1947 episode must not be repeated in Afghanistan

By Farman Nawaz (Unpublished article)


An American, Robert Blackwill, a former official in the Bush administration and former US ambassador to India wrote recently that as the US cannot win the current war in Afghanistan, it should consider a partition of the country, handing over the Pashtun south to the Taliban and supporting the north and west where Uzbeks, Tajiks and Hazaras live.

Ahmad Rashid, a renowned Pakistani journalist, in his article “Divide Afghanistan at your peril” published by Financial Times, wrote, “Not a single Afghan will ever support such a demand. In 1988-89, as the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, the KGB tried hard to convince the Uzbek warlord General Rashid Dostum to create a buffer state to protect Soviet central Asia from the Mujaheddeen. Gen Dostum described to me how he gruffly refused. In the 1980s, and again in the 1990s, Iran tried to persuade its Shia and Hazara protégées to create a Shia corridor linking western and central Afghanistan with Iran. Afghan leaders turned Iran down. In the mid-1990s some of Tajikistan’s leaders tried, and failed, to persuade the Afghan Tajik leader Ahmed Shah Massoud to build a Greater Tajikistan. In 1996, when the Taliban captured Kabul but initially failed to take the north, Pakistan’s Inter-services Intelligence (ISI) suggested that the Pashtun group create their own state in the south. The Taliban refused, despite their dependence on the ISI.

Twenty years ago, Gen Dostum told me that the first Afghan who suggests partition would have his throat slit. Before the attacks of September 11 2001, Taliban leaders told me the same thing. The same holds true today.”

We should not forget that 30 years back the war in Afghanistan did not take place because Afghans were fed up of each other but rather it was a tangle between two supper powers. It hurts to see the word “Jihad” for that war in the constitution of Afghanistan. And now after 9/11 when US entered this part of the world again it was not the reason that Afghans were waiting for US to divide Afghanistan but US claimed the presence of terrorist bases in Afghanistan. As Obama is ready to announce his new policy in a few months it astonishes that Blackmill is suggesting division of Afghanistan.

It is the tradition of the West that whenever they occupied any land their first priority was to divide and rule. Peter Moss has written many books of Social Study for Oxford University Press Pakistan. He argues that India was a politically divided state before the advent of British. It was British that united India but Indians again divided it. A point must be kept in mind that the political divide which Indian rulers used to capture the thorn of Delhi, Britons made it a religious divide and divided India physically. Today India and Pakistan are still not able to fill that gap created by Britons. This kind of division must not be the destiny of Afghanistan because no one in Afghanistan awaits division of Afghanistan. Afghans even did not favour division during the civil war in Afghanistan so today when only Taliban are fighting against the Kabul government so it seems awkward to talk about division of Afghanistan.

Ahmad Rashid, in his articles” Obama must keep his eye on the Afghan exit” published by Financial Times, wrote “ The major disability of the Afghan army is its lack of a traditional, hardcore Pashtun officer corps and Pashtun soldiers recruited from the southern provinces. The Afghan army was rebuilt three times (1981-82, 1987-89, 1989), At each rebuilding there was always a core group of Pashtun officers from the Ghilzai Pashtun tribes of eastern Afghanistan, in particular from the three provinces of Khost, Paktia and Paktika that make up the region called Greater Paktia. Today, there is no such Pashtun officer class in the army and the preponderance of senior officers are non-Pashtuns who fought the Taliban in the 1990s. Sending army units with Hazara and Tajik officers to the Pashtun areas to fight alongside Americans makes for a double “occupation” for many Pashtuns – first by the foreigners and then by their ethnic rivals.”

On the other hand we see that 80% Pakistani army is composed of Punjabis. One of the main issues that caused division of Pakistan in 1971 was the attitude of Pakistan army to ignore Bengalis’ recruitment to Pakistan army. Bengalis were considered cowered. In the same way Balochis have resentment towards Pakistan army. In the past MQM and People’s party openly expressed their concerns about threat to their leader’s life from establishment. Though Pakistan army is the main binding force to keep Pakistan united but still problems are there. But hopefully Pakistan army is nowadays in transformation period.

Afghans must concentrate on the issue of representation of different ethnic groups in Afghan Army. Only an army with fair proportion for every community can ensure united Afghanistan. Unlike Indians (United India) Afghans should not provide opportunity to western powers to divide Afghanistan. Otherwise it will create boundaries of hatred. The episode of 1947 must not be repeated here.


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