Govt cobbles up plan to tackle TTP resurgence

Reports suggest terrorist outfit trying to stage a comeback


Kamran Yousaf August 12, 2022

ISLAMABAD:

The government is preparing a ‘contingency plan’ to deal with potential resurgence of the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) after reports suggesting the terrorist outfit was trying to make a comeback.

Although the government has been holding talks with the TTP for months to broker some kind of a deal, prospects of such an agreement are grim, sources familiar with the development told The Express Tribune on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif expressed his apprehensions about the success of the talks, while Pakistan’s special envoy on Afghanistan Ambassador Muhammad Sadiq had admitted the peace process was at a ‘nascent stage’.

With reports of some Taliban fighters being seen in the Swat valley, the authorities concerned are preparing a ‘contingency plan’ to deal with the militant threat in case talks with the TTP collapsed.

Authorities have not closed the window of talks with the TTP, they are at the same time ready to deal with any eventuality.

Sources said the primary reason Pakistan entered into talks with the TTP was that the Afghan Taliban were reluctant to take any military action against the outfit.

Instead, the interim Afghan Taliban government was keen on Pakistan and the TTP to resolve their differences through talks.

Pakistan began negotiating with the TTP not out of choice but out of compulsion, according to the sources.

During one of the in-camera briefings given to the members of parliament, the military leadership had said talks were in an initial phase and any deal with the TTP would be strictly in accordance with the Constitution and law.

An oversight parliamentary committee was also set up to look into the negotiating process.

The peace talks began in October last year but picked up pace in April when there was a renewed push from the Afghan Taliban seeking a peace deal between Pakistan and the TTP.

A series of meetings with the TTP led to the indefinite ceasefire but differences on many contentious issues still persist.

One of the main stumbling blocks includes the TTP’s insistence on reversing the merger of erstwhile tribal areas with the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. However, Pakistani negotiators term the demand as a red line as any changes have to be passed by the country’s parliament.

One of the TTP leaders Omar Khalid Khorasani, who was part of the negotiating team, was killed apparently in an IED blast in Afghanistan. Khorasani was believed to be the hardliner and was insisting on the reversal of the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) reforms.

With his death, it remains to be seen if this will have any impact on the negotiations as well as TTP’s demands on the Fata merger.

It is believed that Pakistan is trying to exhaust all available options before resorting to any other steps to deal with the threat of the TTP.

The Afghan Taliban government is in a fix as it is reluctant to take any action against the TTP but at the same understands the importance of Pakistan.

With the recent killing of al-Qaeda chief Aymen-Al-Zawahiri in Kabul, the Afghan Taliban government has now come under increased pressure to cut ties to terrorist groups.

Zawahiri’s killing has diminished chances of the Taliban getting recognition in the foreseeable future. If the issue of the TTP remains unaddressed, the Taliban may antagonise Pakistan, which has been their main advocate seeking legitimacy for the current government in Kabul.

On Thursday, the defence minister told the media that the government was aware of the reports about the TTP regrouping in Swat district and that the relevant authorities were in constant touch with Afghanistan on this matter.

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