Talibanization: It’s all about Gwadar Port & Transit Trade Route

Do you think that Muslims were involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on WTC that took 3,200 lives on American soils?  If it so, then newspapers of 2001 carried different story, saying that all the pilots who collided their aircrafts with the New York building and Pentagon were from Arabs descent.  According to US think tanks and research centers, some of the youth who underwent a regular training of flying with a view to carry out planned terrorism, were Arabs and remaining came from Egypt. They were all from affluent and highly educated families. It is also an established fact that there was not a single Afghan involved in this terrorist act. Then, why did US attack Afghanistan?

However, based on the intelligence intercept reports that indicated Osama bin Laden’s presence (accused of providing financial support to the terrorist plot) in the mountainous areas inside Afghanistan, the US & NATO troops invaded the region in 2001. As the invasion was very controversial, therefore, US started rationalizing by blowing the theme of extremism and Talibanization. In fact, the sole objective of the US was not to apprehend Osama bin Laden or toppling of Taliban rule in Afghanistan. It was rather the game of possessing the enormous natural resources of Central Asian Republics as well controlling the transit trade routes.

Now, after eight years of the invasion, it has become increasingly clear that there was a subtle link between the 9/11 terrorist attack and taking over of natural riches of CARs.

Pakistan Army is presently engaged in massive operations in the north-west of the country where Talibans have challenged the writ of the Government.  In order to stop possible suicide bombing, the security has been put on “high alert” in the country.  When is this war going to end?  It is early to say anything, nevertheless, the conflict started in June 2002, when security forces were targeted in the name of backwardness of the Balochistan province.  The insurgent situation escalated when the Phase-1 of Gwadar project was completed in 2005, and a number of Chinese Engineers were made subject of attacks by the Baloch insurgents who see their interest in the port as a threat to their survival.  The situation became worst when the Chinese Premier was not allowed to visit Gwadar for opening ceremony of the Seaport, due to security reasons.  But, our media and political analysts were not prepared to reveal the truth that the whole issue hinges on the development of Gwadar deep
Seaport and transit trade route.

Perhaps, the unrest could have been restricted to Balochistan only, but KKH-II project ignited the whole frontier province as well.  Here, the insurgency started by razing girls’ schools in the name of enforcement of Shariah in Bajaur, Malakand, Swat and adjoining tribal areas, when China signed MoU in 2004 for further expansion and upgrading of the existing Karakoram highway that links Gilgit to Kohat via Chitral, Dir, Swat connecting Gwadar to Western China.  The KKH trade route agreement alarmed many countries.  US viewed the Highway project as alarming for its endeavours in exploiting the riches of CARs.  India considered it as a dangerous development for its security.  The Kashgar-Gwadar trade route affected the trade and economic interest of neighboring states of the region.  Side by side, China started laying rail-link from Shanghai to Kashgar. In order to deny Chinese access to Gwadar and to stop Pakistan from exploiting economic benefit, the theme of provincial rights and backwardness proved quite successful.

However, the same strategy could hold the grounds in the tribal areas and NWFP.  Therefore, keeping in view the environment of the area and emotional attachment of the people with the Islam, the propaganda theme regarding the presence of Osama bin Laden & al Qaeda leadership was blown out of proportion.

The western media was already showing concern regarding militants’ infiltration to orchestrate and launch cross-border attacks from their sanctuaries on Pakistani soil.  Similarly, Afghan President Hamid Karzai accused Pakistan of alleged relationship between ISI agency and the militants.  Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at Pentagon, US Gen. David Petraeus, commander Central Command, US think tanks and media cartels, questioned the alleged relationship between ISI and the militant Talibans.

The tug of war to reach the natural resources of CARs is generally called as “new great game” with Iran, USA and Russia as old players in the game.  Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that India would attempt to create hurdles and would ensure that the port does not become hub port.  There is strong evidence of Indian support in planning, commissioning and preparing acts of terrorism in Balochistan through setting up of 26 centres of terrorism (consulates) along the western border in Afghanistan.  Reliable sources have revealed that explosives were brought in by Indian Border Roads Organisation (BRO) under the garb of “reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts” in Afghanistan through Iran to be used for sabotage acts against Balochistan.

The suicide bombing inside Pakistan has been a source of concern throughout the world.  According to US and NATO Commanders, the next attacks on the US will likely to originate from Pakistan’s tribal belt.  They also warned that Pakistan’s nuclear assets may fall in the hands of Islamic extremists.  The terrorists are targeting Pakistan Army, ISI and law enforcing authorities.  There are incidents where soldiers’ bodies were mutilated.  But Pakistan Army reacted with constraint due to collateral damage.  In this way, Pakistan security forces were attacked on two fronts: on the one side, they were confronted with the suicide bomber inside the country and on the other hand, they were attacked by the Taliban in the tribal areas.  Even then, the “Aristotles” sitting in the media circles are terming it “Pashtun’s revenge”.  However, it is far away from reality.  In fact, trained militants from regular Israel and India forces duly supported by US, are fighting against Pakistan Army in the tribal area & Swat region.  The situation might have aggravated, if Pakistan Army had not launched military operation in these areas.  The Government “peace initiatives & deals” were aimed to bring peace in the area.  But the leaders and operational commanders of Talibans, pursuing US & India agenda were not interested in peace as well as Nazim-i-Adil Regulation.

