Afghan Taliban and TTP

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Abdul Hadi Mayar

Terrorism is set to transform Pakistan and Afghanistan into Syria and Iraq, endangering regional peace and stability if they do not live in peace and harmony with one another. Both would be very misled if they forgot what they have been through over the previous several decades.
Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai stated unequivocally in a television appearance the previous week that Afghanistan should not be turned into a battleground between the United States, China, and Russia.
In Pakistan, there are speculations post the resurgence of terrorist activities over the past two months – though at the chauvinist hawkish level – that the United States might be seeking to once again ‘use the soil of Pakistan as a springboard for counter-terrorism actions in Afghanistan.’
That Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was quoted saying that Washington wished Pakistan to help curb terror acts emanating from Afghanistan only lent further strength to the speculation.
In November 2022, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) announced the trash of its ceasefire agreement signed earlier in the year with the Pakistani state, alleging attacks by the security forces. The announcement came in the wake of the abduction of security personnel by TTP in Swat and a subsequent bomb attack that killed several people, including local peace activists.
It came as a surprise to many when none other than Barrister Saif, the spokesperson of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, defended the Taliban, saying they had returned to Swat under an agreement.
The subsequent revelation by Tehrik-e-Insaf chief, Imran Khan, that his ousted government wanted to accept and settle back over 40,000 TTP activists and their families clarified where the mistake had been made. That post-Taliban Afghanistan has become a constant source of terrorist activities and instability in Pakistan is quite discernible, though Kabul denies it.
When Afghan Taliban broke into Kabul at the time of the withdrawal of US forces in August last year, the first thing they did was to release 22,000 TTP activists, including their top commanders, like Maulvi Faqir Muhammad. There were reports that, simultaneously, over 4,000 Pakistani terrorists had been released from different jails in Afghanistan.
This proved that the previous administration of President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai had detained these Pakistani terrorists. Facts over the previous years also show that TTP attacks inside Pakistan had lowered to the minimum level during that period.
Some Pakistani journalists try to track down ideological links between Afghan Taliban and the TTP, but they forget that neither the former Afghan Mujahideen nor the present Taliban has ever supported jihadist activities outside Afghanistan. Afghan Taliban didn’t support the TTP even when the latter swore allegiance to them, openly manned their frontlines, and even sent suicide attackers to target the US forces.
Reports in the Indian media and other signs attest to the political nature of the current scenario. The previous day, an Indian channel reported that the TTP had established a parallel government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, even dividing the province into two zones for the purpose.
“Will Pakistan repeat the experiment of 1971 (divorce of East Pakistan)?” the report asked several times.
Earlier, Indian media had been reporting that Afghanistan has renewed its territorial claim up to Attock inside Pakistan. The reports of the good working relationship being developed between the Afghan Taliban and India should not perturb Pakistan unless its territorial integrity is threatened. The recent surge in terrorist activities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s former tribal districts and Balochistan and reports of the TTP and Baloch separatists joining forces against the Pakistani state send some dangerous signals, which might push the whole region into an inferno. The Ukraine war and QUAD activities in Asia-Pacific have revived bloc politics and open enmity between the Western bloc and Russia and China. But any use of the soil of Afghanistan and Pakistan, as feared by Hamid Karzai, for spreading instability in the surrounding regions will only devastate the world and regional peace. That Pakistan’s National Security Committee (NSC) categorically asked Afghan Taliban to deny safe havens to Pakistani terrorist groups on their soil and end their patronage is not unwarranted.
It will be a mistake on the part of the Afghan Taliban if they are convinced of winning over the sympathies of their native Afghans and Pashtoon nationalists inside Pakistan by helping in further the anti-Pakistan designs of any third party. Neither can they subvert the internal opposition to their Emirate, nor win over the loyalties of Pakistani Pashtoons by fomenting trouble for Pakistan. Taliban government has categorically rejected Pakistan’s claim about the presence of TTP hideouts inside Afghanistan, but in the wake of conflicting reports and speculations, it owes it to Islamabad – its overt supporter on all international fora-to secure the common border region for the common good of the two countries. Pakistan and Afghanistan have had sufficient failed experiences in the art and skill of abetting negativity on the other side. None have ever harvested any dividends.
Both countries, as well as India, must keep in mind that the world is on its way out of the watershed of history into which it was thrown following the demise of the former Soviet Union. The age of political and economic convergence and cooperation is upon us, and the regional countries need only allow their combined millions to explore markets for a prosperous future.

The writer is an independent freelance journalist based in Islamabad covering South Asia/ Central Asia.