extremist “factory” in which initially ‘mujahadeen,’ ‘al-Qaeda’ and later Taliban extremist fighters have been trained and equipped to fight in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
The Taliban, who they have funded, trained and supported in its war to end US and coalition forces’ ‘occupation’ in Afghanistan, has now taken over Afghanistan – after its previous US-backed president “allegedly made his escape with $169 million that he stole from the public coffers. Ghani reportedly crammed the cash into four cars and a helicopter, before flying to the United Arab Emirates”. But Pakistan, having backed the Taliban so significantly, is now faced with unintended consequences, Karimzadi suggested.
‘Sooner or later, the Pashtun forces … will turn against’ the ‘authority that exists’
“They think that, by controlling Afghanistan now,” through the Taliban, “they are going to survive. But it is going to have exactly the opposite effect than what they intended. The reason for that” is that the “the largest Pashtun area is under the occupation of the Punjabi establishment in Pakistan.”
“Sooner or later, the Pashtun forces, who are aware that they have been under the control of the ISI and Pakistan army” thus far, “will turn against that kind of authority that exists,” he contends. There have already been tensions regarding this and it is now “not going to get less and less” with the Taliban in power in Afghanistan, he stated.
Even as early as 2010, nine years into the US-UK and ‘coalition’ campaign that had removed the Taliban from power, with it now acting as a rebel force against the ‘imperialist forces,’ substantially still backed by the Punjabi military establishment and its ISI (as Mark Curtis -amongst others – has documented in ‘Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam’), the International Council on Security and Development, an NGO, conducted an extensive survey of Afghan opinion, and found that “49% of respondents in Helmand [province] believed that there should be an independent Pashtun state – bad news for those who will be striving for a united Afghanistan after the foreign occupation,” concluded Frank Ledwidge in his book ‘Investment in Blood: The True Cost of Britain’s Afghan War.’ Bad news too for those military elites in Pakistan wishing to retain their territorial integrity as an “independent Pashtun state” would also mean Pashtun areas within its borders would also be merged into the envisioned new state.
The Pashtun “demand,” Karimzadi states in the podcast, to break free of the Punjabi establishment and ISI control after they have assumed power in Afghanistan, “is going to be more vocal and that is going to be a major, major problem for the Punjabi establishment. For that reason, I believe that, sooner or later, we will see some movement or some resistance from the Pashtun against the Punjabi [establishment’s] domination of the region at the moment. (…) And even now, soon after they managed to control Afghanistan, there are different factions within the Taliban” and disputes amongst them are beginning to emerge. “Most of the Taliban, even now, do not recognise the Durand Line,” he observed.
Tensions between the different Taliban factions may lead to conflict
There is one group of the Taliban that is part of the ISI, namely the Haqqani group – which received substantial funding from the US in the past, as noted in the podcast – under the control of the Punjabi military establishment, which is “the most brutal, the most violent” Taliban faction that has been behind key suicide attacks of the past. The Punjabi establishment, Karimzadi asserts, has created the Pashtun area as a space where, on a really industrial scale, they have indoctrinated many to become suicide bombers.
But there are tensions between the different Taliban factions as to how the Taliban will govern and conflicts are likely to emerge over time. A recent report, after the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, in the Straits Times, appears to back up Karimzadi’s observations.
There have been “days of rumours,” it reported, “that supporters of Mr Baradar had clashed with those of Mr Sirajuddin Haqqani, head of the Haqqani network that is based near the border with Pakistan and was blamed for some of the worst suicide attacks of the war. The rumours follow speculation over possible rivalries between military commanders like Mr Haqqani and leaders from the political office in Doha like Mr Baradar, who led diplomatic efforts to reach a settlement with the United States.”
