The Maulana smiled: “Then he’s not an Afghan!”
The journalist insisted: “But still; how do you deal with him?”
Nabi Mohammadi thought for a minute and replied: “Well, if you can’t buy or bully an Afghan, then the only way to bring him around to your way is to convince him that it’s his idea.”
Years later, the Maulana’s words carry a lesson for the Pakistan-Afghanistan relationship: that what’s wrong with it is precisely that while Pakistan doesn’t have the resources to ‘buy’ Afghanistan, or the capacity to effectively ‘bully’ it, the poverty of the approach is such that Pakistan has also failed wholesale in convincing the Afghans it has anything close to their best interests at heart.
So, as western forces prepare to leave and the world scrambles to fashion a future Afghanistan beyond 2014, has Pakistan understood the need to change its approach?
The civilians say yes – and then trot out a list of ‘fundamentals’ that have changed to show Pakistan is truly working to abandon its traditional security-centric, Pashtun-dominated, geo-strategic approach and adopt a more politically inclusive, geo-economic one.
We don’t play the game as well as the army does but there is no dictation anymore, the civilians will tell you.
Here’s their narrative.
Unlike in the past, under this civilian government and the Hina Khar-led foreign office mandarins, Pakistan has overcome its traditional preoccupation with maintaining exclusively Pashtun ties. Today, the civilians will tell you, Pakistan talks to actors as diverse as Yunis Qanooni (Tajik speaker of the lower house of Afghanistan’s parliament); Ahmad Wali Massoud (ethnic Tajik, younger brother of Ahmad Shah Massoud and former member of the Northern Alliance); Ahmad Zia Massoud (leader of the major united political and anti-Taliban group, the National Front of Afghanistan); Ustad Mohaqiq (leader of the Hazara Shia Hezb-e Wahdat); Faizullah Zaki (an ethnic Uzbek who has been the right-hand man of the ethnic Uzbek general Abdul Rashid Dostum for years) and General Dostum himself.
A foreign office official explained: During Prime Minister Ashraf’s July 2012 maiden visit to Kabul, he met so many opposition leaders that after he left, all Kabul newspapers said the North is now in bed with Pakistan – the same accusation that has for years been trotted out about Pakistan and the Taliban! “That should tell you how much Pakistan is trying to reach out to the non-Pashtuns,” the official said