TTP’s truce, peace deals and challenges for Pakistan
THE emergence of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in late 2007 brought about major shift in militancy culture in Pakistan.
It has been by far the deadliest terrorist outfit in the country with some most gruesome acts on its scorecard.
These acts, especially the APS incident on 16 December 2014, which cost 148 precious lives mostly of children, still persist as wounds in Pakistanis’ hearts.
TTP, despite having lost public support, has been thriving on the pedestal afforded by the Hostile Intelligence Agencies (HIAs) mainly originating from Afghanistan.
It is actually a conglomeration of various fighters and groups put together. These include not only Pashtuns but people from other nationalities, different tribes and ethnic backgrounds.
In 2014, the government of Pakistan and TTP had entered into negotiations for bringing peace to the country, however the talks stalled for a variety of reasons and the violence continued which was subsequently abated successfully by the Pakistani security forces and Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs).
Hasty US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the recent fall of Kabul to the Taliban have impacted politico-strategic situation in the region significantly.
It has evolved into an interesting scenario in the country and hence in the region. Having learnt from their past follies, the Taliban, this time, are acting quite different.
Their intention to remain in power has led them to mind international norms and values. Their overtures are, by and large, peaceful both within and without.
They have assured that Afghan territory will not be used for inimical activities against any of their neighbours. Historically aligned with Pakistan, this time their reaching out to China has further widened space for us while showing door to India who had to leave behind massive financial investment, also denting TTP of its patronage.
Notably, in the year, 2021, Pakistan observed a surge in militant attacks in the country. Statistics collected by PICSS show that, May 2021 saw the highest number of militant attacks since October 2018, and June witnessed the second-highest number of attacks since October 2018.
The surge coincided with the US-NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan and a surge in violence in Afghanistan at that time.
Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies conducted a thorough analysis of the trends of anti-state violence for the past 18 months to ascertain whether the spike in the violence is related to US-NATO withdrawal or there are other factors involved.
PICSS study found that surge in militant attacks in Pakistan is not directly related to US-NATO withdrawal or surge in Taliban attacks in Afghanistan.
The study attributes the surge in Pakistan to the reunification of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan last year. Studies also suggest that TTP, apparently enhanced their activities to gain position of strength and force Pakistani government to negotiate peace deal with them.
In June 2021, the Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, in an interview with The Independent opined that if TTP ended its terrorist activities and surrendered then Pakistan could announce amnesty for them.
He told that government would be “open to giving” a pardon to members of the TTP if they promised not to get involved in terrorist activities and submit to the Pakistani Constitution.
He, however, didn’t confirm any negotiations were underway with them. PM Imran Khan during his recent interview to TRT World revealed that negotiations with some groups of the TTP were underway.
There are different groups which form the TTP and some of them want to talk to our government for peace. So, we are in talks with them. It’s a reconciliation process. He also reiterated amnesty to TTP provided they surrender and forego terrorist activities.
It is important to highlight that TTP have been affirmed supporters of Afghan Taliban in their fight against US and NATO which was also one of the core objectives of TTP.
They, therefore, enjoyed affinity with Afghan Taliban which resulted in the release of several TTP terrorists from different prisons in Afghanistan, days after Taliban came into power.
Hafiz Gul Bahadur group from TTP North Waziristan announce a 3 weeks long, ceasefire which can be considered indicative of their interest in peace talks ending violence.
Ceasefire will be extended based on the negotiation developments ahead. Hafiz Gul Bahadur group was considered as pro-state element within TTP circles. The same group had a ceasefire with Pakistan’s military in 2014, when Zarb-e-Azb was launched.
However, the efforts of merging all factions of TTP under Noor Wali Mehsud – would experience – a huge dent due to this announcement of ceasefire and also coincides with recent interview of Pakistan PM.
TTP’s increased activities inside Pakistan notwithstanding, the situation in Afghanistan may not yield sustained operational dividends for them.
Their activities are, therefore, likely to be short-lived. The time is thus ripe for both government of Pakistan and TTP to talk and reconcile. The idea of amnesty for the TTP fighters, however, needs to be gauged cautiously as the wounds in hearts are seldom forgotten precipitously.
Joint sessions of Parliament and discussions among relevant stakeholders can derive some viable options and consensus on the issues.
However, Taliban’ takeover of Kabul offer a recognizable opportunity for Pakistan to tackle the menace of terrorism on its side of border; in particular addressing the issue of TTP.
Nevertheless, despite cautious treading by the Afghan Taliban, their pledges and promises notwithstanding, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is faced with numerous daunting challenges of its own.
Their questionable international recognition, feeble economy, formidable threat of IS, security and stability in the country may not spare them to exercise much leverage over TTP but they can however still be useful.
—The writer works for Pak-Afghan Youth Forum.