Jared Schwartz and Yelena Biberman (Associate Professor of political science at Skidmore College, non-resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and the author of ‘Gambling with Violence: State Outsourcing of War in Pakistan and India’) had also claimed in June last year, even before the Taliban had assumed power, that significant splits were becoming apparent as different factions were promoting conflicting geopolitical strategies: “The shift in the balance of power within the Taliban has the potential to upend Afghan security [and] India-Pakistan relations. (…) Haqqani,” a deputy leader of the Taliban, “is an ally of Pakistan and al-Qaeda, while [Mohammad] Yaqoob favour[ed] the peace process with the United States and rapprochement with India. (…) But, as Yaqoob and Haqqani factions compete with each other for power, a spike in violence against soft targets by the Haqqani faction and its allies as well as a new proxy war between India and Pakistan are likely to ensue.”
They added: As the “son of the organisation’s founder Mullah Mohammad Omar, Yaqoob has gained the loyalty and operational resources of the most vigorous Taliban factions in the south, where Haqqani has been unpopular. (…) Indian intelligence officials believe that Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), an extremist group based in Pakistan that seeks to annex Kashmir, is operating three training camps in Nangarhar, Afghanistan, in return for JeM training Haqqani Network operatives in Pakistan.
“The Taliban’s contradictory policy toward India suggests a major internal rift between the Haqqani and Yaqoob factions. Both India and Pakistan are likely to exploit this rift in order to advance their own security interests in the region. (…) The Haqqani Network is widely viewed as a proxy of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI. Under the command of Yaqoob, the mainstream Taliban’s accommodating attitude toward India is a direct threat to Pakistan’s ability to project strategic depth through the Taliban against India. The two factions’ divergent attitudes mean that Pakistan will likely view Haqqani’s influence within the Taliban as critical to its interests.”
Shishir Gupta reported just over a month ago that “there are several fault lines visible within the Taliban with tension between Mullah Yaqoob and the Haqqani terror empire controlling Kabul at present. There is friction between non-Pashtun Taliban and the Kandahar faction just as there are differences between the Pashtun and non-Pashtun tribes. With everyone fighting for their piece of cake in the Afghan government, there is concern within the Taliban leadership about the differences coming out in the open and triggering violence with each group fighting the other as in the mujahideen days of the 1990s. With the US leaving behind more than USD 85 billion of weaponry in Afghanistan, there is enough ammunition with each faction to fight the other for at least a decade. (…)
“The biggest worry within the Sunni medieval theocracy,” the assert, “are the differences between the Taliban under Yaqoob and the HQN under Sirajuddin Haqqani and could lead to ‘pro-Afghanistan’ and ‘pro-Pakistan’ factions within the ruling regime. While the Taliban leadership exercises its judgement rather than blindly take orders from the Pakistani deep state, the HQN network is a family run terror factory aided and abetted by the Pakistani ISI operating through retired army officers with jihadist inclinations.”
In evaluating what is happening in the wider region, in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Syria, Karimzadi stated that, “In my opinion, I think that (…) there is even within extremism, (…) a limit. In that region, you can’t really go beyond the cruelty, the harsh environment, the death and destruction” that has already been experienced.
“There are two ways these problems can be resolved. In one way, a very democratic, humane peaceful way” can be approached to resolve issues. “Another way is through war. So, sooner or later, all these fundamentalist forces in that region” will “start to kill each other” as they naturally steer themselves, by nature, towards conflict.
And, in conflict with each other, these states “are going to disintegrate. (…) Sooner or later, this region is going to totally change and the change, as I said, is going to be” either “through a rational, democratic or peaceful way – which is impossible” given the political orientation of these fundamentalist regimes, or through “war, which is already there.”
There are different nationalities in Afghanistan, he noted: “Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazara, Uzbeck, Turkmen, Baloch and so forth.” And in Pakistan, given the manner in which the ‘Frankenstein’ state was created, often through force and dominance of the Punjabi military establishment, “you have the occupation of Balochistan, the occupation of Sindh, the occupation of that Pashtun area and from the start, from 1947/8, you see the resistance of all of these nationalities against the Punjabi” military establishment. The Bengalis struggled for and achieved independence (to become Bangladesh).
