Insurgency on the rise

TTP taking advantage of weak coalition government and chaotic conditions in the country


Talat Masood December 07, 2022
The writer is a retired lieutenant general of the Pakistan Army and a former federal secretary. He has also served as chairman of the Pakistan Ordnance Factories Board

Pakistan is no stranger to insurgency and acts of terrorism but the increasing incidents specially in Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan carried out mostly by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan should be of serious concern to the government and the military leadership.

The armed group has now declared the end of the definite ceasefire that had been painstakingly worked out in June of this year and has ordered its fighters to carry out attacks throughout the country.

To win the support of the people, the false impression being conveyed by them is that Pakistan is the aggressor and their retaliatory measures are a response to it.

The TTP alleges that Pakistan has launched a number of attacks on their forces in several areas of K-P and Baluchistan.

Although the hard reality is that the TTP has dangerous motives.

It has openly defied the writ of the state of Pakistan for years and wants to impose its own under a religious cover.

One of its main demands is the imposition of Sharia, according to its own interpretation.

It wants the reversal of the merger of tribal areas into K-P so that it could have a freer environment for defying the state authority.

There are several hardline TTP members who are under detention having committed serious crimes, including those involved in planning the horrendous killing of 150 people, mostly students, at the Army Public School in Peshawar.

The government understandably will not release them for apart from reflecting its weakness it will be a betrayal of its trust.

Moreover, how does TTP expect that the government would show leniency when it continues to target innocent people and forcibly tries to establish its writ in many parts of K-P.

Recently, it targeted a police patrol in Lakki Marwat, a fairly remote place, and killed six policemen.

Pakistan continues to put pressure on the Taliban government in Afghanistan to take action against the TTP and not allow them to operate freely.

Unfortunately, the Taliban government has hardly had any control over these groups.

It is not surprising that IS and other terrorist groups are operating freely in Afghanistan.

This, apart from serious worry to Pakistan and other neighbouring countries, has raised concern in the US and the West with memories of 9/11 still afresh.

It is apparent that the US will not hesitate in targeting groups that are hostile towards it.

Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed by a US drone attack in Afghanistan this year.

Pakistan has strengthened its western border and taking all measures to thwart the TTP designs.

At the diplomatic level it sent Minister of State Hina Rabbani Khar to Kabul to stress on the Taliban leadership to exercise effective control over TTP and not allow them the use of Afghan territory to mount attacks on Pakistan.

Only future events will indicate how effective would the Taliban leadership be in imposing its writ.

Among the priorities of Army Chief General Asim Munir would be dealing with the TTP threat and ensuring the integrity of the country’s western and eastern borders.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s recent remarks that terrorism continues to be one of Pakistan’s foremost problems is correct.

Hopefully, the coalition government is taking effective measures to counter this threat.

There is a tendency on the part of civilian governments to delegate the responsibility of addressing militancy and countering terrorism largely on the military.

True, the military and intelligence services have a major role in combating terrorism, but there are many aspects that contribute toward promoting terrorism that fall in the domain of civilian governance.

Dealing terrorism merely at the kinetic level would be addressing the problem rather simplistically.

It has several dimensions that relate to quality of governance and relations with neighbouring countries.

India promotes and supports certain groups that engage in terrorist activities in Pakistan.

This supposedly is a counter-strategy against our support for the freedom struggle in Kashmir.

Pakistan has taken up the issue of TTP’s hostile activities and their sanctuaries in Afghanistan with the Taliban government innumerable times but it has failed to make any appreciable change.

The TTP falsely justifies its attacks as a defensive and a retaliatory measure although its real aim is to establish an Islamic regime on the lines of the Afghan government in Pakistan — not realising that the objective conditions in the two countries are vastly different.

It is, however, taking advantage of the present weak coalition government and chaotic conditions in Pakistan to keep the pressure.

The TTP has spread its influence in certain parts of K-P to an extent that the police and provincial administration are unable to exercise authority.

Businessmen and moneyed people are blackmailed to pay money or otherwise face consequences.

If this practice of coercion is allowed to continue they will amass money to further empower themselves.

The provincial government should act firmly and seek assistance from the federal government and the Army leadership to thwart the TTP designs.

Majority of the people abhor them and dread their comeback.

Recently, they held a huge demonstration in Swat expressing their deep resentment against TTP.

The memories of Malala Yusufzai are still fresh in their minds.

And see the plight of the people of Afghanistan under the Taliban rule.

Women understandably are most worried.

They fear that they will be pushed into confinement and the girls will be denied their basic right of schooling and the joys of leading a normal life.

It is not clear if the K-P provincial government is prepared to effectively deal with this threat and to what extent the federal government and army leadership are coordinating their efforts.

There is also a school of thought that the Taliban leadership of Afghanistan, in order to enhance their leverage over Pakistan, finds it politically expedient to allow TTP considerable freedom of action.

As a result, the TTP was able to conduct over 70 attacks in K-P by October this year.

Whereas, it is also a fact that the Afghan Taliban facilitated talks between the government and TTP.

This is a reflection of Taliban leadership’s policy of retaining influence with both the parties, although it is doubtful if it is a sensible one and would serve their long-term interest and the interest of the region.

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