Implications of Rabbani’s Assassination

Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani was a leader of Jamiat-e Islami Afghanistan and former President of Afghanistan. He served as President from 1992–1996, but later was forced to leave Kabul because of the Taliban takeover of the city. Afghanistan saw his comeback in 2001.

He was assassinated on 20th September 2011. He was the head of Afghanistan National Front (known in the media as United National Front), the largest political opposition to Hamid Karzai’s government.

He was also the chairman of High Peace Council. Afghan President Hamid Karzai had, back in September 2010, formed a committee to seek peace talks with the Taliban, which was known as High Peace Council.This High Peace Council was slated to be at the centre of President Karzai’s strategy of talking to the Taliban.

The members of the High Peace Council elect their own leader and deputy, and determine their tactics – what sort of approaches they will make to the Taliban. The Talibans were ousted from power in 2001 and since then, have been trying to overthrow the US backed Karzai’s government and expel out the foreign forces. The Taliban have made it very clear all along that they are not prepared to hold talks, not prepared to consider peace, until all foreign troops leave Afghanistan. The assassination Burhanuddin Rabbani comes as a wake up call to India.

Impact on Ethnic Relations in Afghanistan

  • Rabbani was an important Tajik leader. He was killed by a Taliban assassin who exploded a bomb packed in his turban.
  • This assassin was a Pashtun, who killed himself to eliminate the most widely respected leader among the Tajiks and the Hazaras – the large minorities in north and west Afghanistan who led the Northern Alliance’s war against the Pashtun-controlled Taliban.
  • Thus this is a big blow to ethnic relations in Afghanistan where no one trusts anyone.
  • It will make it very difficult for President Hamid Karzai now to be seen as a leader of not just Pashtuns, but someone who can also be trusted by the Uzbeks and Tajiks.

Impact on India:

His assassination could weaken the Tajik leadership, which has been an objective ally of India. It could weaken Karzai with whom India has built up an excellent working relationship. In the uncertain period after the thinning out of the US presence starts, India would need strong allies in Afghanistan— in all the communities. It is likely that in the months to come more of the leaders who are perceived by the Taliban and the ISI as well disposed to India might be eliminated one by one. For India, the option is to persuade the US to get rid of its hesitation and let India play a more important role in this regard.

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