Nayyar Zaidi

In his prepared opening statement for the press conference (Feb. 23), President Ronald Reagan mentioned peace prospects (or efforts for peace) in the Middle East and Central America. He didn’t mention Afghanistan where peace, presumably, is just around the corner.

Authoritative conservative sources and some leading Congressional supporters of the Afghan resistance claim that the President had not been fully briefed about the State Department’s commitments to Soviet Union i.e. the US support to Afghan resistance will stop as soon as the first Soviet troops begin to leave Afghanistan.

Therefore, the omission of Afghanistan conflict as a “potential “peace candidate leads one to conclude that President doesn’t believe that peace is “imminent” in Afghanistan.

Thousands of miles away, there is another president who seems to have taken a 180 degree turn on this issue, President ZiaulHaq of Pakistan has now put forward conditions that are much tougher than were originally presented by Pakistani foreign office (under Foreign Minister Sahibzada Yaqoob Khan).

President Zia is now demanding an interim government in Kabul before the Geneva peace accords may be signed; Pakistan’s acting Foreign Minister Zain Noorani (who suffered a heart attack in Lahore on Feb. 25) recently visited Washington and spelled out the general format of this interim government that would be acceptable to Pakistan. The proposed government should include representative of the mujahideen and the refugees in Pakistan and elsewhere, the representatives of Afghan exiles overseas (as distinct from those who fled after Soviet invasion and are called “refugees”) and some representatives of the existing ruling party the Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), However, Noorani insisted that these elements from PDPA should not be “communists or known rabid socialists”,

Moscow immediately accused Pakistan and President Zia of trying to block a settlement of the Afghan conflict,

Let us review the polarization on this issue. On one hand we have President Reagan, certain very responsible elements of U.S. Congress, President Zia, the mujahideen and the Afghan refugees, All agree that stopping aid to mujahideen prematurely will’ be a disaster,

On the other had we have Secretary of State George Shultz and former Pakistani Foreign Minister Sahibzada Yaqoob Khan who evidently made the commitment in Geneva (U.N. sponsored) negotiations that as soon as Soviet Union gave a firm timetable for troop withdrawal and the troops began leaving, the United States and Pakistan will stop aiding Afghan resistance.

But before we speculate on the reasons that the two gentlemen might have had to make such a commitment, let us first review some facts to determine if the Shultz Yaqoob commitment really. Means disaster for Pakistan and Afghan mujahideen.

Soviet Union has said that if Pakistan reached an accord with the Kabul regime by March 15, Soviet troops could begin withdrawal by May 1S and end it in 10 months.

However, it was politely pointed out that if we count from May 15, it is 10 months, But if we count from March 15(the day of the presumed settlement) it is still one year. The Soviet officials said that the two months gap (from March 15 to May 15) is not for the benefit of Soviets. It is actually for Pakistan to dismantle mujahideen network inside Pakistan so that the Soviet withdrawal could begin.

It will pose two problems for Pakistan. If it starts dismantling the mujahideen network and starts disarming them (inside Pakistani territory) they could easily tum against Pakistan. If they can fight a Superpower, they can certainly fight the Pakistani army — and they will be supplied arms by Indians and Soviets. Even if that doesn’t happen and peaceful disarming does take place, and a after that Soviets find some excuse to delay their departure, who will be responsible?

Pakistan and the rest of the world have not been able to make a third rate power like India to honor its commitments to the United Nations (on Kashmir), How will they force a superpower to do so?

The civil war broke out in Afghanistan because the majority of the Afghan population refused to accept a Soviet sponsored socialist government—of Noor Mohammad Tarakiin 1978, If Soviets had not come, the mujahideen would have taken over the government in 1979.

There is no need to get excited about the fact that the “Soviets ‘want to leave.” Of course, they ‘want to leave, But the important question is as to what they want to leave behind? They want to restore the conditions or the status quo of 1979.e.a Communist dominated government that can survive without Soviet military support.

If that is going to happen now, then mujahideen, the refugees, the Pakistanis and the Americans can rightfully ask: Why were all the sacrifices given for eight years?

Soviet intentions are not a matter of speculations. Soviet ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Rehman Vazeerov, made a statement in Pakistan (Dec. 11, 1987 at Multan) that “after the difficult conditions of the Afghan revolution, Afghanistan had sided with Soviet Union. Therefore, now Soviet Union will not abandon Afghanistan in its hour of need.”

On Feb.8, General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev said’ (while announcing the latest Afghan peace plans) that an interim government was an “internal affair” of Afghanistan. Now if the Najeebullah government (or another one with Soviet backing) remains in power; the mujahideen are disarmed; Pakistan and U.S. have pledged not to “interfere” then who is going to “persuade” Afghan communists and Soviets to be “nice” and include representatives of the three fourths of the Afghan population?

I hope the foregoing analysis makes it clear why President Zia and some other U.S. elements are suddenly taking a hard line.

With that understood, the question is why were they “sleeping” all along when such idiotic commitments were being made by their respective foreign ministers at Geneva?

The answer is that agter the broad policy is set, specifics are handled by these representatives. Head of states also rely on their assistants to ensure that policies ae implemented according to national interests.

Then why did Shultz and YqoobKhan did something that is now being perceived as disaster by these heads of states? Shultz had a different agenda. Also, the State Department machinery is notoriously liberal and to the “left” which means they are always willing to make a deal with the Soviets. Shultz’s own priority is Middle East and you cannot have peace there until the Soviets play an important role — by subduing Syria, Libya and by withdrawing support to Iran. This will open the way for a Middle East peace on Israeli conditions, Soviets will do that in return for a “sell out” on Afghanistan,

Why did Yqoobkhan play into the hands of Shultz and pro-Israeli elements? Well, he wanted to be the head of UNESCO. He “might” have thought that Washington Moscow-Tel Aviv axis could get for him. :

This is “probably” why YqoobKhan’s resignation was accepted on Oct. 31. Prime Minister Mohammad Khan Junejo wanted to fire him a long time ago but President Zia insisted on retaining him, However, Zia finally withdrew his support. Pakistan has been without a foreign minister (Noorani is still “acting”) at a critical juncture. But the authonties perhaps thought that it was better not to have one than to have one who will betray the trust of the nation.

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