Celebratory gunfire resounded across the Afghan capital on Tuesday as the Taliban took control of the airport following the withdrawal of the last US troops, marking the end of a 20-year war that left the Islamist group stronger than it was in 2001. And now, plans are afoot to form a new ‘inclusive’ government and erase fears of its deleterious past.
In an exclusive conversation with CNN-News18, top Taliban leader Anas Haqqani spoke at length on the Haqqani network’s Pakistan connection, their relationship with India and the Kashmir issue.
Excerpts from the interview:
Today is a great day for you. The Americans have gone.
Thank you very much. Yes, it’s a big day for us.
You got victory after 20 years. You have also said that now peace will prevail.
It’s a blessing of God. We struggled twenty years for this blessing of God. Today it’s our day of victory and day of our independence. Everyone is happy and I’m hopeful that more beautiful days will come in future.
How do you see the world and its support?
As per policy, we don’t interfere in matters of others and we expect others also not to interfere in ours. We want all matters to be sorted amicably. Our doors are open for everyone. We want to have a good relationship with the rest of the world.
The Haqqani network is closely associated with Pakistan ISI and the Pak army. Now you are part of the Afghanistan govt. What will be your association with them?
We struggled for twenty years. Lots of negative propaganda about us and it’s all wrong. The Haqqani Network is nothing. We are working for everyone. The media worldwide and especially in India is spreading negative propaganda about us. This is spoiling the atmosphere. No Pakistani weapon was ever used in the war. These allegations are wrong and baseless.
What kind of relationship is the Haqqani network looking at with India?
We want a good relationship with India. We don’t want anyone to think wrong about us. India has helped our enemy for twenty years but we are ready to forget everything and take the relationship forward.
Pakistan is very close to Haqqanis and it is regularly interfering in Kashmir. Will you also interfere in Kashmir to support Pakistan?
Kashmir is not part of our jurisdiction and interference is against policy. How can we go against our policy? It is clear we will not interfere.
So you are saying you will not interfere in the Kashmir matter? And Haqqani will not support JeM and LeT in the Kashmir matter?
We have clarified this multiple times and I’m saying it again – This is just propaganda.
All the development work done by India in Afghanistan is pending. In case India wants to come and complete those projects will you allow them?
We will clarify all policies in days to come. We want all help for the people of Afghanistan. We want not only India but the rest of the world to come and support us.
Many Indians are stranded in Afghanistan and many Afghan Sikhs and Hindus are here. You assure that all are safe?
I want to assure that everyone is safe in Afghanistan. There was some panic and fear initially, but now things have settled and people are happy. Afghan Sikhs and Hindus are like any other communities of Afghanistan and they would live happily.
In 2020, the Kabul gurdwara attack was blamed on the Haqqanis by the US. What do you have to say?
These are all propaganda by our enemies and the media. This is false and wrong. We have never done that.
You were sentenced to death in 2016 but were released in prisoner exchange. What role will you play in the Taliban?
I don’t know my role in the Taliban. Time will tell and decide the role for us. I’m a Muslim and I take things as they come. Our aim was to get freedom and we got that. We don’t bother about our role and power in the future. We will follow our elders and leaders.
What guarantee do you want to give India about the safety of Indians and assets they have built?
After taking over Afghanistan, we have proved that we will take everyone along. There is propaganda going on, but we want to assure all that they would be living with peace and happiness in Afghanistan.
Women in Afghanistan are living in fear and are saying their freedom is over. What assurance do you want to give to females that they are safe with the Taliban?
This will be proved (wrong) in days to come. We will declare all policies for men and women, and everything will be transparent.
Do you accept the Durand Line as a permanent border between Pakistan and Afghanistan?
I can’t confirm anything right now. Our elders will decide and declare this.
What is the scenario about government formation and when can we expect a government in Kabul?
The major problem is over now. America is gone. The wait is over and very soon, we will have good news about government formation.
What kind of government are you expecting in Kabul?
This will be declared with time. We don’t want to discuss anything publicly about this. I don’t know anything about this.
What message do you want to give to the world for Taliban recognition and relationship in future?
The world knows that we are committed individuals, and we are against propaganda. People, who want to fight in Afghanistan, have been exposed. We want good relationships with everyone in the world. But we want the rest of the world to not interfere in our matters and we will also not interfere in their matters.