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No nation has of yet formally recognized the new Taliban government in Afghanistan. The regime is still in quest for recognition after nearly six months in power. Its leaders’ visits to regional countries and world capitals (Moscow and Beijing) have been motivated by the need for early recognition.

The latest talks were held in Oslo, where the Taliban leaders and some Western representatives met together. Norway has built a reputation in conflict resolution in countries like Sri Lanka. Yet the Afghan meeting did not go beyond listening to the Afghan regime’s point of view. While sympathetic to humanitarian concerns Norway linked recognition on Afghan reforms in human rights, education and rights of women.

Formal recognition of a state grants it full legitimacy through trade, aid and investments from big powers, the UN, other world bodies, and regional organizations. Sadly, the Taliban regime despite promises before coming to power is dragging its feet on human rights, though they have made some incremental moves. Pakistan has dispatched humanitarian aid, sent National Security Adviser Dr. Moeed Yusuf and arranged (Organisation of Islamic Countries) OIC foreign ministers’ conference in Islamabad to support the Afghan people and regime.

The immediate issue is with Tahreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) who have broken the ceasefire and started carrying out terrorist attacks against Pakistan. The Afghan government’s position is that differences with TTP should be settled by Pakistan and TTP separately. It seems the incumbents are beholden to ‘ideological cousins’: either fear of losing their support or exercising some leverage against Pakistan. As for the TTP demands, they cannot be accepted by Pakistan as a sovereign, independent nation cannot yield to its tactics.

It is the contention in this piece that short of taking a binary position, Pakistan can engage with the outfit and yet keep on insisting on the conditions set out.

The US initially blocked nearly $.9.5 billion worth of Afghan assets in its banks, out of which $3.5 (victims of 9/11 and humanitarian aid for Afghan people) is now released - bypassing the Kabul regime. Besides, many Western nations, and world organizations are waiting for Afghan situation to crystallize before getting a ‘go-ahead’ from the UN and the US.

Here, a distinction needs to be drawn between de facto Taliban regime and de jure Afghan government. That the Taliban regime has been able to physically control the country gives it de facto status; however, de jure recognition is required to become a credible and responsible member of international community.

Formal recognition is essential for trade, aid, and entering into economic compacts and other international agreements. Besides, legitimacy is important in securing diplomatic immunities and privileges as a nation state.

The aspect of recognition is a sticking issue with the UN, US and many Western nations. But legal precedents show that short of that, provisional or temporary recognition could occur.

From Pakistan’s perspective, Afghan-Pakistan security is closely intertwined.

As an immediate western neighbour, what happens in Afghanistan directly impacts Pakistan. While the US and Europeans are far away, Pakistan has suffered more humanly, economically and socially.

Nation-states have followed different forms of governments: military dictatorships, monarchies, emirates, theocracy, democracies, communist and other hybrid forms. In the past decades, US efforts to effect regime change through military interventions have not fared well.

Most of the Third World states are organically developing societies in accord with indigenous cultures and traditions and cannot easily adopt Western concepts. Afghanistan is still a tribal society and any quick switch to democratic norms seems quite remote. But it has nevertheless followed semi-presidential system with elections, albeit not fair and free.

International norms of recognition i.e., effective control, adherence to UN norms and human rights are aspirational goals. The US by initially blocking major Afghan funds has accentuated the humanitarian crisis.

In fact, historically, the US stance on recognition, or otherwise, has mutated for nations under varied circumstances. It has, for example, maintained relations with some of the regressive and authoritarian regimes, -howsoever backdoor, like North Korea and Myanmar. With Iran it has been working through intermediaries.

Many Afghan neighbours apprehend that an insecure and economically fragile Afghanistan could draw a flood of refugees and terrorists elements like al-Qaeda or ISIK. Lately TPP, the ‘ideological cousin’ of Taliban have intensified terrorist attacks against Pakistani territory - possibly allied with Baloch separatist elements.

Earlier, the TPP had agreed on one-month ceasefire/truce but then rejected it. The Afghan government, on its part, says that it is now up to Pakistani government and TPP to settle matters. Apparently, most of these militant groups have not foresworn militant objectives and are heartened by the sudden Taliban victory.

(The writer is former Adviser, Centre for Policy Studies, COMSATS, Islamabad, former President of Islamabad Policy Research Institute, and ex-Head Department of International Relations, NUML University)

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

Professor Dr Maqsudul Hasan Nuri

The writer is former President, Islamabad Policy Research Institute, former Head, Dept of International Relations, National University of Modern Languages (NUML), ex-Adviser, COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, Islamabad V/Faculty, DSS Dept, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad

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