Pakistan has a new army chief and the first thing that hit his plate was an announcement by the terrorist group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) that it was reneging on the ceasefire and resuming attacks across the country.
The TTP, like other Pakistan-based jihadi groups, is the result of a decades old policy of the Pakistani army – the use of jihad or unconventional warfare as a lever of regional security and foreign policy. i.e. the only way to ensure that Afghanistan has a pro-Pakistan anti-Indian regime is to support the mujahideen or the Taliban. If that means Pakistan must suffer collateral damage – the rise of the Pakistani Taliban – that is something the army is willing to suffer for the bigger goal of keeping India out of Afghanistan.
On November 29, the TTP issued a chilling statement “Carry out attacks, wherever and whenever you can.” The statement said that the TTP had shown “maximum restraint” but that “the army and spy agencies did not restrain [themselves],” it said, calling on TTP fighters to take revenge.
Ever since the Taliban took power in August 2021, Pakistan has seen a 50 per cent surge in militant attacks, according to the Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS). In May 2022, the TTP declared a ceasefire but negotiations have remained inconclusive. “Major sticking points included the TTP’s demands to roll back the merger of the erstwhile tribal areas with KP, release hardened terrorists, as well as the group’s refusal to lay down their arms. These were obvious red lines the state could not let the militants cross.”
As we have noted earlier, reports have been circulating for several months that the TTP had returned to the former tribal belt, as well as Malakand, with locals complaining of extortion calls from the outfit. Large peace rallies were held by the locals in Swat, Khyber and other areas of KP as an uptick in militant violence was witnessed.
There was no immediate response from the government or the military’s media wing, Inter-Services Public Relations. We hope that part of the catharsis that former army chief General Bajwa spoke of also applies to rethinking policy towards these terror groups.