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Junaid: Rumors are flying that Pakistan’s arrests of Taliban leaders may signal secret negotiations

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PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome back to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington. Joining us again from London is Muhammad Junaid. He’s doing his doctorate in London. He comes from Peshawar, Pakistan. Thanks for joining us again, Muhammad.


JAY: So in recent days the Pakistani secret service, the army, have arrested some of the important leadership of the Taliban. What’s going on?

JUNAID: Yes. It is, you know, a very major shift, apparently, you know, from what used to be said even in media. And, you know, in the Musharraf era there were 2-star generals reporting in front of American officials that we have, you know, stakes with the Taliban and we have to have them. They are, you know, our proxies or they’re, you know, front there. But that has, you know, changed in the last 15 days, because Pakistanis are—you know, the Pakistani secret services and ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] and all those have arrested many of Talibans, Afghani Talibans, you know, who were the leaders. Now most of the voices that are coming out, you know, from Pakistan are positive about it, and they think, you know, it’s a good thing. There are, you know, two more versions, you know, which we should keep in mind and see, you know, what is happening.

JAY: When you say “voices,” you mean in the Pakistan media?

JUNAID: Yes, in the Pakistani media these voices are coming out, and these are also opinion pieces, you know, who are really analyzing this situation for the last 30 or 40 years, I would say.

JAY: Now, just to remind our viewers, there’s the Taliban that’s more called the Pakistani Taliban, but has as enemy this Pakistani state, and then there’s the Afghan Taliban, which for years everyone has considered more or less a lever of the Pakistani army. It’s this Afghan Taliban that’s being arrested, right, which is why it’s so surprising.

JUNAID: It is, yes. So one of the angles is, you know, that Taliban are, you know, a single plank. This is, you know, taken by some people in Pakistan, by the rulers and all that. And I think, you know, they are imposing a strict version of Islam in may in Pakistan or in Afghanistan, so they should be get rid of. We should call on state level. But that’s, you know, the official thing. Now, you know, two more voices that have—and recently, last night, you know, a voice of the former ISI, you know, director general came out, who is General Asad Durrani. You know, Durrani tribe is the one who ruled Afghanistan for a long time. So he’s a Pashtun. In his opinion, you know, it is tactically a very wrong move to make, because it is the time, you know, when things are getting into negotiations and you should have some people who really have soft corner for you. So he, you know, said that if there is nothing inside it, and if it’s an honest capture of these people which can be followed by a handover or access that can be very troublesome for the future of Pakistan and these borders can become insecure. There is also, you know, a second version, you know, that has gotten much more, you know, currency, I would say (it’s also in the Western media), that these Taliban, they were actually the negotiating people. Mullah Baradar was reported as, you know, performing Haj in Mecca, and he was also in on the talks. So, actually, these people have not been arrested to be interrogated or, you know, taken to Bagram or somewhere, but these people are actually talking to Americans and, you know, they are reaching some kind of a deal.

JAY: Now, if this is happening, is it suggested this would be with the blessing of Mullah Omar?

JUNAID: Yes, yes, because Mullah Omar cannot, you know, go without all these Taliban. There are many people there. Mullah Omar does not come forward. But, you know, these people would represent him surely. The whole thing was, you know, put into another spin, I would say, two days ago, when [Gulbuddin] Hekmatyar, the leader of Hezb-e-Islami. He, you know, announced his proposal for peace in Afghanistan, and he, you know, said that there should be a council of elders which would represent everybody. So there is something going on. I personally think, you know, it is not the case of simple arrest and, you know, this transfer thing. There is something inside. We don’t exactly know what inside, what comes out of it, but there will be things that will be revealing in future.

JAY: And in the Western press in the last couple of days there’s been a lot of talk about Pakistan actually handing these, quote-unquote, “prisoners” over to Afghan and American authorities. I mean, if that were to happen, that would suggest this is a real arrest. But do you think that’s actually likely? Or what does all that amount to?

JUNAID: Well, yes. An interesting development happened today. You know, from last night, it was, you know, being said that Pakistan has actually agreed with the Afghan government to hand them over. But today a petitioner went in to Pakistani High Court, and, you know, there was an emergency directive to the government from the High Court which said that these people should not be handed over. So there is also, you know, something going on on that front, because the High Court simply said that these people should not be handed over. And in the recent past, you know, Pakistani judiciary has shown, you know, a huge amount of power, and it has, you know, a big backing with people as well. So it is not, you know, a plain thing that they will, you know, be handed over [inaudible]

JAY: Well, do you think this decision by the court—is that a defense of Pakistan’s sovereignty? Or is this the court getting involved in the politics of all of this?

JUNAID: There is that angle to it. But, you know, the petitioner actually went and said that, you know, you cannot swap people, you know, like this; there has to be, you know, a mechanism for that. And, well, that is, you know, true, there has to be a mechanism for it, which is, you know, long and, you know, complex. So the court has, you know, said, directly hand them over for now. So I think, you know, there is some political angle to it. However, they haven’t put it through law.

JAY: And why is the Taliban seemingly interested in negotiating? It was only a few months ago when they were saying, you know, we’ll negotiate how the forces will leave and nothing else. Now they seem to be ready to talk about, potentially, power-sharing and other sorts of things.

JUNAID: See, there are different, you know, angles to it. One more angle is that there are Taliban who have, you know, turned against Pakistan. That is also, you know, reported, and that is true. This also comes, you know, from my own sources back, like, in Peshawar.

JAY: You mean sections of the Afghan Taliban.

JUNAID: Section of Afghan Taliban, you know, who are against—they are in the shura, which decides in the chairmanship of Mullah Omar they’re, you know, against Pakistan, because they consider Pakistan Inter-State Intelligence and establishment is a traitor. The Taliban, I think, you know, they are going to, you know, play tactics now. You cannot underestimate them. You know, they have become a politically very wise force now. They are not going to—I mean, America is going, you know, to table talks, as well as, you know, assert, and I think, you know, they are also going to replicate it with the same tactics: they will also, you know, talk on one dimension, and another dimension, you know, something going on. So I expect, you know, a complex situation coming out.

JAY: Thanks for joining us, Junaid.

JUNAID: Thank you very much.

JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee complete accuracy.

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Muhammad Junaid is a researcher and lecturer at the Institute on Management Studies, University of Peshawar in Pakistan. He holds a Masters degree in Business and IT and contributes regularly to blogs. He is currently doing his PHD in entrepreneurship from University of Essex, UK. His particular topic of interests include the identity of Afghan (Pashtun) entrepreneurs. As a Pashtun himself, he communicates the events in Afghanistan and Pakistan by interpreting them with respect to Pashtun culture.