Moeed Yusuf kept painting Pakistan as a victim.
London: Pakistan’s lobby in Westminster is on an overdrive. Two anti-India discussions have been held in Parliament. In July the House of Lords members discussed human rights in India; in January the House of Commons discussed the political situation in Kashmir. Two weeks ago, Dominic Raab agreed with Mehmood Qureshi the Taliban must end its violence.
But during the worsening crisis in Afghanistan there is a noticeable lack of questioning of Pakistan in the mainstream media.
This week Dr Moeed Yusuf, Pakistan’s NSA, conducted a virtual charm defensive on behalf of Pakistan. He whined that Pakistan had been unfairly abandoned and craved respect. His script revolved around avoiding a situation/atmosphere in Afghanistan from which people wanted to flee.
Dean Godson, Baron Godson, Director of Policy Exchange, introduced Dr Moeed Yusuf, saying that the importance of Pakistan in the current regional discussions must be encouraged. Yusuf said he was speaking as a scholar not an NSA; Yusuf claimed no political, military or bureaucratic background but had experienced 17 years in Washington at the US Institute of Peace and Harvard. He rushed through contemporary history of Afghanistan from the 1980s, presenting Pakistan as the victim of the war in Afghanistan for the past four decades. He claimed India has played a negative role through the EU Disinfo Lab to malign Pakistan globally. Yusuf quoted General Nick Carter about a more moderate Taliban, and said Pakistan cannot bear the brunt of any more refugees. He warned about a future security crisis and said the world owes it to Pakistan not to repeat the mistakes of the 90s; now the international community needs to engage with both Pakistan and Afghanistan politically and economically.
During the questions, Lord Salisbury asked Yusuf how unified the agencies of Pakistan were. In the 1980s there was almost unspoken agreement that ISI had a free rein in Afghanistan. He said today ISI and Taliban relations are close and Pakistan special forces have been active on the ground recently. Lord Salisbury asked how united are the agencies of Pakistan government; do the ISI get clearance from the political leadership in Pakistan for their operations in Afghanistan? Yusuf denied that Pakistan operated in Afghanistan today; he said it was the US who gave the Taliban legitimacy and the leverage is with the western world, not Pakistan. He said the Pakistan government works as a democratic government would, taking help from the military and the ISI when needed, the civil and military coordination is unprecedented and they speak with one voice, with the PM in command.
Tobias Ellwood, MP and a former minister for defence, said Pakistan could have done more to make the operation a success; the ISI let the border be porous and turned a blind eye to the Taliban’s activities. Ellwood reminded Yusuf that Osama Bin Laden was found “up the road from Pakistan’s Sandhurst equivalent”. Yusuf was affronted by Ellwood’s comments and repeated why Pakistan was a victim.
Nus Ghani MP, asked for a more realistic interpretation of the ISI involvement in the Taliban going forward.
Tom Tugendhat MP, asked what pressures Pakistan was under after the Taliban victory, and what was Dr Yusuf’s assessment of China’s increasing influence while the Taliban hosted the East Turkmenistan Islamic movement?
Khalid Mahmood MP asked if Pakistan will share intelligence, asked how India was involved in the region, and will ISI’s part be transparent? Yusuf went back to the script about refugees and said India had invested in Afghanistan to undercut Pakistan.
Yusuf was also indulged by BBCRadio4 about how US and UK must prevent a refugee crisis.
Tom Tugendhat, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, has announced an inquiry into how the UK Foreign Office has conducted the Afghanistan crisis; that evidence is already coming in. It is clear that MPs still have many questions about Boris Johnson’s disengagement from Afghanistan, and what the future role of Pakistan might be. There seems to be complete disregard surrounding India’s significance in Afghanistan, when India is geographically and geopolitically best positioned to be the most reliable ally for a stable future in Afghanistan.
The culmination of Pakistan’s lobbying efforts has been Johnson’s appointment of special envoy for trade to Pakistan, Mark Eastwood MP for Dewsbury, Yorkshire.