Pakistan asks Afghan Taliban to take TTP ‘as test case’

Official says world community will not trust interim govt if it fails to address Islamabad’s concerns


Kamran Yousaf January 09, 2022
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi meets Afghan interim Prime Minister Mullah Hasan Akhund during his first visit to Kabul since Taliban took over in August. PHOTO: RP/FILE

ISLAMABAD:

Pakistan believed that the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is a "test case" for the Afghan Taliban, as tackling the group would help the interim government establish its credentials in the eyes of the world with regards to dealing with other terrorist outfits, a senior official has said.

"We are telling the Taliban leadership consider the TTP as a test case," the official familiar with the development told The Express Tribune while requesting anonymity.

"If the Taliban can't address concerns of Pakistan then who would trust them and their promise of cutting ties to al Qaeda and other such groups," the official added.

Pakistan and the interim Taliban government enjoy close relationship and Pakistan is one country that the Afghan Taliban leadership is expected to address its concerns.

"It will be damaging for the Afghan Taliban if they fail to take into account Pakistan's concerns," the official explained. "A global community, particularly the West will ask look they can't even satisfy Pakistan so how come they would address terror concerns of other countries," the official maintained.

Also read: TTP declares end to ceasefire

The development came as the interim Afghan Taliban government struggled to tackle the TTP issue, something that may undermine its close relationship with Islamabad, which is the group's key backer.

Pakistan is not only seeking humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan but urging the international community not to abandon the war-torn country.

It also recently hosted an extraordinary meeting of the foreign ministers from the Organisation Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to garner international support for the Taliban government.

In return, Pakistan expects that the Taliban government would address its concerns particularly with regards to the outlawed TTP.

Pakistan had approached the Afghan Taliban leadership after the group returned to power in August with a list of demands that included action against the TTP. The interim Taliban government was even provided with a list of most wanted TTP terrorists.

But Afghan Taliban instead offered its good offices to broker a peace deal with the TTP. Pakistan accepted the offer and after some face to face meetings between the two sides, a ceasefire deal was reached in November.

Last week at a news conference Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Babar Iftikhar for the first time publicly revealed why Pakistan entered into a ceasefire with the TTP.

According to the chief military spokesperson, the interim Taliban government facilitated ceasefire with TTP as a confidence building measure. The month-long ceasefire, however, was ended on December 9 with no further progress.

General Babar said talks were now on hold as some of the conditions put forward by the TTP were non-negotiable for Pakistan. Although he did not divulge details, it is believed that the TTP was demanding the release of their senior commanders, establishment of a political office in a third country, reversal of FATA merger and introduction of Sharia law in the country.

As per the DG ISPR, operations against the TTP were being conducted on daily bases and the fight against the "violent non-state actors" would continue till their threat was totally eliminated.

The statement of DG ISPR clearly suggested that Pakistan was not hopeful of any prospects of talks or peace deal with the TTP at least in the foreseeable future.

The official sources said Pakistan was talking to the interim Taliban government on the TTP issue. "It is a complicated process. Afghan Taliban are keen that the TTP no more uses Afghan soil against Pakistan but they are not willing to act against them," said another official.

Also read: Pak-Afghan border fencing here to stay: DG ISPR

The reason for the Taliban's reluctance to act against the TTP is because of their close relationship. Also the Afghan Taliban feel their first priority is to deal with the threat posed by Islamic State-Khorasan, also known as Da’ish. Taliban fear that the TTP fighters may join Da’ish-Khorasan if they take any action against them.

Despite a month-long ceasefire, the number of terrorist attacks in 2021 saw 56 per cent increase compared to 2020. Interestingly, the surge in TTP sponsored attacks was coincided with the Afghan Taliban takeover in August 2021. As per the Islamabad think-tank report August saw 45 terrorist attacks in Pakistan, the highest tally in a single month since 2017.

While Pakistan would continue operations against the TTP, it has been pushing the Taliban government to make sure that the Afghan soil is not used by these terrorist groups against the country.

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