Pakistan’s Response to UNSC Resolution 1333


Naturally Pakistan was never comfortable with the passage of resolution 1333 by the UN Security Council (UNSC). Its general criticism, similar to that of many independent observers, some European countries and the NGOs from the Afghan Support Group NGOs, focused on the one-sided anti-Taliban nature of the resolution. It was to strengthen the military hand of the most effective military opponent of the Taliban government, the Jamiat-i-Islami Tajik Commander Ahmad Shah Massoud. Independent media reports had repeatedly established the increased qualitative and quantitative weapons support, cash injection and military advise that Massoud’s main supporters Russia, Iran and to a lesser extent India supplied to him. The widely reported end October 2000 meeting in Dushanbe where the Russian Defence Minister and the Iranian Foreign Minister along with reportedly Iranian military experts had met with Massoud to review his spring offensive strategy and his weapons and cash supply lines for a spring offensive.

This three country support scenario, as opposed to a solitary Pakistan’s comparably limited support for the Taliban was viewed by even many Afghanistan experts and commentators within the United States, as heavily tilting the military balance in favour of a Moscow-supported Massoud. After all the magnitude of today’s Afghan tragedy needed to be traced back to Washington’s 1981 covert but large scale support to the Afghan resistance with the twin objective of keeping the Soviets out of Afghanistan and containing the influence of a revolutionary Iran in the region. The same considerations, although to a lesser extent prompted Washington’s initial acceptance of the Taliban. Many, therefore, questioned the strategic wisdom of Washington’s support to UNSC 1333 which many interpreted as being equivalent to handing down a military victory to a Moscow-backed Massoud.

Although multiple factors militate against a straight military victory of a weapons-loaded Massoud, it has been criticized for its negative political and psychological impact on the Taliban government and on the Afghan people. This criticism from the non-players of the global power-wielding scene has naturally been ignored by the UNSC. The global players are no neutral party to the Afghan conflict. Given the deep engagement that sections of the US and the Russian government have with Afghanistan, whether through imposition of sanctions, supplying of weapons and cash, influencing Afghanistan-related decisions taken by the UN agencies, providing in some cases military sanctuary to anti-Taliban forces, inviting Ahmad Shah Massoud to address the European Union Parliament etc., all this makes these two countries parties to the Afghan conflict. Also powerful and interested parties; Russia a pro-Massoud and US for now an anti-Taliban party.

It is this reality of principal UNSC members being an ‘interested’ party in the Afghan conflict that raises the question of an effective and fair implementation of the UNSC resolution 1333; more specifically of paras 3 and 5 of the resolution which call upon all states to prevent use of their territory for the supply of weapons, equipment, vehicles, technical advise, assistance or training “related to military activities of the armed personnel under the control of the Taliban.” While putting the onus on member UN states to ensure adherence to these paras the UNSC proposed in the resolution the setting up by the UN Secretary General of a Committee “of experts to make recommendations to the Council within 60 days of the passage of the resolution on “how the arms embargo and the closure of terrorists training camps demanded in paragraphs 3 and 5 above can be monitored, including inter alia the use of information obtained by member states through their national means and provided by them to the Secretary General.” (para 15 (a))

Significantly the monitoring on member states’ adherence to UNSC 1333 and specifically to the paras dealing with cutting all military related supplies, whatever exist, sent by not only the state but also by individuals and entities designated as being associated with Osama Bin Ladin” and are passing through the member states’ territory will probably also be based on “the information obtained by member states through their national means and provided by them to the Secretary General.”

Like on all other demands of UNSC 1333, including downgrading of the Afghan embassy, freezing of Afghan government assets, denial of movement to Taliban officials unless cleared by the UN sanction committee, the termination of all Ariana flights and denial air-passage to Afghan planes, the world community had fixed its gaze on Pakistan. It is indeed the only country which, in addition to Turkmenistan has normal relations with the Taliban government in neighbouring Afghanistan.

As a law-abiding member of the UN Pakistan took whatever steps it needed to enforce the demands of the resolution. Home to 2 million plus Afghan refugees, facing influx by additional numbers and dealing with the reality of an Iran and Russia-aided war that Massoud’s well oiled weapon-wise although low on personnel, fights with the Taliban government, the Pakistan government had no choice to take these steps. Fortunately, these steps amounted to minimal fall-out on the Pakistan government, at least within the immediate context. The damage to the Afghan government too was limited with respect to these clauses. Only for the Afghan people it came as yet another fear-prompter. It has had a psychological setback; the Afghans living inside Afghanistan feel more under siege, they make quick exit from their country where the fear of large scale battling in spring looms large. The only country they mostly turn to is Pakistan. The burden on Pakistan increases within the medium term context.

