On the eve of NATO summit in Lisbon, the state-funded BBC World Service and the Pakistan military, apparently, provided a PR opportunity for the NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, where he claimed in an interview with the BBC that the Taliban had weakened in Afghanistan.
Mr. Rasmussen was asked by the BBC to respond to a statement offering a conditional ceasefire issued by one of the militant groups in Afghanistan. The NATO Secretary General used the occasion to brag about his organization’s successes in Afghanistan, saying that the Taliban were seeking a ceasefire due to the NATO’s military strategy.
The BBC interview was an excellent example of how the so-called independent Western media work hand-in-hand with military organizations. Sometimes stories can even be orchestrated and planned with the help of military and spooks.
On November 17, the state-funded BBC said that it had obtained an ‘exclusive’ interview with the son of an Afghan militant leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, in an area near the Pakistan-Afghan border.
The BBC reporter, Orla Guerin, who interviewed the young Habib-ur-Rahman, travelled through the Khyber Pass along with the Pakistani troops, while it is impossible for any foreigner to visit the Khyber Agency and indeed any other tribal region without the permission of the relevant political agents.
In the current atmosphere, military consent is also required. Intelligence services and several other security agencies must give clearance for a visit to the tribal areas of Pakistan. Foreign journalists are not allowed in tribal areas unless the Pakistani military is convinced that such a visit would serve the military’s agenda.
The fact that the BBC correspondent, escorted by the military, visited the Khyber Agency proves that the Pakistani authorities approved and perhaps facilitated the ‘exclusive’ interview.
The question is what was the aim of the state-funded BBC’s ‘news scoop’? Was it a part of NATO and Pakistan army’s joint PR campaign, and the BBC had agreed to provide its platform for the purpose? Or was the Pakistani military trying to send a message to NATO through the BBC?
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-i-Islami has been active in Afghanistan since the 1980’s Afghan jihad. The group, however, was never very popular among the Afghan people and the Mujahedeen who fought the Soviets.
Hezb-i-Islami has very little influence inside Afghanistan. However, it has been the only group receiving the largest share of the American and other foreign aid, including weapons such as stringer missiles and large chunks of money, throughout the 1980s.
During the Afghan jihad, Hezb-i-Islami had close links with the CIA and was protected and groomed by the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan. Politically and ideologically, the group is an offshoot of Pakistan’s Jamat-e-Islami and Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt.
For years, the CIA and Saudi Arabia provided the money, the ISI protected and assisted the Hezb-i-Islami, and the Jamat-e-Islami and its comrades in the Pakistani media promoted and glorified Hekmatyar. They created a personality cult of Hekmatyar depicting him as the sole leader of the Afghan Mujahedeen.
But when the Soviet troops left Afghanistan in 1988, it turned out that the Hezb-i-Islami did not have much support among the Afghan people, and Dr. Najeeb Ullah and Commander Ahmed Shah Masood were the key leaders in Afghanistan.
The truth was an embarrassment for the ISI and the Jamat-e-Islami of Pakistan. Nonetheless, the Pakistan army kept assisting Hekmatyar, providing him with full support against Dr. Najaeeb Ullah and Commander Ahmed Shah Masood.
The ISI of Pakistan and the Jamat-e-Islami had one wish, seeing Hekmatyar on the Afghan throne. At one point, he was nominated as the prime minister but could not enter Kabul and instead kept shelling Kabul from the surrounding hilltops.
In the early 1990s, Hekmatyar was the main person behind instability and bloodshed in Kabul. He fought against his fellow Afghans with Pakistani money and military support but failed to takeover Kabul.
In 1994, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia found new puppets known as the Taliban. Allegedly, the CIA and the British intelligence were behind the Taliban project. As a result, the foreign backing shifted from Hekmatyar to the Taliban, who occupied Kabul in September 1996.
After his mentors dumped him, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar opposed the Taliban movement but could not resist them. The success of the Taliban forced Hekmatyar to adopt a low profile.
Until the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the Hezb-i-Islami was nowhere on the Afghan scene. In the following years, however, Hekmatyar gradually emerged on the political horizon but this time, against his old masters — the Americans.
Now, while Hekmatyar is said to be supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan, his son’s latest interview with the BBC, which was facilitated by the Pakistani military and apparently took place on the Pakistani soil, suggests that perhaps he has again become friends with his former bosses.
His son’s ‘ceasefire’ offer could be a media blitz for the state-funded BBC but in reality Hezb-i-Islami can’t offer real peace or stability in Afghanistan. It seems that to ditch and divide the Taliban, the British and Pakistanis are again using a canon that is out of date.
Shiraz paracha is a journalist and analyst. He can be reached at: email@example.com
First published at Press TV