Pakistan’s civilian and military establishment triumphalism over the victory of the Taliban may have blinded the country to a clear and existential threat it faces from the presence of a Sunni Pashtun Islamist Emirate right next door.
In a recent article titled ‘AfPak takes on a new meaning with the rise of the Taliban,’ analyst and journalist James Dorsey starts by discussing how Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups “in an effort to prevent the United States from driving it out of Afghanistan and Pakistan, have shifted focus from global terrorist attacks and external operations to supporting local jihadist groups throughout South Asia, and fueling the narratives that underpin their objectives. This shift helped build resilience, allowing al-Qaeda to survive despite the massive blows inflicted by the United States and its allies.”
Further, “Western successes have persuaded most analysts that the Islamic State, like Al Qaeda, is unlikely to be able to launch trans-national attacks in the West from Afghanistan any time soon. As a result, the Taliban’s security problems are likely to be domestic and regional rather than hail from transnational jihadist groups who have long dominated analysis of and discourse about political violence.”
Pakistan, however, Dorsey notes would now become “fertile ground for the spread of Taliban-style religious ultra-conservatism as well as concerns that it would enable, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), more commonly known as the Pakistani Taliban, to rekindle their campaign of attacks in Pakistan. The TTP is believed to be responsible for the killing this week of two Pakistani soldiers on the border with Afghanistan. “Our fight against Pakistan will continue until we establish it as an Islamic state. We will not spare their dollar-dependent soldiers and politicians,” said TTP commander Molvi Faqeer Mohamad.”
According to analysts, “Pashtuns of the Afghan Taliban will, after a few years in power, find common cause with their Pashtun kinsmen in Pakistan… There are plenty of Pakistani Pashtuns who would prefer the whole of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly North-West Frontier Province) to be part of a wider Pashtunistan.”
As scholar and author Pervez Hoodbhoy wrote “Like it or not, AfPak has become reality. Despised in Pakistan because of its American origin, this term rings true. Geographical proximity is now augmented by the ideological proximity of rulers in both countries. Taliban-style thinking is bound to spread through the length and breadth of Pakistan.”