However, for Pakistan the most crucial and potentially harmful clause in UNSC is the one that deals with the monitoring of the member states’ adherence to the paras dealing with military support etc. For Pakistan the issue is not preventing use of its territory for supplying any military-related support to the Taliban. After all Pakistan itself in the late nineties had proposed a low cost arms embargo plan to the United Nations. The issue now for Pakistan is the monitoring of the arms embargo and specifically the use of information that will be provided by member UN states to establish that Pakistan is supplying or its territory is being used for military-related support to the Taliban forces.

The para 15(a) of UNSC 1333 which implies that “the information obtained by member states through their national means and provided by them to the Secretary General “maybe used by the Sanctions Committee to establish violation of the resolution relating to embargo of all military related support should be of great concern to Pakistan for a number of reasons. One, Pakistan is the only country that virtually all UNSC members and sections of the media blame, based on verbal and biased evidence provided again by interested parties, for military supporting the Taliban. Two, most of the UNSC and regional states are desperately working for the military and political demise of the Taliban and, therefore, their evidence on violations of the arms embargo by Pakistan cannot be reliable. Three, all the countries working for the termination of the Taliban government in Afghanistan believe that if Pakistan is ‘brought to heel’ and dissuaded from supporting the Taliban government, the Taliban can then be erased from the Afghan scene. Four, all efforts by most UNSC members to pressurize Pakistan to ‘abandon’, whatever that would mean in practical terms, the Taliban have not succeeded. All these factors clearly establish that many within the UNSC and from among the regional countries like Russia, India, and Iran would produce claim violation by Pakistan of the arms embargo clauses of UNSC 1333.

Unfortunately, very little thought appears to have been put into this grave possibility by the sections of Pakistan’s foreign policy establishment. Hands-off and defeatist responses have come through when the issue has been raised by those within the government. They have ranged from “yes they are crooks in the UNSC” to “yes but once there is evidence with the UNSC then you can’t question where it came from.” Others have indicated that making too much noise against UNSC 1333 would have angered UNSC states even more than they already are, with Pakistan. The question is ofcourse not merely condemning the resolution but is of focusing on one specific danger which Pakistan faces because of the high possibility of ‘engineered’ evidence likely to be produced against Pakistan. More importantly there is a specific clause in the resolution which provides Pakistan the opening for raising its concern.

Presently with a five member UN team visiting Pakistan to look into the monitoring mechanisms for the ensuring embargo on military support to the Taliban, the Government of Pakistan should raise the issue of verifiable and acceptable evidence which will be presented before the UNSC. If all the interested parties sit at highly influential points within the UN including the UNSC, the Sanctions Committee, the Afghan Support Group etc, Pakistan cannot remain oblivious to how it can be ‘framed’ for violations. Evidence by “nationals” of member countries and international agencies working inside Afghanistan against military support from Pakistan will naturally come very easy and in abundance from those who hate the Taliban for ‘humanitarian’ reasons and champion Massoud for what many believe is his relative liberalism.

The issue is not that Pakistan must militarily support the Taliban but of the built-in anti-Pakistan bias of a mechanism that is likely to be put in place. Almost all states in the UNSC are ‘interested parties’ in the Afghan conflict. They are all directly involved and are very clearly against the Taliban government. Pakistan should proactively expose the great possibility of the danger of Pakistan being ‘framed’ by these interested parties. According to para 15(a) the resolution calls upon the Committee of experts to “make recommendations” on “the use of the information obtained by member states through their national means and provided by them to the Secretary General.” Pakistan must make concrete suggestions on ways to establish the validity of the evidence that should be acceptable to the Secretary General.

It’s a tough call for Pakistan. Already the Russians have provided ‘evidence’ of military support provided to the Taliban from Pakistani territory. Much more of such ‘evidence’ against Pakistan will emerge from those arming Massoud to the teeth. This is in the nature of inter-state power play. As a country under constant pressure from many countries on its Afghan policy it is not easy play for Pakistan. But play it must. It has a strong case to make in its own favour. It must make it, competently and courageously. Incompetence and lethargy is no response to difficult situations. Such responses only multiply problems.