Islamic fundamentalists including the leaders of Al Qaeda seized upon the legend of Greater Khorasan to inspire followers to pursue their terrorist agenda. According to legend Prophet Mohammed had prophesied that one day a great power would rise in the east to demolish enemies and spread Islam across the world. That created the legend of Greater Khorasan.
The traditional concept of Greater Khorasan included territories of Pakistan, Afghanistan and parts of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Iran. Well, it seems that the legend of Greater Khorasan is being overtaken by the reality of lesser Khorasan. And that might signify in the view of this scribe a crucial and much desired development.
A distinguished Afghan journalist and author, an authority on the Taliban, Mr. Musa Khan Jalalzai, reports that a strong movement for autonomy and self-rule by the non-Pashtun tribes of northern and central Afghanistan is gathering strength. In Pakistan’s Daily Times he wrote: “This irresponsible method of governance (during the Taliban regime) empowered the voices of those politically alienated ethnic groups who finally demanded the division of Afghanistan along ethnic lines. Their demand of territorial autonomy and decentralization of power has received massive support in the northern and central parts of the country… Ten years ago, Tajik groups re-introduced themselves as the direct descendants of the Aryans and claimed that all Persian-speaking people belong to them. Having associated with this interpretation of history, they want to establish an independent Khorasan state and believe Afghanistan is the country of the Pashtuns and not the Afghans. In their understanding, the demand for Pashtunistan itself is the denial of united Afghanistan and they say that the Pashtuns themselves want the partition of the country in terms of an independent Pashtunistan state. They regret supporting Pashtun political demands in the past because their recent demand for an independent Khorasan receives no support from their Pashtun brothers.”
Last week for the first time the debate for the creation of a Khorasan state within Afghanistan was formally initiated. Afghanistan was described as an artificial state created by the Great Game played between Imperialist powers. Indeed, in 1525 Babar had written: “The people of Hindustan call every country beyond their own Khorasan… On the road between Hindustan and Khorasan, there are two great marts: the one Kabul , the other Kandahar .” But the current debate for Khorasan has left both the Pashtuns and the non-Pashtun tribes confused. How might the conflicting demands of the Pashtuns on the one side and the Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras on the other be resolved peacefully to ensure stability?
There is only one rational way of achieving it. The unnatural legacy of colonialism which created the arbitrary Durand Line dividing Pashtun tribes between Pakistan and Afghanistan cannot possibly endure. Sooner or later ethnic identities will assert themselves. The demand for Khorasan state within Afghanistan is precisely that assertion. The unworkable arrangement that exists presently in Afghanistan-Pakistan was recognized belatedly after painful experience by the Americans themselves. Robert Blackwill’s proposal for NATO troops to withdraw from all Pashtun territories and get stationed in northern Afghanistan was acknowledgment of ground realities.
The question is how might ethnic demands of political identity be met without upheaval and discord? Should present nation states be Balkanized and new sovereign states be created? That would require drastic change incapable of peaceful realization. Should federal arrangements within the present states be attempted to defuse separatist demands? That alone would not deliver satisfactory results. The problem of asserting common identity across international borders would not be addressed. The challenge is how to allow consolidation of cross-border ethnic identities without altering existing international borders.
That can only be achieved through federalism within nation states being augmented by confederalism in the entire region. In other words, a regional community on the principles of the European Union would have to be created. For both Kabul and Kashmir no other formula would put the region on the road to stability as nature had intended and imperialism had derailed. The realization of a South Asian Union would conceivably create the template for a new world order based upon federal democracy. It could also alter the balance of power in the world. That is why the enemies of India and Pakistan , and the unthinking dummies within both nations manipulated by them, bitterly oppose the concept of a South Asian Union.
On returning to Pakistan from America Benazir Bhutto had outlined her political aim. She said: “Learning from Europe following World War II, we will build democracies and common markets, we will open up markets, we will open up roads and we will open up endless opportunities for the people of South Asia .” She talked about the region encompassing Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. This would have frustrated both Al Qaeda and those nations strategically opposed to the consolidation of South Asia. That is why on 27 December, 2007 this scribe opined that Benazir’s agenda led to her assassination. Benazir is dead. Her agenda lives. It will remain alive until politicians of the region realize what nature intends for South Asia and what one day will inevitably become real. History will compel a choice between Confederation and Balkanization.