Pakistan’s illusion about the loyalty of the Afghan Taliban should have evaporated the day the latter took the reins in Kabul; two thousand and two hundred hardcore Pakistani militants, kept in detention for years during the tenure of former President Ashraf Ghani, were released from the notorious Pul-e-Charkhi Jail as the group ran over the Afghan capital on August 15 last year. Islamabad was but reluctant to come out of its fantasy, wishfully conceiving the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate as a friendly entity that would control the next-door neighbour from where emanated much of its troubles. Pakistan, which has always suffered the brunt of any tragic situation in Afghanistan, did have reasons to rejoice in the induction of a group, which had remained a trusted ally on its porous western border for decades. Not only the consignments of relief goods and financial support, which Pakistan rushed to Afghanistan in the wake of the much-hyped sojourn cum photo sessions of the former ISI chief, General Faiz Hameed, in Kabul, Islamabad also kept on mobilizing world countries to accord recognition and extend support to the Taliban government. Pakistan did not officially recognize the Taliban government but it kept on persuading world countries, particularly Russia, China and the Central Asian republics, to help prop up the government of the dreaded Afghan Islamic group. Even China and Russia – both remaining arch-rivals to the United States in the post-Cold War international politics – or Qatar that facilitated the Taliban to power, did not pursue so intensely when Washington froze Afghanistan’s assets worth billions of rupees as did Pakistan. Former Prime Minister Imran Khan did not spare any diplomatic event or any international interaction without letting loose a tirade against America, harshly criticizing the freezing of Afghanistan’s assets and demanding the release of these assets. Pakistan also used every bilateral and multilateral forum to muster political and diplomatic support for the Taliban government. It went into this self-assumed task so hectically that on several occasions, Taliban officials themselves had to tell that Afghanistan did not need anyone to speak for it. Pakistan has also been trying to incorporate Afghanistan into the China-sponsored regional connectivity plan under which efforts have been made to promote trade and economic relations throughout the length and width of the region. But side by side with this one-sided love story, Pakistan also continued to blame “Afghanistan’s soil” for any terror act taking place on its soil. It did have reasons for this. Both Afghanistan and Pakistan have a history of blaming each other for terror activities in their territories. Both the United States and the ousted Afghan government had been accusing Pakistan of arming, financing and sheltering the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan has also kept on accusing successive Afghan governments of abetting Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Baloch separatist groups. That Pakistan would hurl such allegations against the Afghan Taliban, which was for years being considered a proxy of Pakistan, is, however, a new turn in bilateral relations. Seven Pakistani security personnel were killed in a terrorist ambush in the North Waziristan tribal area adjacent to the Afghan border on April 14. A couple of other deadly attacks were also carried out against the Pakistani forces in the area in the preceding weeks. Pakistan went into its self-assumed task so hectically that Taliban officials themselves had to tell that Afghanistan did not need anyone to speak for it. On April 17, a Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman, in a statement, said that “Pakistani security forces are increasingly being targeted by terrorist attacks launched from Afghanistan.” “Pakistan once again strongly condemns terrorists operating with impunity from Afghan soil to carry out activities in Pakistan,” the statement said. The situation took a rather more serious turn when dozens of people were killed in “airstrikes by Pakistani forces”in the southeastern Khost province of Afghanistan. The Taliban government summoned the Pakistani ambassador to Kabul to lodge a protest against these attacks. Those keeping a watch on the regional situations have since long been predicting such a scenario. During their previous tenure in Kabul in the 1990s, the Taliban – though believed even then to have been grouped into a militant outfit with the connivance of Pakistani intelligence agencies – had not only developed hostility against Pakistan but also began to consolidate their relations with India, an arch-enemy of the latter. History appears to be repeating itself. Several clashes, though minor in nature, have taken place between the Taliban and the Pakistani border officials. In one incident, even the Pakistani flag was disdainfully lowered from a truck in which Pakistan had dispatched relief goods for poverty-stricken Afghan people. Taliban’s Islamic Emirate is also reported to be developing closer diplomatic and economic relationships with India. It has even asked India to resume work on its development projects abandoned late last year due to the removal of the US-backed Ashraf Ghani government. In recent months, India dispatched several relief consignments to Afghanistan via the Pakistani territory. Reports in Iranian media late last year suggested that the Taliban have also mobilized Iran to facilitate Afghanistan’s trade and transit with India through its Chabahar Port. An independent country, Afghanistan does have the right to nurture friendship with any country it wants. But seen in the backdrop of the Taliban’s closeness with Pakistan over the years and the latter’s bitter relations with India, any move by the Taliban government to promote friendship with New Delhi will certainly not be good news for Islamabad. If in this background, terrorist attacks increase on Pakistan’s northwest border or in Balochistan, Islamabad can be justified to develop any conspiracy theory: Pakistan has been alleging the involvement of Indian consulates in different Afghan cities in terrorist activities in the former tribal areas and Balochistan. This situation is poised to deteriorate if timely steps are not taken by either side to bridge the gap. The writer is an independent freelance journalist based in Islamabad covering South Asia/ Central Asia.