EDITORIAL: Speaking at a press briefing yesterday on the alleged abduction and release of the Afghan ambassador's daughter in Islamabad last week, National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf has announced that Pakistan is currently a target of hybrid warfare, revealing that fake accounts and bots are being used to create a "narrative" against Pakistan through a network of information warfare. According to him, 'spoilers' are trying to create rifts between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The ambience encasing reported abduction of Afghan ambassador's daughter in Islamabad, no doubt, reeks with traces of hybrid warfare against Pakistan. Within hours of the news of 'abduction', the Ashraf Ghani government announced withdrawal of its ambassador and other senior diplomatic staff "until all security threats are addressed including the arrest and trial of the perpetrators of abduction". An Afghan delegation will visit Pakistan "to assess and follow up on the case and all related issues," said Afghanistan's foreign office, adding the "subsequent actions will follow based on the findings". That was too hasty a reaction of the Kabul government. It was, unfortunately, met with equally hasty remarks of Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad. Even when full facts about the reported abduction were still to be known he told a news channel that "it is not an abduction at all," adding that it could be the handiwork of Indian intelligence agency RAW. Both sides seem to have shunned diplomatic restraint.
There are two conflicting versions of the purported incident. According to Afghan Ambassador Najibullah Alikhil, his daughter, Silsila, was 'abducted' on Friday at Islamabad's commercial area by unidentified persons who also tortured her. And she told police that as she boarded a taxi to return home after visiting a bakery in Islamabad's Blue Area the driver picked up another person who abused and assaulted her. "Then the other person turned his face towards me and yelled 'shut your mouth ... you are daughter of that bastard communist ... we won't leave him and catch him some day'". She was later dropped in unconscious condition by the roadside. According to a news report, her medical report indicates she had been physically assaulted. The version of the incident offered by Sheikh Rashid Ahmad is a clear negation of the Afghan version. He says she was not abducted; she journeyed to a couple of places in Islamabad and Rawalpindi and for that she hired three different taxis. Moreover, according to Islamabad IGP, investigations by law enforcement agencies clearly indicate that no abduction took place.
That the abduction episode does fit in the definition of hybrid warfare is a fact. Silsila's version, however, lacks coherence; there are gaps that raise doubts about its authenticity. Was it an attempt at provoking the Afghans' way of life and their cultural values practiced across the political divide in the war-torn Afghanistan? Only recently, as the Taliban surrounded a town to capture it, the women dwellers came out to fight back. The Taliban fighters withdrew in deference to their respect for womenfolk. That is why perhaps they have asked Pakistan to arrest and punish the perpetrators so that "spoilers don't have ground to misuse the incident". The haste exhibited by Kabul in recalling the ambassador tends to suggest that it unfortunately wanted to strike while the iron was hot; in other words, it was perhaps seeking to make use of an 'opportunity' immediately. Let the members of the Afghan security delegation meet anyone they wants and ask any questions. Irrespective of geopolitical and geostrategic compulsions, the delegation should have the opportunity to know facts in relation to the case. But the Afghan government, too, is required to come clean about the matter of 'abduction' of Silsila in order to foil the designs and machinations of forces that are hell-bent on causing harm to Kabul-Islamabad relationship.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021