Now, let us see other facet of the topic.  India’s objective is to prevent Pakistan from offering safe transit routes to the Central Asian Republics.    It is interesting to note a tit for tat response by Indians on the issue of the establishment of Port.  When the Chinese began the Gwadar port, the Indians began to help Iranians construct the Chabahar port next door.  The Chabahar port ironically also located in the Baloch part of Iran, will be accessible for Indian imports and exports, with road links to Afghanistan and Central Asia. India is helping build a 200-kilometre road that will connect Chabahar with Afghanistan.  The US financed Ring Road connects Kabul to Iranian port of Chabahar through Herat.   India has successfully completed the work of Zaranj-Delaram highway and it will connect India with Central Asia countries.  It links Zaranj, which lies on Afghanistan’s border with Iran, to Delaram, situated on the “garland highway”. The garland highway links Kabul, Kandahar, Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif and Kunduz.

China has developed a new security concept based on “Soft power” that seeks to assure China’s economic development.  However, US considers China as a future rival and expresses concern over China’s growing military might.  Despite changes in the international situation, China-Pakistan friendship has remained strong and steadfast.  China has helped Pakistan in developing its economy.  Chinese assistance has been invaluable in areas as diverse as construction of nuclear power plants, dams, roads and industrial, Gwadar port on Pakistan’s Arabian Sea coast.  Pakistan too can help in China’s growth in opening energy supplies from the Gulf to China.  If China can lay hands on the resources of CARs, then China can achieve its economic goals within five years instead of planned 25 years.

The trade prospects with China are envisaged to evolve along with the construction of the port.  It is expected that China’s use of the Gwadar port for exports originating from the western region will provide her preferred option. Thus, it may be visualized that the Gwadar port will be an integral part of China’s Foreign Trade route in future.  The existing Karakoram highway already connects western China to Pakistan through Gilgit-Chitral-Dir-Swat to Kohat and then linking to Indus Highway.  With further expansion and upgrading of this traffic artery and proposed linkages to Gwadar via planned Kohat tunnel, Tank, DI Khan, Taunsa, DG Khan, Rajanpur, Kashmore, Sikarpur, Ratodero, Khuzdar.  M-6 Motorway linking D G Khan with Ratodero and M-8 Motorway linking Ratodero with Gwadar.   It shall make it the shortest and viable route connecting Gwadar to Western China.  M-6 Motorway linking D G Khan with Ratodero and M-8 Motorway linking Ratodero with Gwadar.

The most important point is that there is no river bridge on this route.  This developmental plan is between two independent states.  It is not a conspiracy against anybody, then why the region has become tense and volatile.

China too is interested in having its share in the new Silk roads.  China will pay for the transit route.

Gwadar port emerges as a place of great strategic value, giving tremendous boost to Pakistan’s economy as well uplifts the standard of common people of the area.  This is not acceptable to US, India and other countries.  Just see, no sooner Pakistan Army has initiated a military operation to flush out Talibans from the tribal areas, an increase in the volume of propaganda targeting nuclear assets has been observed in the press.

The miscreants who have been carrying out suicide bombing, razing girls schools, maiming the opponents and killing innocent childrens, are being called as ‘Talibanization”.  However, Taliban was created by US with the view to secure the trade route from Qandhar to Herat and CARs.  In this creation, almost 75 per cent of Soviet sponsored Afghan Army personnel and Khalq & Parcham party were included.  Amongst, was the then Defence Minister of Najeeb Government, Gen. Shahnawaz Tani.  Should Gen Tani be called as Taliban?  It was part of the planned strategy of US to defame Islam.  Similarly, now Talibans are being made to fight against Pakistan Army.  In 1994, it was securing trade route, and even today, the same trade route is the bone of contention.  Additionally, Gwadar Port has added many new dimensions in intensifying the conflict.

How long this process will take?  The tribal areas will continue to remain battlefield.  During swat operation, the arrest of Afghan citizens is a proof that Afghan warlords sitting in Afghanistan, are controlling the insurgency in Pakistan.  They are providing arms and ammunition to the insurgent militants.  It is very clear that US and NATO forces are playing games after being denied access to the trade route.  The US investment amounting to billions of dollars has not reaped profitable results.  The trade through Iranian port of Chabahar is conditioned to the peace of the area.  The unrest is due to wrong policies of US which has made favourable conditions for the drug barons supported by Afghan warlords and of course US/NATO commanders.

The volatile situation has restricted neighboring countries to extract benefits from the trade route.  The government of Pakistan and its people are suffering due to the non-operationalization of the trade route.  The only option left is to find a new trade route to fulfill the growing energy requirements of the country. Amid the turbulence in Afghanistan, alternate corridors is the only option left to fulfill the growing energy requirements of the country, allowing Central Asia fresh breath to develop trade in several directions.  In fact, the trade route is already in place.  US and China are forced to use this route, despite of difference in opinion. If you see the map closely, you will find a small corridor Wakkan Valley (Afghanistan) stretching in between Pakistan and Tajikistan and later joining Western China in Kasghar.  There is a vast pass at “Qila Panjah” in Afghanistan.. Here the distance of Pakistan with Tajikistan is just 50 KM.

The road connecting Kohat tunnel with Swat and Dir is called KKH phase-II project.  If Chitral is connected to Tajikistan via “Qila Panjah” (Afghanistan) linking to KKH till Kashgar (China).  Then, one trade route can emerge and China, US Russia can benefit from this trade route.  An elaborated network of infrastructure being put in place across Pakistan and the improvement in Korakoram Highway, would provide China the shortest possible access to the Middle East and other world markets through Gwadar Port.   The traditional route of Turkmenistan to Tajikistan via Uzbekistan already exists since Soviet Union era.  In this way, Kasghar-Gwadar trade route will not be restricted to China only.  Rather, will prove beneficial for the rest of the world by connecting it with the CARs.  It will become necessity for the big powers to restore peace in NWFP and tribal Areas.  Afghanistan will also be getting transit fee for the route, but whether India will accept this unique trade route or not.  Time will tell. Khalid Khokhar

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