Mohammed Hanif: In Pakistan we cultivated the Taliban, then turned on them. Now we can only hope they forgive us

Not too long ago, Pakistan and Afghanistan were called Af-Pak: two countries joined at the hip, doomed to live and die together. You didn’t get to choose your neighbours, we were told. Geography, we were taught, was our destiny. There was a lot of talk about geostrategic significance – which was the Pakistan military’s way of saying there were great advantages to be derived from our unfortunate neighbours.

More than four decades ago, our leaders insisted we had to help the Afghan mujahideen fight the Soviets because that would help us ward off communism in our own country. Having lived most of my life in Pakistan, I have probably come across half a dozen communists – and even they never agreed with each other.

That first jihad made generations of Afghans homeless but it also made some people in Pakistan very rich. The Soviet-Afghan war also sustained our brutal military dictatorship, brought us abundant supplies of cheap and high-quality heroin, and introduced something called “Kalashnikov culture”, which made it easier to settle political and personal disputes by killing each other. Pakistan won that war. Our generals and seasoned defence experts still can’t stop boasting that not only did we defeat the Soviet Union but we also brought about the end of communism…

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