Karimzadi: ‘In Iraq, in Turkey, in Syria, this region is burning’
“Sindhis from day one have been fighting for their rights.” In Iran, all the different nationalities have also been struggling for their rights. “In Iraq, in Turkey, in Syria, this region is burning. And when it is burning, sooner or later, you have to resolve the problems.” Either by peaceful, humane, rational, democratic methods or people are going to fight for their rights. Women, workers and different nationalities, poets, musicians and so forth are resisting the onslaughts against them, he noted.
As for the west, experience in this region and history has shown that western governments, despite their professions of promoting and defending human rights, can be ‘bought,’ he suggested, be it to assist them in the war against the USSR, in the ‘War against Terror,’ or to maintain their imperialist goals and aspirations in the region.
Hence, as Frank Ledwidge has noted in his 2013 book ‘Investment in Blood: The True Cost of Britain’s Afghan War,’ substantive and highly questionable US-UK military and financial assistance to the tune of billions and billions of dollars continued to be provided to the corrupt client Afghan Karzai government and its military forces as US-UK governments allowed themselves to be ‘bought’ – in this sense – in return for the Karzai’s government’s accommodation (however critical at times) of their and ‘NATO/coalition’ forces’ military footprint on the ground, military bases, death squads and questionable counter-insurgency and human rights violation-linked operations and control and influence over several economic and geopolitical restructuring aspects.
In return for allowing their continued military ‘occupation’ of the country and more, the ‘fundamentalist’ client Karzai government, Ledwidge confirms, was allowed by the US-UK forces and governments to proceed with passing the following laws, despite the US-UK governments internationally presenting the viewpoint that part of their Afghanistan intervention was specifically to replace the Taliban’s ‘appalling stance’ towards women’s repression: “It is not only traditional rural attitudes that undermine the dignity of Afghan women: the Karzai government is also playing its part. In 2009, for example, it upheld a law that allowed men of Islam’s Shia branch to force their wives to have sex, that granted guardianship of children exclusively to men, that required women to get permission from their husbands to work and that ‘effectively allows a rapist to avoid prosecution by paying blood money’ (Guardian).
“It was described justifiably,” comments Ledwidge, “as ‘barbaric’ by Human Rights Watch. This was all part of a deal,” he reveals – an act of being ‘bought,’ some contend – “said that organisation, to secure Karzai’s re-election” – essential for US imperialist aims in the country to advance – “in the presidential election in August of that year (which anyway turned out to be partly rigged). Then, in 2012, Karzai endorsed a series of regulations, a ‘code of conduct’ drafted in collusion with Islamic clerics.
“Thus, a woman is not to travel without a male guardian and should not mingle with men in such places as schools and markets. Beating one’s wife is permitted as long as there is no Islamic reason not to do so. Clearly, these rules would meet the approval of the Taliban, and it seems this was indeed the purpose. (…) Women’s rights,” Ledwidge rightly concluded, were “up for negotiation,” and in this sense, could be ‘bought’ in return for Karzai’s re-election, desired by the US-UK establishment at that time.
Experience in the region, as Karimzadi stresses in the podcast interview, historically has shown that fundamentalist regimes “can buy them” (i.e., ‘western’ governments and influential circles) and influence them in some way to the point where they have ignored the human rights of women and groups, as well as atrocities perpetrated by these governments and regimes.
“The Punjabi military establishment can buy them” through whatever geostrategic, military and economic offers and ‘relationships’ they were able to make during the Cold War and post-Cold War and post-9/11 period. The Saudi regime can “buy them” to the point where they will ignore the regimes human rights violations. “The Turkish” government “can buy them.”
Even with the Russians, via geostrategic bargaining, “they can buy them,” and for the ‘west,’ for all their governments’ talk of acting in defence of “social democracy, the idea of human rights protection, ‘fighting for democracy and human rights, freedom,’ all these sorts of things, they’re meaningless for the ‘west’” and meaningless in practice for targeted groups in this area, he suggested.
