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Catch 22 and Afghan Blame Picture Frame

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By Agha Iqrar Haroon

Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan while addressing a meeting of the Heads of Delegations of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) offered the world to come forward and help Afghanistan along with Pakistan to avoid any humanitarian crises.

On the same day, in his interview to Russia Today (RT) television shared his thoughts about the past, present, and possible future of Afghanistan. He rightfully indicates that abandoning Afghanistan could take us (region) back to an unstable situation resulting in civil strife, negative spill-over effect on neighboring countries, an outflow of refugees, rise in terrorist incidents, drug trafficking, and transnational organized crime. “Engagement, therefore, in our view, is the only way forward,” Imran Khan remarked.

He informed participants of CSTO and SCO summits that Pakistan’s consistent policy has been of supporting Afghanistan on its path of peace, progress, and prosperity.

In his interview with RT, PM Imran Khan said that Pakistan joined Washington’s War on Terror and now the US blames Pakistan for its own failures in Afghanistan.

“Pakistan suffered great losses when it joined Washington’s War on Terror, and in the end, the US still pinned the blame on Pakistan for its own setbacks in Afghanistan,” said Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in his interview.

He also indicated that a propaganda campaign was launched against Pakistan with a targeted narrative to paint the picture in a way that people could blame Pakistan for the collapse of the former Afghan government. He said a comprehensive analysis should be done to know the reasons as to why the army of the bravest nation of the world laid down its weapons without a fight.

When asked to comment on PM speech at SCO and CSTO summits, Gen (retd) Khalid Jafri was of the view that PM speech was balanced and mature which was all-encompassing. “No doubt engagement with the Taliban is the only way forward for peace and stability in the region. The SCO is ideally suited and configured to facilitate dialogue between the regional countries, and provide a platform for conflict resolution,” Gen (retd) Jafri maintained.

Ambassador (retd) Hassan Javed who is a writer of several international books on foreign affairs and public diplomacy commented the holding of the SCO and CSTO Summit and its powerful joint statement on Afghanistan is a good first step to help alleviate the sufferings and end the diplomatic isolation of the new Taliban regime. The next obvious step should be unconditional simultaneous recognition

“Essentially, not only Afghanistan, but SCO, CSTO, US, EU, and the global community have come at a crossroad too! The people of Afghanistan have suffered nearly 50 years of instability, civil wars, and destruction due to Big Powers’ intervention. They certainly deserve strategic and economic relief. The Joint Statement of the Summit calls on the Western Powers who destroyed the country to help rebuild it, in order to avoid humanitarian catastrophe and mistakes of the past. Afghanistan’s new rulers have not sought so far either ‘apology or reparations’, but have in good faith implemented their part of the ‘Doha deal’ by letting a peaceful transition of power, control of Capital, and a responsible evacuation of Foreign forces, nationals, and their own citizens wanting to leave.

The Positive attitude of the Neighbours at the Summit only solves half of Afghanistan’s problems. Pakistan, SCO, and CSTO need to expand the initiative to other regional bodies, before taking it up at the United Nations.

Afghanistan cannot be left to rot. Fall of Kabul on 15 August 2021. Is it not the same as the American debacle in Saigon in April 1975? Its success or failure will have much more profound implications globally. The attitude of the Western Powers, particularly the USA, on the situation needs a re-assessment after faulty assessments and sufferings inflicted during the past two decades. The problem is that in trying to modernize the tribal Middle East and Afghanistan, the US has itself become a tribal society, with no consensus on any issue.

President Joe Biden’s decision however not to play the global ‘Cop’ role is the first step in a thousand-kilometer journey. There needs to be a follow-up action. The narratives in the Western power Corridors and mainstream media need to change too! As a second step, there is a need for a new ‘Marshall Plan’ by the US and EU, in order to restore their Soft Power, image, and reconciliation with the 2 billion Islamic worlds. The freezing of poor Afghanistan’s US$12billion is not only immoral, unjust, and myopic but also sends a wrong message to America’s friends globally.

