Rise in militancy

ByDr. Tahseen Mahmood Aslam

Designation: is an educationist with wide experience


December 10, 2022

Rise in militancy

Dr. Tahseen Mahmood Aslam comments on the prevailing dangerous situation

As the country is sucked deep in a financial quagmire, the scourge of the rise in militancy has raised its head to further exacerbate the situation. It looks quite obvious that the financial planners have so far failed to find out an adequately satisfactory solution to the economic conundrum and now the coalition government is faced with a more serious challenge as the TTP terrorists have again challenged the writ of the state and have come out only in its defiance. Encouraged by the political instability and economic meltdown the TTP has decided to put pressure the government and has called off the ceasefire it has agreed with it ordering its militants to renew attacks across the country. Their statement mentioned that since military operations are ongoing against TTP fighters in different areas, therefore, it is imperative to carry out attacks against them. It was also mentioned that their decision was spurred by a series of non-stop attacks that were launched by the military.

The banned TTP had the audacity to add that it had repeatedly warned the people of Pakistan about the consequences of any infringement of the ceasefire agreement and had assured that the ceasefire will not be sabotaged by them but, it pointed out, that the army and intelligence agencies did not stop and continued the attacks and now TTP is going to begin retaliatory attacks. The ceasefire was supposed to be a prerequisite to the broader framework of negotiations between the government and the TTP but the talks broke down due to a deadlock on the revocation of the merger of erstwhile tribal areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Subsequently, attacks by the TTP were reported to rise since September after the group’s ceasefire with the army ended. Most of the attacks have happened in and around Dera Ismail Khan, Tank, South Waziristan and North Waziristan.

In October it was reported that more than year-long peace negotiations between the TTP and the government of Pakistan had come to a standstill which had led to unease within the TTP’s ranks. It was noted that the TTP accuses the Pakistani government of failing to fulfill its main demand i.e. the reversal of the merger of former Fata with KP as well as continuing to detain TTP members while a truce was still being negotiated. This situation is required to be viewed in the backdrop of what has happened since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and the dousing of celebratory impact of it in Pakistan. In fact the subsequent behaviour of the Kabul Taliban regime upset Pakistan as its actions started to hurt Pakistan’s security and economy.

The development proved a huge disappointment from Pakistani perspective and the prospects of the bilateral relationship coming back on the even keel are quite remote for the time being. Pakistan was expecting to play the role of an honest interlocutor for Afghanistan in many of its international and regional issues particularly financial matters but it was thwarted by the Afghan Taliban leadership that is proceeding on a tangent that has taken Pakistani policy makers by surprise. Such an attitude is simply inexplicable and Pakistani officialdom is in sixes and sevens about the way to counter it. After protracted hard work Pakistan has finally achieved a breakthrough as its minister of state of foreign affairs recently visited Kabul but whether this visit may have any impact on the attitude of TTP is a matter of conjecture and only future may tell which way it may go. For Pakistan this is not merely a security issue but also a critical factor in its broader politico-strategic and geo-economic priorities.

It must be kept in view that when the TTP announced a formal ceasefire in May state institutions freed some high-profile TTP leaders, including Muslim Khan, once considered the face of the TTP’s lethal Swat chapter. The formation of jirgas and other delegations and their negotiations with the TTP leadership in Afghanistan is also well known. The decision of talking to the TTP was taken by the military leadership and endorsed by the PTI government with the incumbent coalition government also owned it. However, two factors dampened the optimism: the Afghan Taliban’s continuing political and military support to the TTP so that the group can achieve its objectives inside Pakistan; and the anti-TTP demonstrations by residents of Swat that have spread over other areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. While Afghan regime’s support for TTP could be taken with a pinch of salt on the grounds that both of them fought together during foreign dominance but the protests of residents is difficult to overlook.

The popular protests against the resurgence of militancy have assumed significance in wake of the fact that state institutions are on record trying to dispel the impression that there was any sort of deal involved in allowing the TTP militants to return and this impression has created a wedge between the official agencies and the people. It is therefore reported that such protests even refuted assumptions that the TTP terrorists were coming back. Still, the anti-TTP protests played a significant role in halting the talks. The state institutions took the demonstrations by citizens more cautiously and as a sign of deepening ethno-nationalism, which they thought was more dangerous for state cohesion. The TTP and other terrorist groups have been continuously launching terrorist attacks against the security forces. From January to mid-November, the group has launched 70 verified attacks against the security forces, which caused 105 fatalities among military, paramilitary, and police personnel as well as civilians. These attacks also caused anger against the militants.

When the TTP announced the end of the ceasefire, it cited kinetic operations by the security forces including in Lakki Marwat district as one of the reasons behind their decision. According to reports, the military had besieged and killed TTP militants, who had taken police officials hostage and wanted to move them to Afghanistan. In the same district, the TTP killed six police officials in mid-November. The outskirts of Lakki Marwat and Bannu districts, that lie adjacent to the twin Waziristan districts, appear to have become the new hub of TTP activities. The presence of TTP militants in these two districts strengthened the suspicion of the people of Swat and the tribal districts that the terrorists were on their way back to their towns. It has also been claimed that the TTP had abandoned its positions in Swat because of the arrival of the harsh winter in Malakand division. Most probably, they moved towards the north-east of the province.

Apart from its incursions into Pakistan, the TTP is trying to recruit disillusioned youth with religious backgrounds. Reports of the TTP’s return have raised alarm across the country, particularly in KP and Balochistan. At the same time, the common man does not want the concentration of security forces to counter the militants in their areas as it disturbs their businesses and daily life comes apart because of constant fear and a sense of insecurity. It should be kept in mind that the Afghan Taliban have not yet given up their support to the TTP and they will continue encouraging the militant group covertly, as both have a common ideological mindset and objectives. TW


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