The Pakistan Army chief, Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, meanwhile, was quoted by a local newspaper as telling visiting UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab on Saturday that Islamabad would “continue to fight for peace and stability in Afghanistan, as well as assist the formation of an inclusive administration”. The “Pakistan Observer” said Raab and Bajwa discussed the situation in Afghanistan, among other things.
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Pakistan has been openly involved in Afghan affairs since the Taliban seized control of the country. As the insurgent group had captured Kabul on August 15, a delegation of powerful non-Pashtun leaders from Afghanistan had landed in Islamabad to discuss the changed political scene in their country with Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership.
Rawalpindi-based military sources said that the ISI chief’s visit to Kabul was to discuss with Taliban representatives matters related to the safe evacuation of foreign nationals, border management and security in the region. Lt Gen Hameed, sources added, will also discuss with the Taliban matters related to pending requests from countries and international organisations for repatriation/transit through Pakistan.
Independent observers, however, believe that the ISI chief would discuss government formation with the Taliban leadership, as well as reorganisation of the Afghan military and other administrative measures.
Lt Gen Hameed has been the second intelligence chief to visit Kabul after its fall. Earlier, CIA director William Burns had visited the Afghan capital to meet Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the head of the Taliban political office. Burns, inside sources confided, had suggested to Baradar that he include some senior officials from previous governments in his administration. The idea, sources said, was not welcomed by hardcore Taliban leaders in later discussions with Baradar.
A majority of Taliban leaders, commanders and fighters see the Afghan governments of the past two decades as “US lackeys”. According to them, the past government had been supporting Western forces and were their (the Taliban’s) staunch opponents. Including them in government, several Taliban leaders believe, would seriously dent their credibility.
The Taliban have yet to form a government, but there have been reports that an announcement is imminent. The delay in announcing the government, Afghan sources revealed, was caused by some irritants in the way of an inclusive setup. The Taliban have been reluctant to include former Pashtun and non-Pashtun warlords in their cabinet and, instead, Taliban sources said, want to bring in new non-Pashtun faces. Despite their earlier claim that women would be part of the government but would not serve in high-ranking positions, senior Taliban leaders are now considering giving them some representation in their government. Other Taliban members, meanwhile, have suggested that their leadership wants to crush the resistance movement in the Panjshir valley before announcing a new government.
The armed group has ramped up its diplomatic efforts. A Taliban delegation met Pakistan’s ambassador to Qatar, Syed Ahsan Raza Shah, on Friday to discuss the current Afghanistan situation and bilateral relations. The meeting was held at the Pakistani embassy in Doha. The Taliban delegation was led by their political chief, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai. “Both sides discussed humanitarian assistance and bilateral relations based on mutual interest and respect,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said in a tweet.
Shaheen said the reconstruction of Afghanistan and issues related to facilitating people’s movement at Torkham and Spin Boldak (two border crossings between Pakistan and Afghanistan) were also discussed. Over the past few days, the Taliban have held meetings in Doha with the envoys of India, Germany and the UK.
Meanwhile, fresh fighting has been reported in Afghanistan’s Panjshir valley. The valley, north of Kabul, is one of Afghanistan’s smallest provinces and the only one not to have fallen to the Taliban, or earlier to the Red Army of the former Soviet Union.
Afghanistan’s deposed vice-president and one of the resistance leaders, Amrullah Saleh, has admitted that conditions are difficult in the valley, with the Taliban closing phone, internet and electricity lines.
In a video message sent to the media, Saleh said that there had been casualties on both sides. “There is no doubt we are in a difficult situation. We are under invasion by the Taliban,” he said, adding that his forces would not surrender.
But resistance leaders concede that some districts have fallen to the Taliban, while pro-Taliban social media showed clips seeming to show their fighters with captured tanks and other military gear.
Rumours that the Taliban had captured Panjshir prompted celebratory firing in Kabul and other cities, which left at least 17 people dead and 47 injured.