Pakistan and its allies, friends, and supporters will not let the Afghan people suffer indefinitely. Despite limited resources, Pakistan is still hosting a million and a half refugees, (from one time high of 4 million) for four decades. Due to weak economic conditions, perpetrated by the Western Powers themselves for decades, Pakistan cannot now take in more Refugees. A peaceful, stable, and prosperous Afghanistan, is in the international community’s broader interests. Pakistan has paid a heavy price and will not let chaos and instability return to Afghanistan. Let Afghans decide their own future. Nobody should tell them what to do. They have hard-earned their freedom and sovereignty by defeating three Superpowers in a century from British retreat in 1919, Third Anglo British War to American withdrawal in August 2021. They have made history as a warrior and fiercely independent nation,” commented Ambassador Hassan.

Foreign Affairs and Strategic Affairs Expert Brig (retd) Shaukat Qadir commented that for those who knew the situation on the ground, there is nothing unexpected in what is happening since. The US departure left a vacuum and those who could and had the support of the people filled it. Apart from the foregoing, the PM’s recommendation is the most sensible one. Afghanistan has no worthwhile economy, except for poppy. Unless outside help is made available, it could implode. The US and Europe might choose to deny assistance.

Shaukat Qadir who retired in 1998 as a Brigadier became the founder and vice-president, and later president, of the semi-independent think tank Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI). He added that neighbors of Afghanistan should step in to help this war-ridden country and Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan, and Central Asian states are the immediate choices. He is of the opinion that Trade and Commerce must be made the basis of Afghanistan’s Current economy

Prague-based Foreign Affairs expert Shazia Cheema while commenting on PM Khan’s interview with RT said that a massive campaign to blame Pakistan for US defeat and collapse of former President Ghani government is on and India was at forefront of this campaign. She cited that Indian media in the quest of blaming Pakistan to meddle with Afghan issues ran stories by using children’s video games and using fabricated footage. She stated that even Indian media came out to say that the propaganda campaign against Pakistan Army was a childish and stupid act of Indians. She was of the view that the US should come forward to help Afghanistan to avoid humanitarian crises because it spent 20 years playing with this land but the US had stopped 9 billion USD funds of Afghanistan.

The editorial of English daily Dawn “Blinken’s remarks” published on September 18, 2021, also helps to understand that the comments of PM Khan in the RT Television interview are based on logic and reality.

The Editorial indicates that perhaps it was US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s chaotic, humiliating recent withdrawal from Afghanistan — and the attendant war-weariness that comes with occupying a country for two decades — that made him blame Pakistan for America’s failures in the Afghan theatre.

The Editorial says:

While speaking at a public hearing in Congress, America’s top diplomat made highly uncharitable remarks about Pakistan, accusing this country of “harbouring members of the Taliban” and “hedging its bets constantly about the future of Afghanistan”. In the same breath, Mr Blinken admitted that this country has cooperated “with us on counterterrorism” at “different points”. He added that Washington would be reassessing its ties with Islamabad.

It was a confusing tirade on Mr. Blinken’s part. As the Foreign Office has noted, the comments are “surprising” and “not in line with the close cooperation” between the two states.

Complete Editorial can be read to click this link

Prof Dr. Taimoor ul Hassan, Dean, Faculty of Media and Communication Studies, University of Central Punjab, Lahore is of the view that PM’s message to the world is timely and must be taken seriously by the power players in special and the world in general. He stated that last time the Americans withdrew after the end of the war with the Soviets and the Afghans were left with unstructured governance. Poppy cultivation led by the warlords returned, Taliban led terrorism spilled over into neighboring countries, especially Pakistan. “Pakistan bore the burden of refugees and arms and heroine and growth of sanctuaries funded by competing for Islamic countries. 80000 lived were sacrificed in Pakistan to flush out terrorism.

