Afghan Taliban’s Pledge

Sep 16, 2017
The new Interior Minister has picked the worst time to be bullish on terrorism. While answering the questions of the Senate – by letter, it must be mentioned – Ahsan Iqbal ducked and weaved like a professional boxer; ignoring most of the queries and pleading ignorance to others. The ones that he answered, he did to divest himself of responsibility. According to our honourable Interior Minister, it is not the job of the federal government to keep an eye out for banned groups and to take action against them – it is the job of the provincial governments.
One could have forgiven Mr Iqbal for being ignorant of the scope of his ministry considering he is new at the job, but a politician of his experience should not be making such blatantly erroneous statements. The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), the various counterterrorism cells, deployment of paramilitary forces and coordination with security agencies; all fall under the preview of the Interior Ministry. The new minister must stop stalling and start taking responsibility. This is all the more important considering that on the same day Mr Iqbal was saying it was not his job to look after terrorism, the Afghan Taliban were calling him out by name and pledging their support to the Pakistani government against the US. One can wonder whose responsibility it is to answer for that – perhaps the person named by the terrorist group.
Beyond Ahsan Iqbal’s blushes, the statement by the group has wider connotations for the government.
Admitidly the statement was not issued by the Emarat Islami Afghanistan, the official name of the Afghan Taliban, instead it was issued by Maulana Samiul Haq, chief of his own faction of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam. However, there is enough similarity between the individuals associated with both groups - and not enough dissimilarity between the two – effectively making this statement from the Afghan Taliban themselves.
While Pakistan belligerently claims that it has no links with terrorist groups operation in Afghanistan, those groups are pledging to protect the Pakistani state against foreign powers – it is hard to maintain your denials after that. The government - and Ahsan Iqbal to be particular – must clarify this bizarre statement by the Taliban, and the links between the government and the group. Furthermore, he must answer all the Senate’s questions truthfully and fully; there is nothing to be gained by deflecting questions. If Mr Iqbal intends to be an effective Interior Minister, he needs to start acting like one.
Nation, September 16, 2017

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