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Syed Hussain Shaheed:Pakistan is facing a new and non-traditional security threat as COVID-19 strike

Updated: Jan 6, 2023

Syed Hussain Shaheed, Professor at University of Peshawar.

Professor Syed Hussain Shaheed is Professor and Head of the Department of International Relations, University of Peshawar. His research focuses on terrorism, Pakistani security and foreign policy. His recent research includes Pakistan-U.S. Relations: Comparative Studies during the Cold War and the War on Terror.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a huge toll on countries that were ill-prepared for this non-traditional security threat.

For developing countries represented by Pakistan, the impact of COVID-19 and the corresponding epidemic prevention measures restricting social activities have had a profound impact on people's employment, social governance and personal psychology. In this paper, Professor Syed discusses the key factors that exacerbate the impact of COVID-19 and tries to formulate relevant mitigation strategies. At the same time, Professor Syed, a consultant of our magazine, has agreed to reprint this article for readers at our special invitation.

Pakistan is facing a new and non-traditional security threat as COVID-19 strike

The Taliban rise has always been worrisome and difficult to swallow owing to their intransigent and uncompromising attitude. They base their staunch stance on their islamic ideology. However, unlike in the past, today's Taloban seem more tolerant, moderate and neo. They understand that the foreign policy is the reflection of domestic policy. They know that they will muster recognition for their government only once they treat their people inside Afghanistan gently. Hence, I trust the Taliban are going to be very conducive and docile in their dealings with their neighbors and the world at large. One thing is for sure; whatever happens in Afghanistan never stays in Afghanistan. It always has a spillover effect on neighboring countries in general and on Pakistan in particular. This time, the rise of the Taliban has taken place with a different deposition. The Taliban leadership is very friendly towards neighboring countries especially China, Russia, Pakistan and Iran. They have understood that relations with neighbors are based on economics. Thus, to muster support of the neighbors, they will cooperate with them. Their cooperative attitude will also muster recognition from neighbors.

In the history of Afghanistan, the government in Kabul has never controlled the entire country. There have always been some pockets of areas which remained out of the control of Kabul. However, this time, the history is in the making: Taliban have full control of the entire Afghanistan. They need to get international support for which they have to show their softer and tolerant face by treating their people calmly and gently. They have to accept the role of women in the polity. They seem accommodative towards women this time. They are also bridging the gap between Pashtuns and non-Pashtuns. This means, they are different from conservative Taliban of the past to the present day neo-Taliban. I believe the future government of the Taliban will firmly believe in sovereignty, economic cooperation, good neighborly relations, not letting use of their land against another country, especially neighbors, and non-interference in internal affairs of each other.

Taliban is a religion-based party. They believe in Islam and they will never tolerate any other religious group in their country. Hence, if ISIS comes to Afghanistan, they will face the music at the hands of the Taliban. I think the Taliban government strictly believes in sovereignty. They always spoke about the Afghan jihad. They never talked about global jihad. They never supported any insurgent group operating in any part of the world. Their entire campaign was local and national and that was limited and confined to the borders of Afghanistan. Hence, I trust they will never support any religion based insurgent group operating in any neighboring country or at large. They need support of the neighbors and hence they will do their best to curb any such elements which may ruin the regional atmosphere. Moreover, their spokesman already declared in clear terms that the Afghan land will never be allowed to be used against any other country. Such statements are very indicative of the fact that they will keep strict sharia inside the country but will never let fundamentalism popup here. Moreover, they will never export fundamentalism in the region due to the fear of being isolated unlike 1996-2001 i.e. their first term. Taliban survival will depend upon their relations with neighbors, better relations means prolonged Taliban rule; and bitter relations mean their days are numbered.

Economics is the backbone of any regime’s survival. The former government of Dr Ashraf Ghani could not develop the country economically. He focused on security, weapons, and relations with the US. He failed to understand that economic development will be everlasting and beneficial to the common man in the country. That’s the reason that despite the fact that the US stayed in Afghanistan for 20 long years with more than $ 2 trillion of spending’s on its security, the country is still in shambles. More and more people want to leave the country as was demonstrated on Kabul airport during the US forces exit. Once the Taliban develop economic ties with neighbors, as the desire of being on board on CPEC project was expressed by their spokesman, they will focus on issues of common man rather than the US policy in the region.

The secret of success of the Taliban government is to provide relief to the people of Afghanistan. This starts from providing food, shelter and clothing. Rural development is urgently needed. Deweaponization of the society is direly needed for peace and security of the country. Social justice system and maintaining law and order must be the call of the day. This all will build trust not only of their people but also of the neighboring countries that in turn will result in successful government of the Taliban in the foreseeable future.

Editor Assistant Research Fellow: Xianglin Gu

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