“Other countries in Central Asia and Iran too, China suffered the spillover effect of abandonment of Afghanistan. This time the Taliban seem to have learned their lessons with the young ones more amenable to co-existence with the world. The moderate Taliban will be taken over by the radical strains if the world lets their economy drown, poverty prevails.  If food is not there and if they are not rebuilt, the scenario similar to the 80s could resurface with additional intensity.  The world has helped rebuild many other conflict-ridden zones. It must step forward with a credible system. Otherwise, poppy, arms, ISS, or Al Qaeda kind of groups will again turn it into a hub of Islamic militancy. And if it happens now will step to stop them considering the failure of second US intervention in Afghanistan,” believe Prof Taimur.

The comments of several members of the European Parliament during the EU Parliament Session criticized Pakistan without connotation and denotation while accepting the reality that the US played havoc with Afghanistan while leaving from defeated war. Being a victim of self-contradictions, European Union (EU) Parliament refused to accept the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban on the one hand and called for coordination with the Taliban on the other hand.

Wife of Hurriyat Leader Yasin Malik Mushaal Hussein Mullick who is also Chairperson of Peace and Culture Organisation believes Afghanistan is at the crossroads and the situation could go either way; hence the sensible and rational approach is warranted to steer the Afghans out of the prevailing quagmire. Unfortunately, Afghanistan was abandoned by the world after the defeat of the Soviet forces in the decade-long war, triggering a long-drawn-out civil war that caused immense man and material loss. Eventually, Afghanistan became a hub of militants outfits and posed a constant security threat for the neighboring countries as well as the world.
“Now, again the situation is quite similar after the abrupt US troops withdrawal from the war-torn country after two decades. If the international community repeats the same old mistake, the end results will hardly be different from the previous one.
That is why Prime Minister Imran Khan rightly said that the world should need to learn a lesson from its past mistakes and should fund and support the new Taliban regime in order to avert the looming humanitarian crisis and economic meltdown.
Premier is advocating for a negotiated and political settlement of the Afghan issue and is right in saying that the war bring devastation and destruction and this experiment badly failed in Afghanistan for the last few decades. So it’s high time, Taliban should be given time and the world should engage with them to honor their promises of inclusive government and women’s rights.
Pakistan suffered huge human and material losses during the war in Afghanistan. He rightfully indicates that abandoning Afghanistan could again take the region back to an unstable situation resulting in civil strife, negative spill-over effect on neighboring countries, an outflow of refugees, rise in terrorist incidents, drug trafficking, and transnational organized crime. Therefore, engagement is the only way forward.
However, regional peace only not link to stable and peaceful Afghanistan, the world needs to find out a lasting solution to the Kashmir dispute as well, or else the dream of peace will remain elusive. Since the Indian government’s unilateral and unlawful act of abrogating A370, Kashmiri people are worried about their homeland, jobs, and resources. The occupation authorities are bringing non-Kashmiri settlers and give them the right to purchase properties in Kashmir, which is arbitrary and unlawful. Therefore, the international community should need to take practical and tangible steps to resolve Afghanistan and Kashmir disputes permanently to avoid further human catastrophe and ensure lasting regional peace,” commented Mushaal Hussein Mullick

I strongly believe that US-allies are going through Catch-22 syndrome. A catch-22 is a paradoxical situation from which an individual cannot escape because of contradictory rules or limitations. The term was coined by Joseph Heller, who used it in his 1961 novel Catch-22.

Catch-22s often result from rules, regulations, or procedures that an individual is subject to, but has no control over because to fight the rule is to accept it. Another example is a situation in which someone is in need of something that can only be had by not being in need of it.

Catch 22 and Afghan Blame Picture Frame
Catch 22 and Afghan Blame Picture Frame

Song Album “Alone in a Crowd” released in 2000 has a wonderful song title “Point the blame picture frame Playing by the rules”. Let me share a part of its lyrics to understand the situation NATO countries are going through.

Point the blame picture frame Playing by the rules that’s why you’re losing the game.

I think I heard it through the walls in the bathroom stalls, or maybe in my yesteryears hanging out in the halls.

We’ve got the rhythm wrong It sounds just like a Phish song.

“Please her with a tweezer, I’ll stick it in the freezer.”

So, brother say what you want. I never know what you want from me. I’m moving up, moving on.

Central Desk
Central News Desk.

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