National dialogue needed to counter resurgent militancy | By Dr Muhammad Khan

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National dialogue needed to counter resurgent militancy

THE severity of terrorist attack on counter-terrorism department (CTD) police station Bannu on 19 December 2022 is an indication that there is a broader and clear resurgence of militancy in Pakistan.

Indeed, the resurgence of militancy on Pak-Afghan border started immediately after Taliban took over power in Afghanistan.

The immediate target of the Taliban militia was the fence erected by Pak Army all along the Pak-Afghan border and later the firing on Pakistani security personnel from across the border which killed and injured hundreds of Pakistani soldiers and civilians.

This process continued for months and months with clear evidence of militant activities of Tehreek-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan (TTP) in parts of the KP.

Nevertheless, there remained quietness in Islamabad with a goodwill gesture for the Afghan Taliban Government which encouraged the latter to intensify attacks on Pak-Afghan border and incidents like Chaman attack.

This mysterious quietness, indecisiveness at the part of government and inattentiveness towards rapid resurgence of militancy gave the TTP an opportunity to undertake incidents like Bannu attacks.

Although, the terrorist who attacked and made hostage the people at CTD PS at Bannu have been eliminated by commandos of Pak Army, there arise many questions about why TTP achieved such a freedom of operating in parts of the KP in last over one year and why the nuclear Pakistan is being undermined and exploited by Interim Taliban Government of Afghanistan.

It is worth mentioning that, in the entire region, Pakistan is the only country whose security situation has deteriorated after Taliban’s take-over of Afghanistan in August 2021.

This is despite the fact that Taliban take-over of Afghanistan was made possible because of hectic Pakistani efforts.

It was Pakistan which brokered the negotiations between Taliban and United States on the request of former US President Donald Trump.

As a result of the agreement, officially known as, “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban and the United States of America” US and NATO forces pulled-out from Afghanistan in August 2021, paving the way for the peaceful Taliban take-over.

Taliban did not face any resistance from any quarter within Afghanistan while they were taking over various parts of Afghanistan.

Even the former strong-hold of Northern Alliance ‘Mazâr-i-Sharîf’ fell to the Taliban without any protracted fight.

This speaks of the fact that grounds were prepared for the Taliban by former invaders which made everything possible for them except finances.

From the platform of UNHCR, the United States covertly continued the support of Afghan masses in difficult months of extreme cold weather (November 2021 to January 2022).

In January 2022, the United Nations along with some Non-Governmental Organizations launched a massive plan for the humanitarian assistance of Afghan masses.

This over 5 billion USD humanitarian relief aimed to support 22 million people in Afghanistan and over 5.7 million displaced Afghans in neighbouring states of Afghanistan.

This all was made possible by the UN under the covert support-plan of the United States. This means that, Taliban Regime has the full backing of Washington, despite it not yet recognized by any state.

This also means that the US is pursuing its strategic objectives in the neighbourhood of Afghanistan while using Taliban as a covert tool.

Owing to its traditional intimacy, religious affinity and social underpinnings, Pakistan is the only country which is still maintaining a closer link with the Taliban regime.

The attitude of the Taliban regime has been mostly arrogant and dictating towards the State and the Government of Pakistan.

In December 2021, the Taliban soldiers, guarding the Afghan border, repeatedly disrupted the process of security fencing, undertaken by Pak Army.

Taliban soldiers repeatedly removed the fence from a sizable portion of Pak-Afghan border which were not the incidents but a well-planned action, ordered by the Taliban regime.

Indeed, Taliban Defence Ministry spokesman Enayatullah Khwarazmi issued a statement at that time, saying that ‘Taliban forces stopped the Pakistani military from erecting an “illegal” border fence along the eastern province of Nangarhar’.

Even then, Pakistan remained quite! Such types of violent actions speak of offensive gestures from Taliban and direct threat from a group which has neither international recognition nor ability to survive independently for long.

Such aggressiveness was not seen by the elected governments of Hamid Karazai and Asharif Ghani.

Rather, despite the presence of TTP elements in Afghanistan under NDS and RAW, there were very few attacks on Pakistani border posts from 2016 to 2021.

There have been continuous terrorist attacks on the Pakistani border posts, manned by its security forces along Pak-Afghan border.

This is happening despite Pakistan having fenced over 90% of its border with Afghanistan. As an estimate Pakistan lost over 100 soldiers and officers in the last over one and half years owing to terrorist attacks of TTP.

There is an unremitting phenomenon of terrorist attacks by TTP and Afghan Taliban on a daily basis.

Once Pakistan reacted in mid-April 2022 by firing a few rockets on the hideouts of TTP in Kunar Province, there was a very strong reaction from the Taliban regime.

The Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid warned Pakistan of serious consequences. The Taliban regime is supporting and encouraging TTP elements to attack Pakistani military posts.

These attacks and huge human losses of the trained soldiers and officers must not be viewed in isolation but have a larger and strategic perspective where the planner and benefactor may be a third party which chose to use the Afghan Taliban Government against Pakistan through a war of attrition and bleeding on a daily basis.

Indeed, there is a larger perspective of these attacks from across the Pak-Afghan border. After Operation ‘Zarb-e-Azb’, Pakistan had emerged as the only victor state against the global war on terror.

Indeed, this war was imposed on Pakistan by its benefactors. It was unpleasant and a failure for those who spent over $1 Trillion while being in Afghanistan for two decades.

In fact, Pakistan failed them in achieving their strategic objectives for which they felt frustrated and furious to punish Pakistan.

Bringing the Taliban into power through Pakistan was a huge trap, which no one realized in Pakistan since Pakistani politicians are fighting to conquer Islamabad.

For them, not Pakistan but their political parties, a few families and few individuals are more important than the State.

Unfortunately, there is no farsightedness and future planning among those ruling the State in Pakistan.

In the wake of resurgence in militancy coupled with political deadlock and deteriorating economy, Pakistan is in dire straits and need immediate attention through a process of national dialogue.

— The writer is Professor of Politics and IR at International Islamic University, Islamabad.