If at all the international community needed any proof to establish the link between Pakistan’s state actors and the Taliban, it was provided by the way the interim government was cobbled together in Kabul. The composition of the new team bears the stamp of Islamabad all over. The role of Pakistani ISI was clear as the new cabinet was put together, amidst internal rumblings, only after the ISI chief Faiz Hameed reached Kabul to decide government formation. Rawalpindi’s imprint was visible as leaders of the Haqqani Network terror outfit and the Kandahar-based Taliban group dominated the new cabinet while the Doha-based Taliban group, which had been negotiating with the international community and had established contacts with New Delhi, appeared to have been sidelined. The choice of Sirajuddin Haqqani, head of the Haqqani Network, as the Interior Minister is a key signal that the ISI has handpicked the cabinet. Haqqani was responsible for the terror attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul in 2008 and attacks against Indians and Indian interests in 2009 and 2010. The hardliner Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, a United Nations designated terrorist who ordered the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in 2001, is the new Prime Minister. If anyone had any faint hope to see that the new dispensation would be inclusive and representative, such hopes were completely dashed. There is not a single woman in the cabinet while only three out of 33 ministers are non-Pashtuns. The choice of the new Prime Minister and the induction of the Haqqanis in the interim government are clear signals that Pakistan holds the remote control.
The Haqqanis getting key cabinet berths and the power to appoint provincial governors is bad news for India, with serious security implications. It must be pointed out that Sirajuddin Haqqani is a designated global terrorist who is believed to have coordinated and participated in cross-border attacks against the US and coalition forces in Afghanistan. Overall, the top members of the new cabinet are mostly from the old Taliban regime which ruled the country from 1996 to 2001 and are considered extremely close to the ISI. The developments are particularly ominous for India because a network of terror outfits running through Afghanistan and Pakistan will virtually have a field day now. Kashmir is bound to be high on the agenda for the militant groups and their mentors in the Pakistani military establishment. The Haqqani Network, which forms the core of the Taliban’s fighting force, was earlier directly involved in targeting Indian infrastructure and construction projects in Afghanistan. The Haqqani group, the UN-designated terror group, remains firmly anti-Indian and has been doing the bidding for Pakistani ISI with active support from outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed.
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