Desperate to bring peace into war-torn Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai (President from 2001-14) got into a conciliatory process to engage with what he called the “good Taliban”. That led to the good Taliban-bad Taliban theory which is extremely popular in Pakistan today.
It has been conclusively proved to be a highly spurious theory. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence created the Taliban in 1994. Those were heady days for the Pakistan military. The Mujahideen had thrown out the mighty Russian empire and armed mercenaries were in the thousands.
Pakistan fomented militancy in Kashmir and thought it could get the State to secede. When the Taliban came to power in 1996, the generals of Rawalpindi couldn’t stop beaming. The Russians had been thrashed and Afghanistan had been conquered.
It seemed just a matter of time before Kashmir was added to the kitty. Pakistan was on the ascendancy in the region. Things continued going to ISI script till 9/11 happened. If from the late 1980s onwards everything went right for them, after 9/11 everything went wrong. For one, Taliban was ousted from Kabul in 2001 and it has remained out of power since.
There is no chance of the Taliban ever coming back to power in Afghanistan. The Americans will make sure of that. Karzai might have talked of a good and bad Taliban, but for Islamabad, even though they didn’t realize it, it had become an irrelevant Pakistan.
Meanwhile America forced Pakistan to join the War on Terror. By one account former Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf said United States Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage threatened to taken them “back to the Stone Age” if they didn’t comply.
Pakistan had to fight the very demons it created and it was quite ugly. Pakistan and Taliban bhai bhai. Pakistan and America bhai bhai. But America and Taliban were sworn enemies.
Talk about complicated relationships.
However when the Afghanistan Taliban chapter closed, the Pakistan Taliban chapter opened. In 2007, Baitullah Mehsud managed to bring 13 groups together to form the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. Now here’s the interesting part. If TTP was anti-India, then it would be part of the strategy of Pakistan in its campaign against India.
However the TTP’s main enemies are Pakistan and America. You read that right. So how any of this fits into the good Taliban scheme is beyond anyone’s guessing.
The TTP’s attack on innocent schoolchildren in Peshawar is just the latest in a list of endless attacks. The TTP tried to assassinate Nobel Peace Laureate Malala Yousafzai. They have been quite active in Swat Valley. They have also been implicated in the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
The TTP attacked Jinnah International Airport, Army headquarters in Rawalpindi, Minhas Airbase, a naval base in Karachi, a police training academy in Lahore and a World Food Programme office in Islamabad.
The TTP has targeted a CIA facility called Camp Chapman in Afghanistan which killed 10 and were involved in an aborted car bomb attempt in Times Square in New York.
After the conflicts involving Rohingya Muslims, they threatened to attack Myanmar! Some TTP fighters have left the country to join the Islamic State.
But there has been a great delay in recognizing the threat of the TTP. Though they were formed in 2007, the US declared them a terrorist organization only in 2010 while Operation Zarb-e-Azb was launched only in 2014.
The biggest blows have been not from the Pakistani Army, but from US drone strikes which claimed the first two heads of TTP in the form of Baitullah and Hakimullah Mehsud.
The TTP wants to topple the current Pakistani regime and impose Sharia; kick out NATO-led forces from Afghanistan and also target America. It is very difficult to see any “good” in any part of the TTP for Pakistan.
In the end the TTP can probably be divided into three parts…
1. Bad Taliban: Those who say they want to have talks with the Pakistani government. But the question to be asked is with such a hardline ideology and such dastardly goals, what is there to talk about in the first place and what can the talks achieve?
2. Worse Taliban: Those who want to have absolutely nothing to do with talks and will continue their terror and mayhem.
3. Worst Taliban: The perpetrators of the Peshawar attack, those who won’t even spare innocent schoolchildren.
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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here.