Saturday, May 25, 2024

Pakistan punishes Kabul with Sirajuddin Haqqani ‘Disclosure’

Immigration News

Pakistan has let out its worst-kept secret that the top mujahideen personnel of its anti-Russian and, later, anti-US campaigns in Afghanistan, some of whom are Taliban now in power, carried the privileged ‘green’ Pakistani passports.

The dramatic ‘disclosure’ that Sirajuddin Haqqani, Interior Minister in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, was holding a Pakistani passport and that it had been cancelled, which, according to analysts, is a part of Pakistan’s move to punish the Kabul regime.

With its relationship soured, Islamabad wants to blame an uncooperative Kabul regime and play the “victim of terrorism” again. Its army-backed caretaker government is sore at the lack of cooperation from Afghanistan in reining in Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) fighters that it says are operating from the Afghan safe havens.

In seeming retaliation, Pakistan is evicting Afghan nationals from its soil, charging that they include those engaged in terrorist activities and affect Pakistan’s security. Over 330,000 out of 1.7 million unregistered Afghans who do not enjoy refugee status under international law have been sent back since October, and more are being sent out daily.

These families are being pushed out, ostensibly to make things difficult for an already impoverished and isolated neighbour, causing concern among the world community.

As for Haqqani, records say that the Haqqani clan, headed by Jalaluddin, a warlord hailing from Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, was a long-time favourite of Pakistan’s ISI. The Haqqani network was used against any quarters that the ISI wanted to keep out of Afghanistan.  Today, Jalaluddin’s sons are key ministers in the Taliban-run administration. Sirajudin, the Interior Minister, is also the deputy chief of the Taliban movement. 

Pakistan last week announced that it had ‘discovered’ that Sirajuddin held a Pakistani passport when a Pakistani journalist witnessed the latter presenting it at the Immigration in Doha. Following this, it was investigated that the passport was issued at Sukkur, Sindh province. Two officials, one of them retired, have been arrested.

Sirajuddin used the passport, evidently renewed, to travel to Qatar in 2020 for negotiations with the United States that eventually culminated in the Doha Pact that led to America’s exit from Afghanistan after two decades. He was one of the key negotiators representing the hard-core Taliban leadership that was divided on the approach to the talks.

Pakistani daily, The News International (December 6, 2023), reported that Haqqani was among the nearly 40,000 Afghans who had been issued passports “in what now looks like a major scam” or state-sponsored by ISI.

An official told The News that 30,000 to 40,000 Pakistani passports that had been issued to Afghan nationals have been blocked.

A senior leader of the Haqqani Network, Sirajuddin is a ‘designated global terrorist’, according to the American intelligence agency FBI.

Interestingly, Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesperson responded cautiously. Ms Zahra Baloch said: “I have just seen the report. I do not have the facts to respond to your question. Maybe I will be able to comment on some other occasion when I have more information.”

Equally interesting, also intriguing, is Haqqani’s complete denial that he ever carried a Pakistani passport and that he ever travelled to foreign countries. Afghanistan’s Khaama Press quoted “a source close to Haqqani that he has never had a Pakistani passport and has never travelled to any country.”

“A source close to Sirajuddin Haqqani refuted the claims of Pakistani journalists, stating that due to restrictions, he couldn’t travel to other countries, and there was always a risk of his arrest and extradition to the United States, so he had no need for a Pakistani passport.”

The report added that after the return of the Taliban government, four countries invited their Interior Minister to visit, but Haqqani declined the invitations due to sanctions.

Fake passports are reportedly a thriving business in Pakistan. Its action on Haqqani, its media reports claim, “coincides with intelligence received from Saudi authorities who had initially shared with the Pakistani government samples of Pakistani passports obtained by Afghan nationals to secure jobs in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Since the government was keen to follow the case, it came to know through the Saudis that there were more than 12,000 such cases. Their passports were cancelled and those found involved in using forged documents were deported to Afghanistan. However, there is a twist in the tail that indicates official collusion. “The issuing officer claimed he was approached by an individual identifying as a senior intelligence officer, who requested travel documents for Haqqani, Pakistan’s The News reported. Analysts said the ISI remained behind the entire episode.

DISCLAIMER

The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Khaama Press News Agency. We welcome opinions and submissions to Khaama Press Opinions/Exclusives – Please email them to info@khaama.com.

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