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EDITORIAL: It’s true, as the prime minister said during an interview with CNN over the weekend, that the world has no choice but to accept the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan. Sooner or later, therefore, everybody would be forced to do business with them, which implies official recognition, for the sake of the 40 million Afghan souls held hostage because of their government’s standoff with the international community if for no other reason.

They did win a very long war, after all; and that too against the mightiest military machine ever put together. The allied forces won the land alright, and the Afghan people even had their representative governments, but eventually the Taliban were able to uproot the government and send the occupying forces packing. Going by any definition of international law, that’s enough to give them control and representation of the country.

Yet the international community, too, is well within its rights to hold back aid until its concerns are eased. It’s their money, at the end of the day, and the Taliban did make pretty specific promises in Doha, which facilitated the rushed US departure.

But, in all fairness, to hold back aid that the people of the country desperately need, and to do with the Afghan central bank’s money what the American government did, clearly smacks of frustration stemming from a shocking defeat at the hands of rag-tag soldier clerics. Still, in trying to punish the Taliban (for their victory) the Americans are only punishing the Afghan people who’ve had nothing to do with any of the many wars that have visited their country over the last four decades. And for most of whom, quite frankly, the return of the Taliban is much worse than it is for the Americans.

So who’s really to blame for the millions of Afghans on the verge of death from the kind of exposure, hunger and starvation that was very easily avoidable if only Kabul had the resources that it needed; and a part of which it had, and still has, legal claim to? Can known and respected aid organisations justify going back on their pledges, and letting innocent people freeze and starve to death, because the Taliban did not honour their promise of sending girls to school? There are no easy answers, of course, not the least because the Taliban are doing nothing to help their own, and their people’s, cause.

Their leaders are shuttling from one capital to another, quite literally begging for aid money along with recognition, but they’re not doing the one or two things that are sure to get them what they so desperately need. Doesn’t that make them complicit in innocent deaths as well?

Pakistan has no doubt been the sincerest voice lobbying for Afghanistan ever since the Taliban came back. And that’s not just because instability over there means a security nightmare over here. But Kabul has not really addressed Islamabad’s concerns either, and there has been more terrorism in Pakistan after they came back than before it; only because they did nothing at all to rein in TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan), which is the least that they could have done. This is not just a very big disappointment. We are paying for it in blood and tears. Therefore, sooner or later they will sour the atmosphere and, once again, only the Taliban would be to blame.

Be that as it may, there’s really no choice except engaging with them and steering them around. It’s not as if they will simply melt away and call for a nationwide election to choose truly representative democracy just because the rest of the world says so. They are here to stay, at least for now. Such are the realities of international politics and it’s a shame that the advanced world hasn’t learned this yet. There’s no doubt that the Taliban are the only option in Afghanistan at the moment.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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