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TTP terror in Pakistan: How Islamabad is only reaping what it sowed First Post 28 Jul 2023
Post two terrorist strikes by the TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan) in Baluchistan, including the Zhob cantonment, resulting in the death of 12 soldiers, Pak officials have begun throwing tantrums at Afghanistan for sponsoring this group. Pakistan’s military media office, DGISPR, released a statement last week, ‘The sanctuaries and liberty of action available to the terrorists of proscribed TTP and other groups of that ilk in a neighbouring country and availability of latest weapons to the terrorists were noted as major reasons impacting (the) security of Pakistan.’ Pakistan has faced 30 attacks on its soil in the first ten days of this month.
Pakistan’s army chief, Gen Asim Munir, displayed serious concerns on ‘safe havens and liberty of action available to TTP in Afghanistan.’ He added, ‘Afghan nationals were involved in recent acts of terrorism in Pakistan. Such attacks are intolerable and would elicit an effective response from the security forces of Pakistan.’ The TTP has created an offshoot termed as the TJP (Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan) to avoid any embarrassment to the Taliban. Adding to Pakistan’s problems is the Baloch Liberation Army, which has avowed to increase its attacks in Baluchistan.
Pakistan’s defence minister, Khawaja Asif, accused the Taliban of ‘neglecting its duties as a neighbouring and fraternal country.’ He also claimed it disregarded its obligations under the Doha accord. The retaliation from the Taliban government in Kabul was swift. Its spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, stated, ‘We have signed the Doha agreement with America, not Pakistan.’
The Doha agreement mentions, ‘guarantees to prevent the use of Afghan soil by any international terrorist groups or individuals against the security of the US and its allies.’ Pakistan is not a US ally but a known backer of terrorism. Zabihullah Mujahid repeated the comments Pakistan has reiterated for years on Indian accusations, ‘There is no TTP in Afghanistan. If Pakistan has any evidence, it should share it with us. Our territory is not used against Pakistan.’
This is the same Pakistan which celebrated when the Taliban regained control over Afghanistan. Imran Khan, the then PM was quoted at mentioning, Afghanistan has broken the ‘shackles of slavery.’ His party’s spokesperson, Neelam Irshad Sheikh, gleefully commented in a TV debate, ‘Taliban have said that they are with us and they will help us in (liberating) Kashmir.’ Pakistan’s then DG ISI, General Faiz Hameed, landed in Kabul to oversee the formation of a pro-Pak government. He stated from Kabul, ‘Don’t worry, everything will be okay.’ Currently, the relationship is anything but okay.
The Taliban have also rejected the Durand Line as the international border. Its defence minister, Maulvi Muhammad Yaqub Mujahid mentioned in a press interaction that the Durand Line, is merely a ‘line,’ not a border. He also rejected Pakistan’s accusations on backing the TTP stating that if it was in Afghanistan, it would be attacking Pakistan’s border posts and not locations within the country. He added that Pakistan is unable to defend itself against the TTP, therefore, blames Afghanistan.
It is not that the TTP is a new creation. It rose from the flawed attack launched by Musharraf in July 2007, on the Lal Masjid in Islamabad, resulting in over a hundred deaths. The first counterstrike by the newly formed TTP was on the high security base of the Zarrar company, which was the commando unit employed in the Lal Masjid attack. A suicide bomber blew himself up killing 22 soldiers. The most audacious attack by the TTP was on the army school in Peshawar in Dec 2014 which claimed over 150 lives.
Yet, Pakistan continued to nurture the Taliban and ignore the TTP claiming them to be two sides of the same coin, both being good terrorists. It even negotiated with the TTP through the Taliban and had planned to relocate them within Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. All these attempts failed while the TTP gained in strength. Pakistan should have woken up to the TTP-Taliban alliance in March this year when pictures emerged of the Taliban’s Haqqani group leader and currently interior minister offering prayers alongside TTP leader Hakeemullah Mehsud. The TTP has also expanded its operations into Baluchistan.
The Pak army chief visited Tehran seeking their support to push the Afghan interim government to desist backing the TTP. The reality remains that Tehran’s relations with Kabul are stable and it would do little to spoil them. In fact, early this month Tehran and Kabul signed an agreement to attract investors while inaugurating the Herat-Khaf railway line. Iran has bigger problems from Pak backed terrorist groups than those from Afghanistan.
As long as Kabul had a US backed government, Pakistan blamed India for being behind the TTP. It released umpteen dossiers accusing India of providing support. It even created fictitious Indian characters and fake intercept communications to push their claims. These dossiers had locations of so-called India run training camps in Afghanistan for the TTP.
Addressing a press conference in Nov 2020, Pakistan’s foreign minister SM Qureshi, stated, ‘We have verifiable evidence of terrorist funding by India. Indian ambassadors in Afghanistan have been regularly supervising various terrorist activities.’ To give credence to their stand, these dossiers were even presented to the UN Secretary General. The reality was that India was never there.
To supress its failures in controlling terrorist groups, Pakistan had to blame someone, which then was India. It is failing again, and shifting the blame onto Afghanistan. Dossiers which Pakistan will now provide will be the same as when it accused India, except the word India will be replaced by Afghanistan.
Despite all theatrics, Pakistan will do little. It is aware of Afghanistan’s ‘martyrdom battalions,’ all of whose members are volunteer suicide bombers. Some of its elements are possibly deployed along Pakistan’s borders. If they enter and attack Pakistan’s establishments and markets in its western provinces, the result could be mayhem and increased internal turmoil, which may be beyond the control of the Pak army. It is not a risk Pakistan will take. It will keep crying hoarse and threatening Kabul but is unlikely to venture further.
The Pakistan leadership should remember Hillary Clinton, who on a visit stated, ‘you can’t keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbours. Eventually those snakes are going to turn on whoever has them in the backyard.’ The Taliban were the snakes which Pak reared. Today, it is biting Pak for which Pak has no answer.