As part of its efforts to scapegoat Pakistan for its well-documented strategic failure in Afghanistan, western liberal media has embarked on a vicious campaign to target Islamabad for delivering Afghanistan to the Taliban.
The “sanction Pakistan” media campaign has acquired a new virulence in the wake of a letter written by sixty-eight US congressmen to President Biden seeking answers to their concerns relating to the fate of millions of dollars of military equipment left behind in Afghanistan as well as the steps being taken by Washington to prevent Taliban gaining access to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. In their letter the US lawmakers ask of the Biden Administration the following questions:
“Are you prepared to support regional allies militarily in the event that the Taliban militaries the Afghanistan border? What is your plan to help to ensure that the Taliban do not destabilize its nuclear neighbor Pakistan? “Do you have a plan to ensure that Afghanistan, under Taliban occupation, will never acquire a nuclear weapon?”
This insidious campaign is being funded and driven by Indian lobby in the USA which is quite upset over the loss of Indian strategic influence in Taliban controlled Afghanistan. It is worth recalling that Washington and New Delhi have been engaged in long-standing consultations about their joint plans should nuclear Pakistan experience a breakdown.
In 2005 at Aspen, Colorado, a group of experts agreed to engage in joint planning to deal with a scenario where Pakistan becomes a failed state. For its part, Washington has assigned responsibility to the Pentagon to secure Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and “render them safe.” According to Jeffrey Goldberg and Marc Ambinder, the Pentagon has developed a set of highly detailed plans to “grapple with nuclear insecurity in Pakistan…and they quote Roger Cressey former deputy director of counterterrorism as saying that this issue remains one of the highest priorities of the U.S. intelligence community and the White House.”
Islamabad has dismissed these concerns as “unfounded” by people who want the world to be afraid of Pakistan as the only Muslim state that owns nuclear weapons. Additionally, Pakistan cites a number of steps taken by Islamabad to evolve into a robust nuclear security and safety regime. Such measures have ensured that Pakistan’s nuclear assets are safe against a so-called “insider” threat.
In the wake of the Taliban’s return to power, it has been argued once again that the jihadi elements would try to gain access to Pakistan’s nuclear assets.
This potential nuclear threat scenario is totally flawed and misplaced when it comes to Pakistan. First, Islamabad is conscious of its responsibilities as a nuclear weapon state and this has been acknowledged by all US administrations. Second, Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are a matter of national power and symbols of country’s international clout. No regime in its right mind would like to share this unique capability with another country. Third, Islamabad has borrowed heavily from international best practices including help from IAEA to put in place an elaborate system of command and control of its strategic assets. Finally, Taliban’s return to power hardly poses any threat of so-called nuclear terrorism as the group does not have the infrastructure either to make the bomb or steal one from its neighbouring Pakistan.
The well-known lobbies who are pushing the line that the Taliban’s return to power would destabilize Pakistan as a nuclear armed country either are plain ignorant about the goals of the Taliban or they are using the Taliban as a new bogey man to justify another round of imperial intervention.
Pakistan is hardly a failed state and its armed forces are quite capable of defending the country against multiple threats. The scenario of Pakistan’s internal implosion is totally overblown and does not have any credibility. Unlike India where there have been a number of cases of nuclear material being sold in black market, Pakistan has a meticulous record of nuclear safety and security.
What can Pakistan do to counter this slanderous campaign against itself and by extension against the Taliban? Islamabad can issue a strong statement rebutting these preposterous allegations. Pakistan’s embassy can write a letter to all members of India-US Caucus who have written a letter to President Biden calling for sanctions against Pakistan. Pakistan can also issue an up to date fact sheet highlighting the steps taken by Islamabad to prevent any outward flow of nuclear technology from Pakistan.
On its part, Kabul can reinforce its peaceful intentions towards all its neighbours and disavow any territorial claims against Pakistan relating to Durand line. The disowning of Afghan long-standing irredentist agenda against Islamabad would not only be a huge confidence building measure between Islamabad and Kabul but would send the signal to entities like PTM that their centrifugal ethnic agenda has no place in the Taliban-controlled Afghanistan and the new emerging order in South Asia.
None of this would be easy to achieve but an early start of purposeful conversation between Islamabad and Kabul would go a long way in laying the solid foundation of trust between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The writer is a political scientist and defense analyst.