Pakistan's Policies and Misperceptions

Afghanistan Table of Contents

Such distortions in perception were shared by Pakistani officials. Their policies were based on an assumption of Pushtun dominance in postwar Afghanistan. The Pushtunistan issue had dominated relations between the two countries since Pakistan had become a nation. Harboring Afghanistan's potential future leadership offered insurance that once a Pushtun dominated mujahidin government was installed it would drop the issue. This goal was linked to Pakistan's heavy military investment in the Ghilzai region adjacent to its border. Pakistan's involvement in liberating the region was intended to improve future relations.

In addition to ingrained cultural traits, resistance politics were shaped by situational factors. The institutional and operational development of the Peshawar parties was stunted by circumstances they could not control. Pakistan's fear of Soviet reprisal induced it to oppose the establishment of an Afghan government in exile. It also discouraged the emergence of one party or a union of parties which could have made the resistance less dependent. Pakistan's influence over the parties was enhanced by compelling them to compete for support. In walking a tightrope between partiality and caution, Pakistan's policies stunted the growth of the parties.

The weakness of the parties was acutely evident in their failure to create a credible shadow government in anticipation of Kabul's fall. Anticipating the capture of a major city (Jalalabad or, perhaps, Khost) in the wake of the Soviet pullback from the eastern border provinces in the summer of 1988, the parties created a "provisional government" based on a constitution that would establish an Islamic Republic. The government was stillborn. No suitable seat to place it was captured, no prominent leader was placed in charge of it, it was not funded, and the parties, themselves, ignored it.

Once it became certain that the Soviets were leaving, the creation of an authority capable of taking control of Afghanistan was more urgent. This situation led to initiatives by Pakistan and the United States, with Saudi support, to create an interim government which could politically offset its rival in Kabul, coordinate the final military effort and prepare for the establishment of a postwar government. A shura (council) of resistance leaders met on February 10, 1989. Token participation was permitted from expatriates abroad, but Shia representatives were not seated due to a dispute over representation. The prospect of transferring power to a separate authority paralyzed the leadership. It feared political eclipse. An interim government might connect with the commanders who already exercised control over much of Afghanistan. Only Gailani made an effort to have major commanders participate in the shura.

After considerable pressure from the ISI--and allegedly some bribing with Saudi money--the Afghanistan Interim Government (AIG) was created. In essence, it was a cabinet consisting of the seven party leaders and their senior deputies and a few technocrats. The voting was arranged in a manner which assured that the weakest parties would get the highest posts. Mujaddidi was named Prime Minister and Sayyaf, his deputy. The AIG was given the task of creating a permanent government acceptable to popular will. Whether that process would be based on a jirgah or elections was left open. An effort was made also to centralize budgeting, but the parties continued to operate as they had before, with little attention being paid the AIG by early 1990.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress