Taliban deploy dozens of officials at Afghan embassy, consulates in Pakistan

Taliban deploy dozens of officials at Afghan embassy, consulates in Pakistan
© Provided by Hindustan Times A member of the Taliban points his gun at protesters as Afghan demonstrators shout slogans during an anti-Pakistan protest, near the Pakistan embassy in Kabul earlier this year. (Image used for representation). (REUTERS PHOTO.)

The Taliban have posted four senior officials and dozens of junior operatives at the Afghan embassy and consulates in Pakistan in recent weeks, reflecting Islamabad’s close ties with the setup in Kabul.

One of the senior Taliban officials was deployed at Afghanistan’s embassy in Islamabad and the others at consulates in Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta, people familiar with the matter said.

“This has happened even though there is no formal recognition of the Taliban’s interim government in Kabul by any country, not even Pakistan. It is a de facto recognition of the Taliban administration,” said one of the people cited above.

Dozens of junior Taliban operatives have been sent to the four missions to take over operations and to keep an eye on diplomats posted during the term of the former Ashraf Ghani government, which collapsed when the Taliban marched into Kabul on August 15.

An Afghan diplomat appointed by the Ghani government in Bangladesh switched over to the Taliban side and was also sent to Pakistan recently, the people said.

The Taliban have sought to play down the posting of officials to Pakistan, with spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid contending that they are not official envoys. The Taliban have said these officials were meant to help Afghan refugees living in Pakistan and to facilitate the travel of people who wish to visit Afghanistan.

Muhammad Shokaib, who has used the aliases Mosa Farhad and Qari Yousaf Ahmadi and served as a Taliban spokesman, is the de facto ambassador in Islamabad. The Taliban’s acting foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, known to be close to the Pakistani establishment, issued official letters regarding the appointment of the officials in Pakistan.

The Afghan embassy in Islamabad had been without a head since July, when the Ghani government recalled ambassador Najibullah Alikhil and other staff to protest the kidnapping and assault of the envoy’s daughter by unidentified men. She was abducted from a commercial district in the heart of Islamabad and held for several hours. Pakistan denied she was kidnapped, taking ties to a low at the time.

The Taliban have also been making efforts for several months to woo diplomats appointed by the Ghani government in key countries, including West Asian states and India, to work for the setup in Kabul but have been unable to make much headway. In some cases, Muttaqi himself has been involved in these efforts, the people said.

Some 70 Afghan missions around the world are still using Afghanistan’s tricolour flag and issuing a limited number of visas, mainly for humanitarian workers. However, they are grappling with a funds crunch that has resulted in cutting down the number of local staff and some functions.

Diplomats appointed by the former government have also been enthused by the UN General Assembly’s move on Monday to defer a decision on who will represent Afghanistan at the world body. This effectively allows the Ghani government’s representative, Ghulam Mohammad Ishaqzai, to remain as the envoy.

Sameer Patil, fellow for international security studies at Gateway House, said that in the absence of recognition from the world community, the Taliban is trying “out of the box solutions to gain some sort of de facto legitimacy”.

He added, “Obviously, the fact that Pakistan has allowed the mission in Islamabad to be run by the Taliban has given them the confidence that they can try something similar in other countries. There will be some push back from the previous regime’s diplomats but this opposition will be difficult in the absence of financial support.”

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