Idea Of The Day

A Question of Arrogance

Last night on this BBC news show (click “Latest Programme”), Pakistan’s High Commissioner to London, Abdul Kader Jaffer, and his Afghan counterpart, Ahmed Wali Massoud (brother of the Northern Alliance general murdered by al-Qaida in early September), discussed the future of Afghanistan. Jaffer spoke first, making some vague remarks about a new political order for the Afghan people. Massoud, who sat immediately to the left of the high commissioner, appeared to bristle at these comments. When it was his turn to speak, he replied, restraining his obvious anger, that there can be no peace in Afghanistan until the all the Arabs and Pakistanis who had ventured to support the Taliban left his country. He added, almost ferociously, that Pakistan must shoulder the blame for rise of the Taliban. An embarrassed high commissioner didn’t disagree—he certainly had nothing to say in reply. It was as close to a diplomatic incident one could expect to see on live television.

Pakistan’s involvement in modern Afghanistan goes back to the Soviet invasion in 1979. (General Mohammad Yousaf’s readable account of Pakistan’s engagement with the Afghan mujahideen in the early 1980s, The Bear Trap, can be consulted on the Web in its entirety.) Since the Soviet withdrawal, Pakistan’s covert actions among its northwestern neighbor’s tribes have been disgraceful; its earlier support of the Taliban now seems disastrous. A few weeks ago the enormously popular Pakistani sports star and leader of the Movement for Political Justice party, Imran Khan, narrated a TV documentary about his country on Channel 4. He ended an interesting account of what can only be described as the “fanaticalization” of so many Pakistani youths (radicalization seems far too quaint to accurately portray what goes on in the more extreme madrassas) by stating that a successful peace in Afghanistan depended on America curbing its arrogant ways. American arrogance? Well, hang on: It’s plain that Pakistani arrogance contributed to the rise of the Taliban, as Ahmed Rashid’s admirable book about these religious zealots, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, proves on almost every other page. Now that they have gone, President Pervez Musharraf, who has handled the current crisis as well as anyone, must ensure that those Pakistani intelligence officers who would continue to play one Afghan tribe against another must be stopped. If there’s to be peace in Afghanistan, Pakistani arrogance must be curbed.