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Editorial: The timing of curbs on Taliban leaders

In a recent move, Pakistan has issued sweeping curbs against the Taliban’s key figures, including the insurgent group’s chief peace negotiator Abdul Ghani Baradar and several members of the notorious Haqqani family. The sanctions come as Pakistan is struggling to crawl its way out of being on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)’s grey list – a group that monitors money laundering and tracks terrorist groups’ activities. In 2018, the Paris-based task force put Pakistan on the grey list of countries with a high risk of terrorism financing. Afghanistan and the US had asked the country to shun supporting and financing terrorism several times but to no avail. The UN had laid out the sanctions currently imposed by the Pakistani government, who has always brazenly denied giving sanctuary to the Taliban, in 2015 UN regulations. Although the move is laudable – not only because it targets the Taliban but other terrorist groups – the timing of Pakistan’s decision is worrisome and potentially problematic. The curb orders can be seen as good if they are done sincerely with goodwill. This will help pressurize the Taliban – who now falsely regard themselves the most righteous – to reduce violence in Afghanistan and immediately get into the negotiating table with the Afghan government. However, if the move is just a symbolic one and for the purpose of deceiving, as well as avoiding to be blacklisted by FATF, then Pakistan can play a spoiler role in the expected intra-Afghan talks. This means Pakistan will now hold the reins of the Taliban even tighter and tell them to avoid entering into the all-Afghan talks. For this reason, the decision should have been made long ago when it would have been the most effective but now it can potentially be problematic as we are seemingly on the threshold of intra-Afghan talks. The country is well-advised that it shouldn’t try to take the peace process hostage as it holds the strings of the group. Many Taliban figures are known to own businesses, property and assets in Pakistan, where they also have families. Considering the circumstances, if the country wishes to create hurdles to the intra-Afghan talks or stymie them, it has a free hand now – an unwarranted risk for Afghanistan. At this juncture, Afghanistan, the US and those international partners interested in a peaceful Afghanistan should take good stock of this development and the Afghan nation should remain less sanguine about the prospects of peace – a phenomenon which is further slipping out of our hands and into foreigners’ despite symbolic calls of make it Afghan-owned and Afghan-led.

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