Fahad Ali points out to a potent and
Notwithstanding the warning of the United Nations, Pakistani authorities have agreed to a UN warning and indefinite ceasefire with the Tehreek-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) allowing them the time and space to regroup. Just recently a United Nations Security Council report has underscored the threat posed by this extremist group to Pakistan particularly the security forces. The current UN report is the first of its kind after the Taliban took over Kabul last year. It is reported that the original focus of UN reporting on Taliban’s internal politics, its finances, relations with Al-Qaeda, Daesh and other terrorist groups, and the implementation of the UNSC sanctions. It importantly noted that TTP, which has recently been reinvigorated through the return of 17 splinter groups into its fold, feels that maintaining a hardline position in talks with Pakistan government would help maintaining unity in its ranks. The report added that TTP also continues to exist as a stand-alone force, rather than feeling pressure to merge its fighters into Afghan Taliban units, as is the prospect for most foreign terrorist fighters.
It is reported that UNSC sanctions committee on Afghan Taliban has mentioned that TTP remains persistent threat to Pakistan’s security. On its part, Pakistan had shared a dossier with the UN Security Council, containing evidence of financial and material support provided by Indian intelligence agencies to TTP to conduct cross-border terrorist attacks against Pakistani military and civilian targets. The very fact that TTP is persistently reported to be functioning from Afghanistan has simply reversed the earlier equation when the extremist forces attacked the US targets there with Pakistan accused of sheltering them within its borders and letting them to carry out their aggressive designs. It must be kept in view that parleying with the TTP and entering into any agreement with them would prove untenable in the future exactly as it did prove futile for the Americans. The most pressing issue here is that the Americans did have a way out whereas Pakistan has none.
The UN report has re-emphasised the links between TTP and Afghan Taliban that are widely reported to be deep and are strengthened by family relationships and other fraternal forms. The report points out that the TTP benefitted from the fall of Ghani regime and was almost publicly supported by the incumbent Kabul regime as was evident by the release of TTP prisoners much to the chagrin of Pakistani authorities who were discomfited by the fact that such release would strengthen the dwindling TTP fighting ranks. The report pointed out that TTP had up to 4,000 fighters based in east and south-east areas along Afghanistan-Pakistan border and made up the largest group of foreign fighters based there. This is quite a potent force as guerilla operations required not a great deal of fighters but highly motivated ones that is considered to be the hallmark of TTP cadres.
It is certainly more than a coincidence that the timing of the UN report comes right when Pakistani authorities got engaged in parleys with the TTP. The first round of talks, held late last year, had yielded a month long ceasefire that later broke down after TTP accused Islamabad of not fulfilling promises. TTP subsequently resumed attacks against Pakistani forces and revealed that this year it carried out nearly 46 attacks, mostly against law enforcement personnel, in which 79 people lost their lives. Exacerbating the situation was TTP’s announcement that it would begin a spring offensive from 30 March against Pakistani security forces. It was apparent right from the outset that the Kabul regime is directly monitoring the activities of TTP and this angle is certainly a cause of concern for the Pakistani authorities.
It is accordingly reported that the peace process resumed earlier this month after both sides took confidence building measures. TTP first announced a ceasefire on the occasion of Eid and later extended it after Pakistan released couple of its (TTP) commanders, who were then on death row. The demands put forward by TTP were apparently unacceptable as it demanded withdrawal of security forces from erstwhile tribal areas, annulment of merger of FATA with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, withdrawal of cases against its fighters and their release, and introduction of Sharia based ‘Nizam-e-Adl’ in Malakand Division. Despite the stance taken by the security authorities considering such demands as unacceptable and tantamount to capitulating the authority of the state, the government still entered into the third round of talks.
Despite all misgivings the peace efforts between Pakistani government and the extremist non-state actors have so far shown a clear intention of settling the issue for good. The fact that this effort is supported and aided by the Kabul regime is certainly a good omen hinting at a holistic solution as the ultimate aim of all sides. On the other hand, the talks signify how seriously Pakistani authorities view the security threats posed by the TTP that are feared to have the potential of spilling over to the rest of the country. Pakistani authorities are equally concerned about the prevailing instability in Afghanistan that also hold prospects of the unrest shifting towards Pakistan with unforeseen consequences. Pakistan is acutely aware of the power struggle going on the Afghan leadership now in control in Kabul and its policy makers worry that someone in Afghanistan may try to exploit the situation that may prove detrimental to the interests of Pakistan.
Though the conditions laid by the TTP may prove a tough nut to crack yet the Pakistani authorities are also compelled to look at the larger picture and its place in the region particularly the ever-present risks of India trying to take undue advantage of this situation. Pakistani state is required to keep in view the painful fact that it has been on the receiving end since the last many decades and war on terror has cost dear to its frayed polity. The matters also take a negative colour when viewed in the backdrop of the fact that there exists bad blood between the security apparatus and non-state actors yet the balancing factor is that both have suffered in the process and have ultimately got nothing out of the conflict except pain and anguish. In this context however it should always be kept in view that the terrorist groups thrive on the policy of going back on their word and therefore any peace arrangement with them should have enough guarantees to dissuade them from taking such treacherous course in future.
The need is dire for Pakistan to shift away from the policies of belligerence and try to find peaceful solution to the problems caused by dissatisfied factors trying to force their way simply due to equitable role they are denied to play in the country The reportedly indefinite ceasefire between the government and the TTP may reinforce the opinion that the state is willing to accommodate highly divergent point of views within its fold and this approach should certainly not be taken as weakness on part of the state but as the gradually maturing security apparatus of the state that is now willing to adjust with unpalatable factors for the sake of ensuring durable harmony the Pakistani society so desperately needs. TW