Fighting Pashtuns Not Pakistan’s War

Posted by Ahmed Quraishi on Oct 19th, 2010

Fighting Pashtuns Not Pakistan’s War

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Pakistani Pashtuns cannot be stopped from sympathizing with Afghan Pashtuns. Pakistan must tell United States to solve the Afghan Pashtun problem inside Afghanistan. Islamabad should also dispute US claims about the quality of Al Qaeda presence and strength on the Pak-Afghan border. Pakistan’s tribal belt is not responsible for American rout in Afghanistan.


By AHMED QURAISHI | Tuesday, 19 October 2010 | The News International


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—There is a very simple question that every Pakistani government official needs to ask the Americans: If you fail to pacify the Pashtun in Afghanistan, is it Pakistan’s responsibility to sever historical ties and wage war against them?

This is the mother of all questions because it deals with the issue of some, not all, of the Afghan Taliban using Pakistani territory to attack occupation armies in their country. Apparently this is the excuse the United States is using to expand its failed Afghan war into Pakistan. US officials say Pakistanis are unable to exercise sovereignty over their own territory. US proxies inside Pakistan – in politics and media – then use this argument to ask another question: Isn’t Al Qaeda and Afghan Taliban violating Pakistani sovereignty by using our border pockets as hideouts away from action inside Afghanistan? This argument is used to justify US violations of the Pak-Afghan international border. If Afghan Taliban can violate Pakistan’s border, why not the US military? So the justification goes.

Pakistan still has time to come out strongly with two arguments at policy level. One, there is no way of completely stopping Pakistani Pashtuns – who are an integral part of the Pakistani nation – from sympathizing with the Pashtuns in Afghanistan. And Two, US must solve the ‘Pashtun problem’ inside Afghanistan. The solution is not by starting a war between the Pakistani military – manned in substantial part by the Pashtuns – and between Pakistani or Afghan Pashtuns, like the so-called Haqqani network. This will not fix the toy the Americans broke in Afghanistan.

In other words: What is it the US is doing wrong in Afghanistan to spur Pashtun and Taliban resistance, including pushing some of them into Pakistan? And should Pakistan respond by killing the Pashtun because the US says so?

There are two more strong arguments that can strengthen a Pakistani policy review, which is overdue nine years into a failed war.

One is the fact that Pashtun and Taliban resistance against occupation in Afghanistan is not a function of Pakistani tribal areas. The US military dare not claim that Pakistan’s devastated tribal belt is alone responsible for the rout facing US, NATO and ISAF forces across Afghanistan. But this is what the Americans imply when they shift the world focus to Pakistan without anyone from the Pakistani side disputing this twisted American logic.

And the second argument has to do with al Qaeda. Pakistan needs to dispute the American claims about the quality and strength of Al Qaeda presence in the Pakistani tribal belt. London’s International Institute of Strategic Studies is not exactly a den of antiwar activism. In a report last month, the think tank questioned the US policy line that al Qaeda is strong enough to threaten anyone beyond Afghanistan or Pakistan.

If anything, we are seeing a US-occupied Afghanistan becoming a magnet for unknown terrorists from multiple backgrounds and questionable loyalties using Afghan soil to enter our tribal belt, as in the case of the Germans involved in the alleged Mumbai-style Europe terror plot. Washington is conveniently using these conspiracy theories to expand its war inside Pakistani territory without any credible evidence.

Pakistan does not have a quarrel with Afghan Pashtuns or the Afghan Taliban. The latest US reports and assertions that Pakistan or its spy agencies maintain contacts with either are ridiculous. Islamabad must maintain those contacts. In fact, we must expand contacts with the Afghan Taliban in view of the double game the United States played with us in Afghanistan over the last eight years, where it turned Kabul into Anti-Pakistan Central and deliberately expanded and continues to encourage Indian presence on our western borders.

The American duplicity extends to peace talks. Washington wants us to enter into a war with Afghanistan’s Pashtuns while it secretly establishes contacts and tries to win them over behind Pakistan’s back.

The same argument extends to Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and Kashmiri groups. Islamabad can’t shower bombs on Kashmiris who decide to become part of LeT or support their kin resisting Indian atrocities in Kashmir. The solution there too is for India to resolve its own problems. Its festering occupation in Kashmir, like the festering American occupation in Afghanistan, is breeding two-way violence that first and foremost destabilizes Pakistan. Our answer can’t be to send troops to crack down on our Pashtuns and Kashmiris. Others need to answer for their actions that are destabilizing Pakistan and the region.


This op-ed was published by The News International. Reach Mr. Quraishi at


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