Understanding Afghanistan

Understanding Afghanistan
May 18, 2015

The Centre for Governance and Policy at Information Technology University proudly hosted a talk titled Understanding Afghanistan by Mr. Ahmed Rashid on May 15th, 2015. The renowned journalist and author of the bestselling book Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, started the talk with a brief history of Afghanistan and went on to discuss what is happening there today. He also talked about Afghanistan’s complex relationship with Pakistan and China and its future implications.

Mr. Ahmed Rashid talked about this vast and paradoxical nation and its affairs with the ease of an expert well-versed in Afghan affairs. “Afghanistan is not an easy country to keep up with,” said Ahmed Rashid. He termed Afghanistan as an “ethnic mosaic” and a resilient nation that has withstood immense pressure from communist systems, civil war and breakdown of ethnic barriers for more than 250 years.

He also broached the Taliban issue in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He talked about how the Taliban came into being in Afghanistan and then re-emerged in 2003 with the Taliban leadership becoming firmly established in the northern regions of Pakistan. He maintained that unlike the Pakistani Taliban, the Afghan Taliban were a cohesive group. The increasing popularity of the Taliban in Afghanistan coupled with the inefficiency and rapidly declining popularity of the current government was a grave cause of concern.  Mr. Ahmed Rashid said that very soon the Afghan Taliban will simply lose interest in holding talks with the government and simply wait till a time that they can take over Afghanistan again.

This of course would not bode well for Pakistan or China. China has expressed interest in helping out Afghanistan. It might be better for their national interests if the Taliban regime ends and this radicalization doesn’t reach the large Muslim population in China. On the other hand, Pakistan needs to maintain a strict no – tolerance policy. Mr. Ahmed Rashid lamented the fact that the National Action Plan, agreed upon by all the parties in Pakistan after much deliberation, is merely a paper now with no talk of its implementation.

He stated that Afghanistan’s neighbours have always had vested interests in her affairs and had made long efforts to assert dominance in the country so the best policy for Afghanistan at the moment, would be a regional consensus for non-interference by its neighbouring countries until matters are fully resolved.

There was active participation by both faculty and students during the Question & Answer session. During the course of the discussion, Mr. Ahmed Rashid helped deconstruct some of the conspiracy theories brought up by the students. “No subject has been more full of lies and conspiracy theories,” he maintained. He encouraged students to avoid the “web of conspiracy and deceit” that surrounds this topic and only look at facts and irrefutable data to form their opinion.

This event was well attended by students and faculty alike. At the end of the talk, Dr. Nizamuddin, Chairman of Punjab Higher Education Commission, presented Mr. Ahmed Rashid with a shield in appreciation of his brilliant talk and the Director of the Centre, Dr. Yaqoob Khan Bangash, gave him a copy of his new book A Princely Affair.