Consequences of Raising Snakes in the Backyard: Terrorists Strike Pakistan, Again

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Successive terror attacks in Lahore and Islamabad should worry Pakistanis and their leaders. The Imran Khan government has given carte blanche to radical Islamist and jihadi groups, both Tehreek e Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) and Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) while the TTP has continued to launch terror attacks inside Pakistan, ever since the Taliban took over Kabul in August 2021.

Pakistan is once again facing blowback from its policy if raising terrorists to target neighboring countries. U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton had warned Pakistanis 11 years ago, “You can’t keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbours. Eventually those snakes are going to turn on whoever has them in the backyard.”

According to Muhammad Amir Rana, “over the last two years, the TTP and its factions have carried out 11 terrorist attacks in Rawalpindi and Islamabad, resulting in the deaths of 13 security, mainly police, officials. This week’s attack in Islamabad also targeted policemen. The second worrying aspect is that in the past the TTP remained active mainly in the outskirts of the federal capital, but the latest attack was reported from a busy sector in the heart of Islamabad. The attack reveals the intention of the terrorist group to create fear.”

What is equally worrying, Rana notes is that “the killing of Mufti Khalid Balti, a former spokesperson of the TTP, has further increased the trust deficit between negotiators from both sides and their guarantors. In that context, if the mantra of talks is merely a tactic to create rifts in the TTP leadership then the cost is very high and still may not be enough to eliminate the threat. The TTP will continue to cause damage to Pakistan, and over time, the Taliban regime in Afghanistan will learn the tactics to avert pressure from Pakistan. After all, the TTP is their ideological brigade and shares the same view of establishing an Islamic order of governance.”

Further, as Rana points out, “the TTP itself and Pakistan’s tendency to negotiate with it are encouraging other terrorist groups. The militant Islamic State group’s so-called Khorasan chapter has also become active in Pakistan, where it carried out multiple attacks in 2021 on Hazara Shias, alleged Afghan Taliban members and associated religious scholars, as well as political leaders/workers in Balochistan and KP. Several of its associates were arrested from parts of Sindh and Punjab in multiple search operations conducted by law enforcement during the year.”

Finally, Rana concludes, “Pakistan has to devise a different approach to deal with the TTP threat. A timely change of course can save many precious lives and damage to the country.”

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Author: Omar Derawal