Islamabad has long objected to New Delhi’s economic and diplomatic presence in Afghanistan. It is believed that a favorable government in Kabul will provide Pakistan with 2,300 kilometres of strategic depth in its rivalry with western neighbor India.
Hashmat Ghani, the brother of runaway Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, believes that Pakistan doesn’t have the money to call the shots in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
But, at the same time, he says that Pakistan’s spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), does wield a significant influence on the Taliban leadership.
Ghani made the observations during an interview with Indian TV channel CNN-News 18 on Tuesday.
Since the takeover of Kabul by the Taliban on 15 August, there have been escalating concerns about the dire economic situation in Afghanistan, with the US freezing the country’s $9 billion worth of foreign reserves.
He also suggested to the Indian government that if it wished to take on the ISI, it should do that “directly” instead of “using Afghanistan”.
Over the last few months, Islamabad has repeatedly accused India of being a “spoiler” in the intra-Afghan peace process, even accusing Delhi of training terrorists in Afghanistan to launch strikes inside Pakistan.
Even the Taliban last month accused India of interfering in the intra-Afghan talks. The allegation came in the wake of New Delhi’s consistent backing of a “democratic” government in Afghanistan.
“It is a clear intervention that a certain country tells the Afghan people what kind of government they should have in future”, remarked Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen.
Ghani, currently the leader of the Ahmadzai tribe, the largest of the ethnic groupings in the nation, also stated that while he has “accepted” the takeover of his country by the Taliban, he won’t join the group.
He also blamed former US President Donald Trump for the crisis Afghans are facing at present.
“Trump struck a deal directly with the Taliban, sidelined the government, and now they want the Afghans to fight among themselves”, he complained.
The leading Pashtun tribal elder’s remarks also come against the backdrop of Pakistani Foreign Affairs Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s ongoing four-nation visit (24-26 August) to Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Iran.
Many of the Taliban’s fighters, including various top commanders, are also Pashtuns.
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry says that Qureshi’s visit is aimed at “promoting a coordinated approach” among regional countries to deal with the unfolding situation in Afghanistan.
During a telephone call between Qureshi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on 21 August, the chief Pakistani diplomat backed an “inclusive government” in Kabul for lasting peace and security in the region.
He also informed his Russian counterpart that Islamabad was taking steps to reach out to other regional nations over the developments in Kabul.
The takeover of the capital Kabul prompted then Afghan leader Ashraf Ghani to flee the country. He has been granted political asylum in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The Taliban is leading consultations to form the next government in Afghanistan, which the group says will be based on the principles of Sharia law.