Pak-Afghan Rigmarole and TTP


Najm us Saqib

Finally, Pakistan decided to call a spade a spade. Messages sent to the ‘unrecognized’ interim govern­ment in Kabul through diplomatic chan­nels; offering amnesty to all ‘con­cerned’; blocking trade routes; or sending the undocumented Afghans back home would not help in making the Taliban un­derstand their responsibilities towards the export of terrorism to Pakistan. In his recent Congres­sional hearing, Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu, inter alia, confirmed that the ‘current greatest terrorist threat to Pakistan emanated from Afghanistan.’
In addition, Afghanistan was time and again reminded of Pakistan’s decades-old support to the Afghan cause but to no avail. Nothing seemed to have been working as the death toll in Pakistan kept on increasing. Even the ‘unconfirmed’ attack inside its territory last year would not help Kabul understand the gravity of the matter. Perhaps, the recent shaha­dat of seven soldiers in North Waziristan proved to be the tipping point to convey an unequivocal message – stop patroniz­ing TTP, a globally designated terrorist organization, and using them as a proxy against Pakistan. Enough is enough.
Hence, Pakistan had no hesitation in officially confirming that its military car­ried out intelligence-based aerial strikes inside Afghanistan. The stated objective? To punish all those terrorists responsi­ble for killing hundreds of civilians and security forces in cross-border raids.
The absence of any offensive response except from Kabul and a straightfor­ward acquiescence thereof by the Unit­ed States provided a kind of validity to the aerial strikes. In any case, in a world where firing of missiles inside each oth­er’s territories or killing ‘terrorists’ through covert operations abroad or for that matter staying in a country for two-decades to combatting terrorism and ex­tremism is considered legitimate- Paki­stan’s recent aerial strikes must not be taken as an outrightly outrageous over­ture. The Gaza genocide, the Russian Special Operation in Ukraine and the UN Security Council’s helplessness further provides a raison d’être for safeguarding your national interest by yourself. The existence of proxies and the emergence of hybrid warfare are other factors com­pelling nation states to do in Rome as the Romans do. In this way, sending messag­es through aerial strikes should not be construed as violation of someone’s ter­ritorial integrity. As such actions do not tantamount to waging an all-out war anymore, the international community would like to simply look the other way.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mu­jahid’s warning that ‘such incidents can have very bad consequences, which will be out of Pakistan’s control’ speaks volumes about the Afghan mindset. Re­member, the Afghans are good fighters and war is in their DNA. With an un­easy eastern border, Pakistan would not wish to prolong tension on its west­ern borders particularly in view of its recent experience with Iran. There­fore, the Defense Minister’s statement that Pakistan would not want war with Afghanistan was timely. On the oth­er hand, Kabul could ill afford to turn its erstwhile friendly neighbor into a sworn enemy.
History of diplomacy tells us that in the face of strained and uneasy bilateral re­lations, better sense could still prevail. Following points need consideration if the two neighbors ever desired to prac­tice peaceful coexistence – to sort out is­sues and not each other – and for them to concentrate on their individual progress:
One: To move forward, one must for­get the past. One can go on and on in jus­tifying the past or cribbing about it, but the fact remains – one cannot change the past. Let us come to terms with the ground realities. Furthermore, plac­ing past records in front of each other to prove a point or two would not help. Similarly, recalling good or bad deeds of each other does not make any sense particularly after experiencing hard core aerial strikes.
Two: To forestall any future strikes, Afghanistan must realize that TTP’s ne­farious activities have gone out of con­trol. By harboring globally recognized terrorists, Kabul becomes an accom­plice in criminal activities. It must un­derstand that an accomplice is equally responsible for any untoward incidence. By encouraging rogue elements, Kabul would automatically be asking for trou­ble. Otherwise also, killing of innocent Pakistanis would not help Afghanistan in receiving recognition for its govern­ment. Nor would it assist in increasing the country’s GDP.
Three: Pakistan must treat Afghani­stan as an independent country. Leave the rulers of Kabul to their own devic­es. On the other hand, the policy of chok­ing the trade corridors or sending back undocumented individuals needs to be revisited and honed. Resumption of re­patriation process after Ramzan will help – only after calculating Kabul’s re­sponse. It is highly unlikely that Kabul would budge and do the needful regard­ing TTP’s activities.
Four: War begins when diplomacy fails. Nevertheless, even during wars, di­plomacy could play a constructive role. Employing diplomatic ways and means to forestall a tense predicament must not be ruled out. A word of caution. It is not Iran or a Scandinavian country that Pakistan is dealing with. It is Afghani­stan. Hence, ‘improvised’ and ‘secured’ diplomacy is advisable. Even after hav­ing a series of failed peace negotiations, there is no harm in initiating fresh par­leys. Besides involving the adjacent Cen­tral Asian States, the Chinese wisdom might also prove beneficial.
Five: Removing the remaining mis­givings of our American friends, in the real sense of the word, will greatly bene­fit Islamabad in not only improving eco­nomic, trade and military bilateral rela­tions but also to jointly curb the menace of terrorism. In this regard, to the ex­tent possible, Washington’s ‘suspicion’ over Pak-Afghan relations and its con­cerns over the Afghan repatriation proj­ect need to be addressed.
As regards TTP – the outfit tried to em­ulate the Taliban in its pursuit of having ‘control’. However, after getting a reali­ty check, the group has realized that ‘an Afghan Taliban-style victory in Pakistan is currently an unrealistic goal’. There­fore, its reprehensible activities are not likely to go beyond a certain point. There is an urgent need to redouble ef­forts in taking ‘appropriate’ measures to avoid a repeat of the North Waziristan incident. No one can predict a terror­ist attack. However, accurate and time­ly intel could help in combating terror­ism. Fresh strategy needs to be devised as reportedly, after going through a se­ries of mergers (Dalgey) and improv­ing upon its operational skills, TTP has developed a ‘localized strategy’. Relying purely on Afghanistan’s presumed as­sistance in countering a continued ex­istential threat is, therefore, not enough – particularly in view of Kabul’s reluc­tance in doing so. Diplomatic pursuits notwithstanding, ‘localized’ contingen­cy plan must be in place to counter the TTP’s ‘localized’ strategy.