In a rare event, On June 24 2012, almost 100 heavily armed Taliban militants stormed into Pakistan from Afghanistan and attacked a military check post killing atleast 17 Pakistani soldiers. After initially reporting that six soldiers were killed and 11 were missing, the Pakistani military sources later confirmed that seven of the missing were killed and beheaded.
Later, a Pakistani Taliban spokesman, Sirajuddin, claimed the responsibility for the attack; something that was expected yet surprising to some extent. Apparently, the traces of this attack, coupled with the previous ones in the peaceful area of Chitral, lead towards Maulvi Fazlullah, the ex-Taliban head and commander in Swat, who fled to Afghanistan soon after the Pakistani military launched an offensive against him in the region.
Fazullah and his aides are said to have established their strongholds in either Nurestan or Kunar provinces of Afghanistan, places from where the foreign forces have withdrawn. These hideouts are also said to be used by another Taliban commander, Faqir Muhammad from Bajaur. Both Faqir and Fazalullah’s forces use the Afghan territory to plan and carry out attacks on Pakistani military check-posts.
Soon after the attack, the Foreign Ministry of Pakistan called in a senior Afghan diplomat to protest against the intrusion of militants from the Afghan side in to Pakistani territory. Last year in August, almost 30 Pakistani soldiers perished in an attack launched by Taliban from the Afghanistan.
Nurestan and Kunar play a role similar to that of Waziristan where a large number of militants, both from Afghanistan and Pakistan, train and carry out attacks in Afghanistan. The Western stakeholders, especially USA, are angry over the fact that Pakistan’s security agencies are backing the Pakistani Taliban, mainly the Haqqani Network, that lead to major attacks on military and civilian installations in Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan.
The Pakistan army, on the other hand, counters the blame with the argument that it is constantly coming under attack from the same Taliban, it is accused of supporting, losing more than 5000 soldiers.
The whole situation of cross border intrusion can be perceived as tit for tat. Pakistan is perceived globally to be supporting militancy in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), and the same militants then carry out attacks on Afghan as well as foreign forces.
Now as the Pakistani Taliban, who apparently belong to anti- Pakistan factions, are operating functionally in Afghanistan and carrying out successful attacks in to Pakistan, give a strong message from Afghanistan that if Islamabad is not taking enough measure to curbs anti – Afghanistan militants, Kabul would reciprocate by not taking enough measures against the anti-Pakistan Taliban taking shelter in Afghanistan.
One of the major reasons for unresolved militancy issues in the Af-Pak lies in the non serious attitude from policy makers on both the sides. The Afghan president is never shy of blatantly blaming Pakistan for every single terrorist attack taking place in his country. His statements, most of the times blaming Pakistan for supporting militants, are not only derogatory for the security situation but also for the long term Af Pak relations. On the other hand, Pakistani officials never feel shy of blaming their Afghan counterparts for many wrongs happening in Pakistan.
An interesting trend, harmful for bilateral relations, witnessed in statements of President Karzai is the variation of stance in relation to the type of leader he meets. If he meets someone from Pakistan, he calls Pakistan a brother and a country critical to Kabul’s progress. On the other hand, when he holds joint press briefings with a Western counterpart, all his guns are set blazing towards Pakistan blaming it for all the chaos and instability and asking the Western countries for support and pressurizing Pakistan.
Here, a major question arises that the NATO forces, even having the most sophisticated surveillance systems, are still unable to track down the Afghan Taliban or AlQaeda, especially in instances where the conflict between Pakistan Army and militants carries on for two to three days, leading to precise marks of militants and their locations. This situation has a simple answer, the NATO forces and the Afghan army are using the Afghan Taliban as tools of vengeance against Pakistan sending out a message that such unchecked attacks would carry on as long as Pakistan Army doesn’t take appropriate measures against the Haqqani Network in Waziristan.
Militancy is deemed as the biggest challenge forced by the Af Pak region. Let alone a challenge, it has also become an easy license for foreign interventions. Therefore, the current situation calls for coordinated and concerted efforts from both Afghanistan and Pakistan in order to reach common grounds to curtail militancy in the region or else the matters would simply go from bad to worse.