By Saima Afzal
On 5th February 2022, the UN Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team have issued its 29th report that highlights the terrorist group’s active in South Asia from June and December 2021. Salient of the UN report are as under: –
- The number of Tehrik- e -Taliban Pakistan (TTP) fighters is between 3,000 and 5,500 in Afghanistan, with Noor Wali Mehsud remaining as their leader.
- Since 15 August 2021 after taking over the control of Afghanistan, the Taliban rulers are mediating a truce between TTP and Pakistan and this mediation has “led to a reduction in TTP attacks against Pakistan”.
- TTP family members in Afghanistan wish to resettle in Pakistan under assurances that they would reintegrate peacefully into local communities.
On 7 February 2022, five Pakistani soldiers were martyred after terrorists inside Afghanistan opened fire on troops in KP’s Kurram district. The banned TTP claimed responsibility for the attack. Pakistan strongly condemns the use of Afghan soil by terrorists for activities against Pakistan and expects that the interim Afghan government will not allow conduct of such activities against Pakistan in future. Pakistan has reiterated to Afghan previous government and now Taliban interim government to eliminate the TTP’s safe havens from Afghanistan, otherwise this will become hurdle in regional peace and security. Pakistan support and promote the peace in Afghanistan and it cannot afford anymore loss of life and property in its country.
Pakistan’s banned outfit Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was formed in 2007 as a loosely tied umbrella organization under the leadership of Baitullah Mehsud, a militant leader from South Waziristan in opposition to Pakistani military efforts in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The militant group does not accept the Pakistani Constitution and has long demanded that their version of Shariah law is imposed in the country. TTP also opposes Pakistan Armed Forces; a statement by Baitullah’s spokesman, Maulvi Omar, in December 2007 stated a key reason for the creation of the TTP was to present a united front against the Pakistan Army’s operations.
However, it has been observed that hostile intelligence agencies especially RAW and NDS have been involved in terrorist activities against Pakistan. India not only train TTP but also supports them by providing arms and immunities against state of Pakistan.
- India wants to undermine the Afghan peace and attracting more recruits from militants that do not agree with the Afghan Taliban’s interim government.
- Utilize them as useful asset for terrorist activities in Pakistan.
- TTP attacks on China’s interests in Pakistan could be claimed as a proxy for India in its rivalry with both powers.
TTP accuses Pakistan of supporting the US in the War on Terror. After the US withdrawal, the TTP has lost:
- The cause that Pakistan was the US ally.
- The support it was receiving from NDS and RAW from Afghanistan.
- The ideology has also been defeated by Paigham-i-Pakistan.
- TTP’s blaming Pakistan for supporting is wrong as the US has made Pakistan a scapegoat for its failures in Afghanistan.
Pakistani government has given them an option to reintegrate in the society by laying down their arms against the state. According to Prime Minister Imran Khan, Pakistan is holding talks with factions of the Pakistani Taliban and would forgive members who lay down their weapons.
In the past, Pakistani government has failed to counter the TTP’s narrative against the state of Pakistan. The resurgence of TTP in tribal areas was than countered with the military operations in the area. The TTP has now lost support for its ideology among the local people after its war against the state was forbidden under the Islam and the Paigham-i-Pakistan successfully defeated its ideology. Under the Paigham-i-Pakistan, political party leaders and religious scholars called for unity and a unanimous narrative to counter terrorism in Pakistan. The Pakistan Army has also carried out several social and economic sector development projects in the former strongholds of TTP.
Pakistan has also successfully used the military option in the past. The country’s National Action Plan (NAP) against extremists, which was devised after the 2014 school massacre, has significantly reduced violence in Pakistan. Pakistan is concerned that instability in Afghanistan can again give a rise to terrorism in the country. To avoid it, the international community should support peace and stability in Afghanistan. PM Imran Khan has said that we need to work with the authorities in Kabul to neutralize terrorists’ groups present in Afghanistan, particularly the TTP.
If we look into the past history of state’s Talks with TTP, Pakistan government reached a deal with local Taliban led by Nek Mohammed in South Waziristan in 2004 whereby the militants agreed to live peacefully and not use Pakistani soil for militancy. The deal could not succeed as TTP continued its anti-state activities. In August and September 2007, the government signed peace treaties with different tribes in Mohmand agency. In March 2007, the government signed deal with pro-Taliban militants and tribal leaders in the Bajaur agency. Miranshah Peace Accord (2006), Khyber Agency Pact (2008), Swat Agreements (2008) and several other peace treaties between Pakistani government and TTP that have met the same fate as the first one. In 2014, Pakistan had started talks with the TTP but both parties could not achieve anything. On January 29, 2014 former PM Nawaz Sharif formed and announced a four-member committee to start peace talks with TTP. After few days, TTP also announced the names of their representatives. The TTP didn’t act on the ceasefire sincerely and the government didn’t take any action against it.
Therefore, the reasons for the failure of peace talks are mainly the continued external support to TTP, the success of its propaganda against the state by influencing illiterate people, undermine the peace in Afghanistan. TTP poses serious threat not only for Pakistan but also for the region. Pakistan authorities have reiterated to Afghan government to take action against TTP, which is an existential threat to the security and stability of the region. India’s link with TTP unmasks that India want to spoil the prospects of peace in Afghanistan. India is playing a role of spoiler in the region and TTP is its pawn. There is a need of collective response by regional states including Pakistan, China and Russia to counter TTP.
Saima Afzal is Islamabad-based analyst.