By Shoukat Ali
The term terrorism has been one of the looming issues Pakistan has been facing over the last two decades. Before engaging in the current terrorist activities, one needs to comprehend the long history of militancy that has grasped its strong foothold during the period of General Zia-ul-Haq. It is a fact that General Zia being ideologically motivated as the true believer of Islam, had Islamized the country. The irony began in 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. As a result, Pakistan joined the west not only to serve Washington and proves its loyalty, but also to advance its own strategic interest. This is how Pakistan created armed and trained Mujahideen to overthrow the Soviet Union from Afghanistan. In exchange, the US provided a large amount of military and economic assistance to the country.
Arguably, the tragedy of September 11, 2001 was a triggering point that enforced Pakistan to join the US-led war on terror. The state apparatus by initiating a military crackdown against these militants living in and outside the border compelled them to take up weapons against Islamabad. This horrible nightmare of history not merely killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people but also staked the socio-economic fabric associated with violence, bloodshed, distraction, fears and tears across the country.
As the argument goes by the fact that the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan has largely accelerated their violent activities across the Pak-Afghan border ever since the fall of Kabul on 15th of August, 2021. The sad episode appears to be unfortunately repeating itself with the resurgence of militancy in the province of KPK, Balochistan and some other parts of the country underscored by the government officials in December 2022. The prospect of security challenges began to grim when the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) rescinded the ceasefire with the state in November last year. Since then, there has been startling increase in the deadly attacks conducted by the militants. According to the reliable statistics gathered by Islamabad-based think thanks, Pakistan lost around 286 security personnel and more than hundred attacks occurred over the last two months. The most recent tragedy took place nearly a month before when the banned militants, eventually, captured the Counter Terrorism Department in Bannu. In contrary to this turnaround, it raised a question mark against the efforts undertaken by state military.
Furthermore, Pakistan’s military has been fighting the TTP in the areas bordering Afghanistan since 2007-8, but the prevailing violent tactics are far different from that of the past ones because of the long nexus between the successive Afghan Taliban and Pakistani Taliban. Although, Islamabad believes that TTP top commanders have found a safe haven inside Afghanistan. This widely suggests that the tensions between Islamabad and the Taliban in Kabul were created as a result of the TTP sanctuaries in Afghanistan. Afghan Taliban, after the withdrawal of the US, gradually started violating the agreement (i.e., not to use the Afghan’s soil against any sovereign state) signed in Doha.
On the other hand, it is also true that Afghan Taliban are too fearful if they launch any decisive crackdown against the militants (TTP) could, in return, lead them to join ISIS to further destabilize the Taliban rule. This could be the greatest challenge for the Kabul to deal with and this could push Afghanistan to another civil war combined with a grater blow for the very survival of Pakistan. Keeping all these uncertainties in mind, Islamabad, however, has also made some strategic mistakes by glorifying the triumph of Afghan Taliban over the superpower US, and increasingly calling upon the inevitable arrival of Taliban’s regime in Kabul a boon for Pakistan to meet the banned TTP challenge effectively. After the Taliban assumed power, it shortly proved to be fruitless despite their cooperative approach. They shockingly turned their aggressive behavior against Pakistan. As it is rightly justified by Mr. Hussain Haqqani that Pakistan is reaping what it had sowed. Apart from this, there does exist the Indian factor which backs both TTP and particularly the Baloch separatists operating against the writ of the state by taking advantages from the soil of Afghanistan to undermine the peace process and the ongoing infrastructure development projects working under the CPEC managing authority.
In the light of above discussion, the conclusion reflects that it is high time for both civilian and the military leadership to respond the pressing issue more responsibly by taking up the tools of negotiations with Tehreek-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan to resolve the issue of militancy for good. It is also pertinent to mention that by escalating war tactics with TTP could be multi-consequential for the state machinery. Therefore, Pakistan should not miss the opportunity to strengthen the talks initiatives for the internal peace and order. Let’s create a peaceful Pakistan. As mentioned above, the internal security rift gave us wars, distractions, enmity, hatred, severe poverty and pushed us far behind in the realm of science & technology. At last, I question that – “Could war ever be the source of conflict management?”
The writer is an independent researcher. His area of expertise are Defense & Strategic Studies and Conflict Management. He can be reached at [email protected]