Pak-Afghan parleys

ByFahad Ali

Associated with maritime trade


March 5, 2023

Shalimar Gardens Lahore

Fahad Ali describes efforts of Pak-Afghan parleys at resolving matters

The Afghan Taliban regime of Afghanistan has earnestly undertaken to cooperate with the Pak-Afghan parleys government on its concerns about the presence of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) fighters and sanctuaries on its soil after the Islamabad attack. Over the past few months, the law and order situation in Pakistan, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan has worsened with terrorist groups executing attacks with near impunity across the country.

Since the talks with the TTP broke down in November, the militant group has intensified its attacks, mainly targeting the police in KP and areas bordering Afghanistan. Insurgents in Balochistan have also stepped up their violent activities and formalized a nexus with the TTP. Just recently, the spread of terrorist activities was witnessed when Karachi Police Office was attacked by TTP militants, leaving five people dead and 17 others, mostly law enforcers, wounded.

Last month, a powerful suicide blast in a mosque in Peshawar Police Lines killed 84 people and injured many others. The surge in terrorism has seen 58 attacks taking place in the country in which 170 people died. Many of these attacks were planned and directed by the TTP leadership based in Afghanistan. In wake of the escalation in terrorism, the coalition government contacted the Afghan regime and a delegation led by the defense minister to Kabul that discussed the growing TTP and IS-K threat with the two sides agreeing to collaborate to effectively address the threat of terrorism.

It was reported that the delegation delivered a pointed message to the Taliban officials that Afghanistan-based TTP elements must be reined in. During the visit, the delegation met Taliban Deputy Prime Minister Mullah Abdul Ghani Beradar Akhund, Defence Minister Mawlavi Mohammad Yaqoob Mujahid, Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani, and Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi.

Cooperation  Against TTP

Afghan leaders have in the past always rejected the allegations that TTP used their country’s soil for attacks in Pakistan but the official said this time they surprisingly agreed to cooperate on the issue and the ostensible reason for it was that they realized the gravity of the situation.

The details of the cooperation against the TTP would be worked out in subsequent meetings between the two sides at the expert and technical levels. During the meeting, it was reported that the broader issues of counter-terrorism and border security cooperation. Afghan Taliban, meanwhile, said the two parties had discussed economic cooperation, regional connectivity, trade, and the state of bilateral relations.

Very significantly, Mullah Baradar urged Pakistan not to allow political and security concerns to affect business or economic matters and this assertion speaks volumes about the intention of the Afghan regime. It was also pointed out that the delegation linked to progress on all these ideas for enhancing bilateral cooperation to Afghan Taliban addressing the concerns about TTP presence in their country.

This development was in complete contrast to earlier Western-based analysis that emphasized the unwillingness of the Afghan Taliban regime to end their support for the banned TTP and also nullified the assumption that a Taliban government in Kabul is good for Pakistan.

This analysis was categorical in stating asserting that not only is the Afghan Taliban regime allowing TTP fighters to freely operate on their soil but that they believe that Pakistan will not launch a full-blown anti-TTP operation because of its financial woes. The analysis also pointed out that TTP operatives move freely in Afghanistan while adding that the Afghan Taliban remain very supportive of the TTP and are providing the group with a permissive safe haven.

Terrorists Of Kabul

The reason analysts gave for this policy of the Afghan regime was that there appears to be strong support for the TTP within Afghan society beyond the Taliban due to deeply entrenched anti-Pakistan views and their complicity was quite evident when it was reported that some of the bombers who carried out attacks inside Pakistan were identified as Afghans.

The analysis concluded that while some within the Taliban ruling elite, such as the Haqqani faction, favor a softer line towards Pakistan and have tried to stop the TTP from launching attacks against this country but Taliban supremo Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada remained convinced Pakistan’s system is un-Islamic much as his ideological comrades in the TTP do.

It was repeatedly reported that Pakistani security could only be assured once the Pak-Afghan parleys regime’s support rendered to terrorist factions operating in Pakistan is withdrawn. In this context, it was also pointed out that while Pakistan’s options may be limited yet the most imperative need was to firmly let the Taliban rulers know that hosting and supporting a group visibly hostile to Pakistan will have far-reaching implications.

It was also mentioned that other terrorists trying to harm Pakistan will be dealt with severely on the battlefield. Moreover, the coalition government was asked to coordinate with regional states to communicate to Kabul that terrorists cannot find a safe haven on Afghan soil.

It is well known that Russia, China, Iran, and the Central Asian states are all wary of terrorist groups finding refuge in Afghanistan and Pakistan needs to use regional platforms to let the Taliban know that either they can neutralize the terrorists, or face further isolation. It is against this backdrop that the visit of the high-powered delegation to Kabul is required to be viewed.

Pak-Afghan Parleys & Taliban Leadership

The task was to press home the point to the Taliban leadership that it is virtually the end of the tether for Pakistan and it would tolerate no more. The reports received are that Pakistan’s efforts in this respect apparently convinced the Taliban’s upper echelon to act against the banned TTP.

Keeping in view the vicissitudes of bilateral relations between both countries it is earnestly hoped that the Afghan rulers will stay true to their promises. It only could be said that the days ahead will prove the results of the delegations.

There is hardly any doubt that the hard-liners in the Afghan Taliban ruling Kabul have the upper hand and it is due to their influence that the Taliban leadership did continue providing the TTP safe havens to attack Pak-Afghan parleys and hoping that it may refrain from doing so in the future may not be heavily relied upon.

What is actually needed is that Pakistan keeps up the pressure and reminds the Taliban of the commitments recently made in Kabul. The fact is that counterterrorism efforts in Pakistan will have only a limited impact if the TTP or other terrorists are able to freely move back and forth between this country and Afghanistan.

Instead of wholly depending on the promises of Afghan leadership Pakistani policymakers should also keep up pressure on TTP and other militants so that its terrorist activities are properly and effectively checked. It should always be kept in view that the faction-ridden Taliban leadership in Kabul is subject to multiple pressures to remain antagonistic towards Pakistan and it has inherited this intention from the past as both countries have witnessed a love-hate relationship for decades and expecting and anticipating that it would soon change radically may be hoping for something rather prematurely. The Weekender


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