Pakistan-Taliban Relationship: Understanding Complexities

Pakistan-Taliban Relationship
Image Credits: Reuters/Caren Firouz

The dynamic and ever-changing Pakistan-Taliban relationship, characterized with strategic adjustments and alterations underscores the inherent complexities of geo-politics in South Asia. Over the last few decades, this relationship has undergone substantial change, as historical, religious, and political influences have moulded the regional security paradigm and socio-political milieu.

Historical Context of the Pakistan-Taliban Relationship

During the 1990s, the rise of the Taliban as a political entity in Afghanistan remained intricately linked with the strategic goals pursued by Pakistan. In an effort to counter the Indian presence in Afghanistan, Pakistan somewhat aided the Taliban, facilitating their ascent to power. The support rendered was motivated by a combination of strategic expediency and ideological sympathy, with the objective of establishing a regime in Kabul, which was amicable to Islamabad for advancing its interests. Taliban’s rigid adherence to Islamic laws and their system of governance, however, provoked global censure, resulting in Afghanistan’s isolation and strained diplomatic ties with Pakistan eventually.

Pakistan’s involvement in the US-led War on Terror and subsequent positioning against Taliban insurgents, represented a substantial turning point, sequel to the demise of Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. Notwithstanding this strategic shift, accusations of clandestine assistance to Taliban endured, illustrating the intricate dynamics between Pakistan’s domestic security considerations and its foreign policy goals.

The porous border separating Afghanistan and Pakistan, marked by historical connections and tribal affiliations, enabled a cross-border insurgency by Taliban which that caused disruptions in military and intelligence operations of Pakistan. There existed difficulties in differentiating between the Pakistani Taliban, which the state perceived as a direct threat to its security, and the Afghan Taliban, who were allegedly considered a strategic asset, by certain important players in Pakistan.

Implications for Regional Security and Stability

Pakistan confronted a fresh array of challenges, sequel to US ouster from Afghanistan in August 2021. The Taliban regained strength and ultimately seized control of Kabul. One advantage of a friendly Government in Afghanistan was that it provided Pakistan with some strategic leverage against growing Indian influence besides offering an opportunity to lobby for the Taliban and incorporating Pakistan’s security concerns into their agenda for governance.

Conversely, the resurgence of Taliban incited concerns pertaining to bolstering of extremist factions within Pakistan, jeopardization of domestic security, and potentially strained relations between Pakistan and the international community in the wake of worldwide unease surrounding the Taliban’s system of governance and human rights record. Obviously, cons superseded the pros in this relationship.

Humanitarian Concerns and Refugee Crisis

The economic nexus between Pakistan and an Afghanistan governed by Taliban, is replete with advantageous prospects as well as disadvantages. The potential for increased commerce and connectivity to stimulate economic expansion and regional stability remains contingent upon the presence of a peaceful and stable Afghanistan. Initiatives such as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) emphasize the need of regional stability in fostering economic progress; furthermore, Afghanistan’s position as a transit nation, can serve to enhance economic integration throughout Central and South Asia. Notwithstanding this, ongoing security concerns and political unpredictability cast, a shadow over such economic ambitions, underscoring the importance of a careful equilibrium between regional collaboration and strategic interests.

International Dimensions and Diplomatic Challenges

The issue of Afghan refugees adds an intricate layer in this relationship, between Pakistan and the Taliban. Instead, it encompasses sort of humanitarian emergency or a diplomatic hanlde. Millions of Afghan refugees have been accommodated in Pakistan over the past few decades, attesting to the socio-cultural and historical ties, which unite the two nations. However, reconciling national security concerns with humanitarian obligations has remained a delicate task, while managing such an influx. Pakistani Government has adopted a nuanced strategy in handling this situation, aiming to offer sanctuary to those requiring it, while safeguarding against the exploitation of the hospitality by certain actors who pose a threat to the security of both nations.

The diplomatic management of the refugee crisis, specifically in light of the Taliban’s resurgence, has introduced further complexities in the bilateral relations. This has also demanded strong collaboration with global allies for assistance, as well as a vigilant border control and security measures to prevent potential dangers, linked to transnational militancy and terrorism. The matter emphasizes the complex interplay of humanitarian obligations and national security imperatives, shedding light on the wider difficulties that Pakistan encounters in its association with the Taliban and the demands of the international community for stability and human rights.


The profound cultural and social connections, which exist between the populations of Pakistan and Afghanistan provide a solid basis for collaborative efforts and shared comprehension. Nevertheless, these connections also give rise to difficulties, given that the ideological and operational convergences among different militant factions spanning the border complicate endeavors related to security and counterterrorism. The ongoing predicament regarding Afghan refugees in Pakistan continues to be a substantial humanitarian concern, encompassing ramifications for security, bilateral relations, and social cohesion. Pakistan only wants to expel those 1.7 million illegal Afghan refugees, who are dwelling in Pakistan without any documentation. Moreover, many of illegal Afghan Refugees have been found involved in lethal/terrorist activities in Pakistan.

The trajectory of the Pakistan-Taliban relationship is additionally complicated by its international dimension. Despite facing skepticism from certain international actors, Pakistan’s strategic significance in maintaining stability in the region, is underscored by its mediation in the Afghan peace process. Pakistan confronts diplomatic obstacles in its relationship with the Taliban, which are compounded by wider geopolitical changes, in that it must strike a balance between promoting peace in Afghanistan and resolving international apprehensions regarding the Taliban’s governance practices.

In essence, the Pakistan-Taliban relationship comprises an extensive array of intricacies that resist, oversimplified categorization. This relationship is characterized by socio-cultural ties, historical legacies, and strategic calculations, all of which are emblematic of the more extensive challenges South Asia faces. The direction of the Taliban’s progression with Pakistan will have a substantial impact on regional security, economic integration, and the prospects for peace and stability as the group strives to consolidate power in Afghanistan. This evolving dynamic is closely observed by the international community, regional stakeholders, and the populations of Afghanistan and Pakistan. All parties acknowledge its critical significance for the region’s future. Pakistan wants to follow its formula of “Peace Within and Peace Without” and wants to maintain cordial ties with its strategic partners as well as neighbors. A peaceful, stable and prospering Afghanistan in the best interest of Pakistan. The same understanding must be felt and shared by IEA as well.

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Your go-to editorial hub for insightful perspectives and informed analysis on pressing policy issues, both regionally and globally