Author: Ayanangsha Maitra
The new establishment in Afghanistan has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with its neighbour Pakistan since it assumed power in August 2021. Shockingly, Pakistan is rubbing salt into the wound. Amid severe economic turmoil, Pakistan has repeatedly accused the Taliban-led Afghan government of supporting the armed rebellion of the homegrown militant group Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
Since last year, debt-ridden Pakistan has seen a massive surge in militant-led attacks, but TTP remains the main threat to the Pak government. Within a short time, the group has spread its tentacles in the tribal belt of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region. In Balochistan, the group’s presence is significant. But its recent attack in the capital Islamabad was shocking. It was the first attack in the Pakistani capital since 2008.
According to Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI, the TTP has a total strength of 35,000-30000 people; out of them, about 7000 are armed fighters. The TTP has carried out at least 250 attacks, killing about 400 civilians and military between August 2021 and August 2022. The militant outfit launched over 100 attacks across Pakistan over the past two months. The militant group TTP, which holds no respect for Pakistan’s constitution, desires to implement a full-fledged Sharia-compliant Islamic Political system through an armed struggle.
The chain of attacks speaks volumes about Pakistan’s internal security crisis, but Pakistan blames it on its neighbour. Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khawaja Asif has accused Afghanistan of sheltering TTP and claimed that TTP is operating from Afghanistan.
In a television show on December 30, 2022, Rana Sanaullah, the Interior Minister of Pakistan, hinted at the possibility of a military strike by Pakistan inside Afghanistan in case of Afghanistan’s inaction against the TTP hideouts. Retaliating this, on January 1, the Taliban’s Defence Ministry stated that TTP bases are located in Pakistan.
Afghan Taliban leader Ahmad Yasir recently tweeted the photograph of Pakistan’s Lieutenant General Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi inking the instrument of surrender in Dhaka in the presence of General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Eastern Command Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora after the liberation war of Bangladesh in 1971.
In his tweet, the Doha-based Taliban leader Yasir wrote, “Interior Minister of Pakistan! Excellent Sir! Afghanistan, Syria and Pakistan are not Turkey to target the Kurds in Syria. This is Afghanistan, the graveyard of proud empires. Do not think of a military attack on us. Otherwise, there will be a shameful repetition of the military agreement with India.”
The wave of attacks is hitting Pakistan hard- when the nation of 220 million is reeling from a devastating economic crisis. To tackle the TTP, Pakistan’s government should ally with the Afghan Taliban. There is no room for doubt that Islamabad traditionally relies on Kabul. There is no viable alternative. In the past, Afghan Taliban brokered dialogue between Pakistan and TTP. The former Prime Minister, Imran Khan-led administration, initiated peace talks with the TTP, mediated by the Afghan Taliban.
But TTP ended the cease-fire, accusing the Pakistani government of violating conditions. Now things are turning murky. Taming the armed militant group is beyond the Pakistan government’s capability, at least at this crucial time. Fighting a belligerent militant group requires money, military and, of course, time. Ahead of a national election amid severe economic stress, a military response to the TTP is not applicable now.
Howbeit, Pakistan has disheartened Kabul by travestying them. Neither the regime in Kabul nor the establishment in Pakistan will gain from the ongoing conflict. But the leadership in Pakistan should refrain from making comments which irritate Kabul. Noor Wali Mehsud, the patriarch of the outlawed group TTP, has categorically rejected the possibility of getting support from the Afghan Taliban.
The Taliban government in Afghanistan has already made it clear. If Pakistan continues to blame the Taliban-led government in Kabul for TTP’s attack inside Pakistan, the relations between Islamabad and Kabul will deteriorate terribly.