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Saturday, 27 September 2008

Talking to Mullah Umar and Hekmatyar?

The NWFP Governor, Mr Owais Ghani, has asked the United States “to talk to Mullah Omar, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Jalaluddin Haqqani, to negotiate peace in Afghanistan”. His contention is that “political stability will only come to Afghanistan when all political power groups, irrespective of the length of their beard, are given their just and due share in the political dispensation in Afghanistan”. He wants the US to know that “all three militant commanders are in Afghanistan”. He also says, though with less credibility, that “Pakistan has no favourites in Afghanistan”.

Alas, Governor Ghani’s assertion that the three warrior chiefs are in Afghanistan has already been challenged by independent observers of the Afghan scene. No matter. It is good that he has come out in the open and claimed a Pakistani strategic stake in Afghanistan. The US should listen to what he is saying. There is a strong message in his statement. If the US can give India a strategic stake in building up the Northern Alliance Tajiks and Uzbeks in Afghanistan, there is no reason why it can’t do the same for Pakistan and the Pashtuns. It may be recalled that Mullah Umar and the US did not have any problems during the Taliban regime in Kabul in 1997-99 until Osama Bin Laden stepped in and drove a wedge between them by bombing New York. Indeed, the Taliban regime and the US were discussing oil pipelines from Central Asia to Pakistan through Afghanistan at the time. The best way to crush Al Qaeda is to drive a wedge between it and the Afghan Taliban by inviting the latter to sit at the table in Kabul and negotiate a power sharing arrangement with the key stakeholders of Afghanistan. Pakistan can and should play a facilitating role. (Daily Times)

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