Upsurge in Terrorist Attacks

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Malik M. Ashraf

For quite some time now, Pakistan has witnessed an upsurge in terrorist attacks against security and law enforcement agencies by TTP operatives based in Afghanistan. The latest one happened at Baka Khel in the Bannu district the day before yesterday in which two innocent civilians embraced Shahadat, while seven civilians and three soldiers were injured. The suicide bomber reportedly was an Afghan national. Major offensives have been carried out against security posts in Zhob and Chitral recently in which also Afghan nationals participated. The most worrying factor is that the attackers used weapons and night vision equipment left behind by US forces in Afghanistan. How the TTP gained access to these weapons is not difficult to guess.
It is indeed very regrettable that the Taliban government in Kabul being in knowledge about the presence of TTP on its soil and their attacks across the border in Pakistan, is not pushed to fulfil its international obligations not to allow any terrorist group to use Afghan soil for attacks against any other country. It was part of the deal with the US as well. There are also a number of international conventions on the subject. The unabated continuation of these attacks is surely putting a lot of strain on bilateral relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Taliban government maintains that TTP attacks against Pakistan were their internal matter which is a very bizarre logic. Pakistan surely cannot allow this situation to continue.
The caretaker Prime Minister Anwar ul Haq Kakar speaking on the Geo talk show ‘Jirga’ a few days ago was right on money to unravel connivance between the Taliban government and TTP. He said “Taliban know it well from where TTP terrorists are launching attacks into Pakistan. The terrorist outfit is not operating from Central Asian states but is firmly anchored in Afghanistan which is simply intolerable if they undertake terror activities in Pakistan and the Taliban watch all this like a silent spectator. They should not expect any- action from Pakistan if terror attacks are launched into its territory. They should either take action against them or hand them over to Pakistan.”
Pakistan’s special representative for Afghanistan Asif Durrani in an interview with a media outlet recently also said “The outlawed TTP is under control of the Afghan Taliban and their nexus is hurting relations between the two neighbours. They are allowed to cross the Pakistan border and conduct sabotage activities, massacre and then go back. Around 6000-65000 TTP terrorists are operating from Afghanistan. It is the responsibility of Taliban to control TTP and disarm them. It is said Afghan Taliban and TTP are two sides of the same coin”.
It is pertinent to mention that the Amir of the Taliban had issued a decree against these attacks and the participation of Afghan nationals in them. But in spite of this, there has been an unusual increase in the execution of terrorist attacks on security and law enforcement agencies in Pakistan. The question is that if the Taliban government really wanted to halt these attacks then why it did not take action against TTP for defying the decree of the Taliban Amir? Regrettably, the ground realities suggest a tacit connivance between the Taliban government and TTP. Why the Taliban government in Afghanistan is oblivious to its international obligations and clandestinely trying to foment instability in Pakistan is mind-boggling indeed.
Pakistan is the country which supported the Taliban in their fight against the Northern Alliance and extended recognition to their government along with Saudia Arabia and UAE when they became rulers of Afghanistan in 1996 while the entire world did not acknowledge the legitimacy of their rule. It was Pakistan that through bilateral and multilateral forums supported an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned solution to the war in Afghanistan after the US invasion in the wake of 9/11 and also played a pivotal role in the deal between the Taliban and the US for the exit of the US and NATO forces from Afghanistan. It has hosted more than 3 million Afghan refugees since 1979 and even has been tolerating the presence of illegal Afghans on its soil for a long time.
For whatever reason the Taliban government in Afghanistan is allowing the TTP to operate from its soil to carry out terrorist attacks in Pakistan, which is simply an ultimate act of being ungrateful. The continuation of this situation can have very serious repercussions as the caretaker Prime Minister Anwar ul Haq Kakar has warned during his interview with Geo by saying that TTP attacks were unacceptable while the Taliban government watched these silently and that it should not expect action from Pakistan if these attacks continued to be launched in its territory.
It is hoped that the Taliban government would realize the seriousness of the situation and refrain from any act that leads to any confrontation between the two countries. If they feel that there are certain issues to be resolved between the two countries it is advisable for them to adopt diplomatic channels instead of conducting a proxy war against Pakistan. They should realize that peace in the region and cordial relations with Pakistan were in the best interest of all the regional states, more so for Afghanistan itself. It has already endured more than four decades of instability and war and the Taliban government owes it to the people of Afghanistan to ensure a peaceful and prosperous life for them. It is only possible when they set their priorities right, make up their difference with their neighbours and show respect for their international commitments.
In my view, it is imperative to remove the kink in relations between the two countries for which Pakistan needs to make efforts at bilateral and regional levels. Making up the differences and orchestrating bonhomie between Pakistan and Afghanistan is pivotal to regional peace, connectivity and shared economic prosperity waiting to unravel. Pakistan may involve China and Russia to sort out differences with the Taliban government, may raise the issue at the forum of SCO or even solicit a mediatory role by Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia. The sooner it is done the better..

The writer is a former diplomat and freelance columnist.