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Door to Dialogue

The TTP has cleverly affiliated some of its objectives with the political goals of some Pakistani religious and ethnic-oriented political parties, particularly Baloch and Pashtun nationalists.

By Talat Masood | February 2023

Pakistan faces several complex security challenges, the foremost being the current insurgent movement of the TTP on the western border and the perennial antagonistic relationship with India on the eastern front.

Headquartered in Eastern Afghanistan, the Tehrik-i- Taliban (TTP) Pakistan is a militant group which has focused its war on the Pakistani state and its security forces. Taking advantage of a porous border with Afghanistan and its close fraternity with the Afghan, Taliban leadership has been dominating certain areas close to the border and conducting terrorist attacks in Pakistan. It has organized itself effectively and has recently intensified violence, mostly focusing on security personnel. Its strategy is based on the Afghan Taliban model to dominate areas and establish a Shariah-based legal system. The Taliban’s success in capturing power in Afghanistan must have been the foremost factor that has motivated the TTP to replicate the same approach towards Pakistan. However, Pakistan is not Afghanistan as it must have realized even from its past experience. The military, institutional strength and political and economic development of Pakistan is at a level where majority of the people shun radicalism and extremism.

Of course, certain less-developed areas such as parts of former tribal areas and Balochistan are more vulnerable and the TTP has been exploiting this weakness for establishing its foothold. There is a need for pushing forward development work in these areas not only for lessening influence of militants but for the benefit of the people who have been callously ignored and remained neglected for too long. The British used the tribal belt as a buffer against Afghanistan and approach by most of the governments after independence has not been very different.

One of the major factors in the TTP’s intensified violence and organizational strength is the Afghan Taliban’s return to power and its support. More importantly, the future threat to security that the TTP will pose and the likelihood of a peace deal with the Pakistani state, apart from other factors will depend on the support it receives from the Afghan Taliban leadership.

To gain power and establish its legitimacy, the TTP has cleverly affiliated some of its objectives with the political goals of some Pakistani religious and ethnic-oriented political parties, particularly Baloch and Pashtun nationalists.

The roots of the TTP as an organization go back to 2002 when Pakistan military conducted operations into the tribal areas to combat foreign militants. The militants, under the leadership of Baithullah Mehsud, comprised people mostly from Afghanistan, Arab and Central Asian states and they were fleeing from the war in Afghanistan to take refuge in the tribal areas. After the withdrawal of the American forces from Afghanistan, the rise of Afghan Taliban was a source of inspiration for the TTP. Moreover, by expanding its activities and committing terrorist attacks the TTP has strengthened its base support and organizational integrity. In contrast, flaws in policy formulation in dealing with the TTP and weaknesses in its implementation by successive Pakistani governments has strengthened it over the years.

Although, initially the people of the area were against them and even lately have been protesting in large numbers but successive governments have failed to capitalize on it. The indifference of civilian governments toward dealing with internal and external security issues and leaving it to the military has been another major shortcoming. The national action plan, which was a well-thought-out document prepared in consultation with all stakeholders, was never implemented seriously. I remember being a member of the committee that how much effort had gone in preparing it. It required close coordination between the provinces and the centre and effective monitoring which was ignored. The interplay of internal and external sources of terrorism is important in understanding the complexity of the threat and countering it. The various stages of evolution among the terrorist groups evolve from political awareness of a kind, to their eventual formation. A far sensible approach is to effectively deal with a terrorist organization during its formative stage rather than waiting to confront it when it is fully matured.

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