Fighting rages in Panjshir
Soon after the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Chief Lt. General Faiz Hameed landed in Kabul on Saturday the Indian media and Twitter went into a propaganda frenzy repeatedly showing Pakistan’s spymaster at a Kabul hotel. The British press was also over-excited and speculated about military cooperation between Pakistan and the Taliban.
Gen Faiz’Hameed is the first high-level Pakistani security official to visit Kabul after the Taliban takeover on August 15. The visit comes as fighting between the Taliban and the National Resistance Forces (NRF) raged in Panjshir.
In other development, celebratory gunfire has killed as many as 17 people in Afghanistan’s capital, and a protest by women demanding rights under the Taliban turned violent, local journalists and the BBC reported on Saturday.
Kabul’s largest money exchange known as “Princes Palace” opened for the first time after two weeks.
ISI Chief Lt. Gen Faiz Hameed is on a one-day visit to Kabul where he has met with Pakistan’s ambassador to Kabul to discuss the situation at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, SAMAA’s Khalid Azeem has reported from Islamabad.
Azeem says the ISI chief was also likely to meet the Taliban representatives and the discussion would focus on the evacuation of foreigners from Afghanistan via Pakistan and the movement of people across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
News agency AFP said the general would meet top Taliban leaders.
Gen Faiz Hameed, however, did not confirm the possibility of his meetings with the Taliban leaders.
Immediately after he landed, Britain’s Channel 4 News correspondent Lindsey Hilsum posed several questions to him.
“No, I am not clear…” the general said in response to the question about meetings with the Taliban leaders.
When Hilsum asked what he expected would happen in Afghanistan, Gen Hameed said he had just landed, the he added, “Don’t worry, everything will be okay.”
“Will you be meeting senior people in the Taliban?”@lindseyhilsum asks Pakistan’s intelligence chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, about their hopes for Afghanistan as he arrives in Kabul. pic.twitter.com/rp72c8Si9E— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) September 4, 2021
News agency Reuters, citing an unnamed Pakistani official, claimed that Pakistan was planning to send “security and intelligence officials, possibly even the head of the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, to Kabul to help the Taliban reorganise the Afghan military.” The news agency said Pakistan’s move was sparked by its security concerns and the fear that terrorists could launch attacks in Pakistan from an unstable Afghanistan.
The report also said that Pakistan would avoid intervening directly in Afghanistan.
Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed was photographed at a Kabul hotel holding a cup of tea. It was this image that Indian TVs flashed repeatedly all day long. The propaganda tried to connect Pakistan with the Taliban.
While Pakistani TV channels mostly ignored the Indian propaganda, the twitterites decided to come up with a counter-narrative. Pakistanis soon linked Gen Hamed’s image with that of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman – the Indian pilot who wasshot down and held captive by Pakistan in 2019.
During the captivity, Varthaman was recorded having a cup of tea and speaking to Pakistani officers. His impromptu “the tea is fantastic” came to symbolize Indian defeat.
When Gen Hameed’s image with a teacup in his hand was circulated by the Indian Twitter, Pakistanis owned it, draw a parallel with Varthaman’s image with a teacup and captioned it with “the tea is fantastic.”
Meanwhile, fresh fighting was reported Saturday between the Taliban and resistance forces in Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley.
There were renewed Taliban claims of victory and renewed counter-claims from the so-called National Resistance Front (NRF) denying the Taliban advances.
Facing the challenge of morphing from insurgents to rulers, the Taliban appear determined to snuff out the Panjshir resistance before announcing who will lead the country in the aftermath of Monday’s US troop withdrawal, which was supposed to end two decades of war.
But Panjshir, which held out for nearly a decade against the Soviet Union’s occupation and also the Taliban’s first rule from 1996-2001, is stubbornly holding out.
Fighters from the so-called National Resistance Front (NRF) are understood to have stockpiled a significant armoury in the valley, around 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Kabul and guarded by a narrow gorge.
Celebratory gunfire rang out in the capital Kabul on the night between Friday and Saturday as rumours spread the valley had fallen, but the Taliban made no official claim Saturday and a resident told AFP by phone that the reports were false.
The Emergency Hospital in Kabul said two people were killed and 20 wounded by the salvos, as the Taliban tweeted a stern admonishment and warned its fighters to stop, according to AFP.
The head of Afghanistan Tolo New TV said as many as 17 people had died.
“Avoid firing in the air and thank God instead,” said chief spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, tipped to become the new regime’s information minister.
In Kabul, dozens of women protested for a second day Saturday to demand the right to work and inclusion in the government.
Social media clips showed Taliban fighters and officials attempting to disperse the demonstrators and stopping people from filming with mobile phones.
The BBC Urdu reported that the protest turned violent when the Taliban used tear gas shells to disperse the protestors.
Social media footage also shows women stanching megaphones from the Taliban and marching.
Kabul’s largest money market called “the Prince’s Palace” opened on Saturday. Taliban’s Zabiullah Mujahid took to Twitter to announce the development and said the market has begun operation for the public.
Photographs showed people gathered in a building complex.