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NDS-ISI deal: A poisoned honey or an elixir

Analysis: By Rafiq Umaryar

A recently signed memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the National Directorate of Security (NDS) and Pakistan’s notorious spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has become a hot potato for the government of Afghanistan. From a man in the street to ex-officials and from Pashtun nationalists to Baloch freedom fighters, everyone seems puzzled over the intelligence sharing deal. For most of Afghans, the MoU is tantamount to pushing the gains made during the past 13 years in intelligence perimeters to square one.

This widely but generally held anti-view is a clear indication the government must rollback the deal. It clearly stress on “no to ISI.” The National Unity Government (NUG) has been feeling it in the bone, because there is no pause in the wrath. The government looks very much solitary in this decision.

This analysis is neither aimed at appreciating the government nor at criticizing it, but to gauge the impact of the memorandum. At this point, I cannot dare to challenge authority of the government, but yes, I reserve the right to discuss the pros and cons of this deal.

As far as the widespread criticism is concerned, it was quite a foregone conclusion because the time was not ripe to strike such an MoU. Currently, the ground is not fertile for such agreements, because it takes two to tango and Pakistan is not ready to take a step forward.

There is no denying the fact that the cooperation remained one-sided despite a completely new approach of the current administration in Kabul to mend ties with Islamabad.

There is no end in sight to the wave of violence in Afghanistan, created by the Taliban and its affiliates. When Kabul, the capital city has been attacked five times within one month, imagine the security situation in other cities and parts which are quite prone. Every time, the responsibility is claimed by those who are harbored and used as a mean by Rawalpindi to give a perfect ending to its decades old security paradigm—strategic depth.

If the Afghan militant groups were leashed by Pakistan’s military, and army officials like Pervez Musharraf, Hamid Gul and Mirza Aslam Beg were tamed, the blowback would not have been so serious now.

In his article published on Friday, General (retired) Mirza Aslam Beg labeled the Taliban as the ‘winners’ and the NUG as a “proxy government” of the Americans. It is crystal-clear from his write up that he has put weight behind the Taliban. Hamid Gul and Musharraf’s interviews are the other indicators to gauge mindset of the Pakistani military leadership—whether retired or serving. Mindset of the opposite side does matter. When Pakistani forces can raid home of the ex-interior minister of Sindh, Zulfiqar Mirza, for his involvement in riots, how it can ignore people who are exporting terror beyond Pakistan’s frontiers and earning it a bad name globally.

No doubt, ties between the two countries must improve. However, the approach should be pragmatic. Afghanistan needs trade agreements more than the intelligence sharing accord. Uncomfortably, Islamabad is not ready to extend support in this regard, because it is yet to include India in the Afghan Pak Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA), despite repeated pleas by Kabul.

Moreover, the statements of officials and lawmakers show a huge gap between those Afghan officials who supported and struck the deal and those who were bypassed in the whole process.

The government cannot close its eyes and gag its ears on the debate over the controversy that it has created. The most serious part of the controversy is it has created rifts within the current administration. The concerns are very serious and could not be ruled out so easily, because security officials who slammed Pakistan times and again for backing the militants groups have already expressed their grievances over the new approach of the NUG towards Islamabad.

Although, the National Security Council of the country denied any rifts between its advisor Hanif Atmar and the NDS chief Rahmatullah Nabil, but the impression generated by the development has caused panic. To some extent, the impression has a good ground to stand on because Nabil still is to talk on the issue. Yet, optimism is of prime importance because the two officials know how to iron their differences out, if there are any. These are issues that are extreme sensitive, and need more information for autopsy. Kandahar’s police chief concerns over the peace deal are strengthening the fears that the government is caught between the devil and deep blue sea. Abdul Raziq told NPR (American radio) that the government wants deal with the Taliban who want to kill security personnel. “The Afghan government is selling us down the river in negotiations with the Taliban. It is like a poisoned knife,” Raziq said.

The aggravated assaults on security forces by the insurgents give birth to a question that from where the swarms of militants come. Obviously, they come neither from China and Central Asia nor from Iran. If the government has kept in view this point, it could have avoided the criticism. Furthermore, if the agreement has been fruitful, the security forces wouldn’t have lost 10 posts to the Taliban in Khas Uruzgan.

The growing insurgency is projecting a different picture other than that shown by the government. For the NUG, there will be another side of the picture too, but what people really see is an image that portrays deceptions and lies. In this picture, one can also see the government abandoned Afghan citizens and Pashtun nationalists fighting for their rights against Punjab, and Balochs who are struggling for their independence.

Therefore, it will not be exaggeration to say that the MoU will lead nowhere except bringing a collective downfall on those who stand united against the domination of Punjab.

The write up has been published with the penname of the author while looking at the sensitivity of the issue.

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