Northern alliance preoccupies Pakistan

After 11th September, the regime of Pervez Musharraf gave the USA its full logistic support in the campaign against its former proteges, the Taleban, which Washington had helped Islamabad to create seven years earlier.

Although Pakistan made significant financial gains from this support, seeing part of its foreign debt written off, in terms of stability, the country gains nothing by having a government controlled by the Northern Alliance in Kabul.

The Pashtun were divided between Afghanistan and Pakistan by a line drawn on the map in the nineteenth century by the British – the Berand line. The Pashtun are the main ethnic group in northern Pakistan and constitute 45% of the population in Afghanistan. It is through this group, where the Taleban have their base of support, that Pakistan can influence its northern neighbour.

Influence in Kabul is important because Pakistan’s southern neighbour is India, a traditional enemy since the Partition of the British Indian territories in 1948, which led to the creation of (then) Western Pakistan, India and Eastern Pakistan, now Bangladesh.

The sweeping victories of the Northern alliance in recent days have worried Islamabad, which has made no secret that it favours the Pashtun of the south against the Tajikh/Uzbekh/Hazara-backed Northern Alliance.

For this reason, the regime in Pakistan is divided between loyalty to Washington and the need to exercise influence in Afghanistan through the Pashtun, to stabilise its own Pashtun community within its frontiers.

Pakistani political analyst Mushahid Hussain stated “The policy of Pakistan and its obsession to put its favourites in power is in ruins. We have no favourites any more”.

Another analyst, from the Institute of Regional Studies in Islamabad, Khalid Mahmoud, declared, “the Americans did nothing to stop the Northern Alliance, which claims that it wishes to set up a legitimate government which is traditionally hostile (to Pakistan)”.

Islamabad does not rule out the possibility that it will station its troops along the frontier if there are signs of hostility from Kabul.


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