“So it’s not surprising that you get the most cruel, criminal regime, like in Turkey, like in Iran, like in Pakistan and now the Taliban. Saudi Arabia’s” regime, like so many fundamentalist others in the region, are able and have been able to ‘play’/‘buy’ the ‘west,’ or China or Russia too. “It really goes back to those people who have been oppressed to stand up,” in these circumstances whilst being aware of these relationships and agreements.
Opposed to such fundamentalisms and superpowers and international interests and circles sustaining/supporting them overtly and/or covertly, there is this other force standing up against these repressive regimes with different values, Karimzadi noted, that we need to support: “Look at Afghanistan now. The movement of women, the movement of young people, look at Iran – the movement of youngsters. Women in particular that call for their rights. (…)
“In the changes in the future,” struggles by these groups to assert a different value based system is possible and has to happen, he contends, if we are to escape from a bleak constant repressive situation for so many. “There is no way that this region is going to remain in the way that it is because it’s reached (…) that point of extremism and beyond” where there has to be a reaction, he argues in the podcast.
Of course, the superpowers, the US, Russia and China are “going to act to protect their interests” in the region, he argued. Economic, political, strategic interests “are more important than human rights, the rights of me and you or any other nationality” for them. And they will intervene through their proxy forces. But there will be some forces that will try and utilise the superpowers to attain changes against the present order, against Islamofascist groups and regimes (ironically, many of which in the past have received – or even are still receiving – funding from ‘western’ powers themselves, as Mark Curtis’ ‘Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam’ reveals. He reveals, for example, that in the face of evidence of ISI Pakistani support towards and protection of the Haqqani Taliban forces and Hekmatyar extremist fundamentalist forces, “it is difficult (…) to square British support for Islamabad with confronting the Taliban in Afghanistan”).
Karimzadi: The conditions for ‘democratic confederalism’ do not currently exist in Pakistan or Afghanistan
I asked him whether he considered that a type of ‘democratic confederalism’ could be implemented – advocating democratic participation by different ethnic and religious groups along the lines of the Rojava revolution in North and East Syria (the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria) – in Pakistan and Afghanistan (where there may be existing tensions within the Taliban that may lead to its fragmentation) at this or a future political juncture, or whether initiatives for an independent Pashtunistan or Balochistan could or would intensify.
Karimzadi in the podcast explains why he doesn’t believe the conditions for ‘democratic confederalism’ exist – “It’s just impossible,” he states – at present in Pakistan or Afghanistan. The Punjabi military establishment or the Afghanistan Taliban are not currently going to voluntarily permit such an initiative or democratic, peaceful ‘revolution.’
The only language the Islamofascist establishment understands, with regard to the treatment of the ‘Other,’ is violence, bigotry, killing and destruction, he contends. Millions of people over the past 70 years have been killed, raped and displaced in this wider region because of these motivational actions (not forgetting that they were – and are – in many ways still enabled in their actions by the ‘western’ powers).
“The Taliban have been trained by the Punjabi military establishment,” which demands for the Pashtun in Afghanistan as in Pakistan (with the Pashtun, Baloch, Sindhis and other minorities) a “total dependency – that means economic dependency, cultural dependency, military dependency, political dependency – in all respects: that means you are deprived of all your humanity as human beings” where other religious viewpoints will not be practically tolerated – something which is contrary to the values of democratic confederalism. Their overriding fundamentalist principles and actions are to kill the ‘Other,’ he asserted.
*Desmond Fernandes is a former Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at De Montfort University in the UK, who specialises in genocide studies, ‘deep politics,’ human rights concerns and an examination of the manner in which ‘Othered’ communities are ‘criminalised’ by state linked mechanisms and bodies. He has written widely on Baloch human rights issues and is the author or co-author of a number of books focusing upon genocide as well as the human rights situation in Pakistan and Balochistan, including ‘Call it by its name: Persecution!,’ ‘Education, Human Rights Violations in Pakistan and the Scandal involving UNHCR and Christian asylum seekers in Thailand,’ ‘The Targeting of Minority Others in Pakistan’ and ‘The Education System in Pakistan: Discrimination and the Targeting of the Other.’