ISSN 2330-717X

Pakistan: TTP And Insidious Intent – Analysis

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By Sanchita Bhattacharya*

On October 20, 2021, two soldiers and two Police officers were killed when their vehicle was blown up by a roadside bomb near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, in the Bajaur District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack.

On September 30, 2021, two persons, including a Pakistan Army Captain and a TTP ‘commander’ Khawaza Din aka Sher Khan were killed during an Intelligence-Based Operation (IBO) in the Tank District of KP. According to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), after receiving information about the presence of TTP terrorists in the area, the Security Forces (SFs) were conducting an operation.

On August 29, 2021, terrorist fire from across the border in Afghanistan killed two Pakistani soldiers in the Bajaur District of KP. The TTP claimed responsibility for the attack in a Telegram message.

According to partial data collated by South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), since the Taliban ‘takeover’ of Afghanistan (August 15, 2021), the TTP has killed at least 41 persons, including 35 SF personnel and six civilians, in 21 attacks across Pakistan (data till October 24, 2021). In the preceding corresponding period, the TTP had killed only one trooper in one attack.

On the other hand, since August 15, SFs have killed 34 TTP cadres (data till October 24). In the corresponding period preceding August 15, eight TTP terrorists were killed. In the most recent incident, on October 20, 2021, three TTP terrorists were killed in a Police raid in the Shahpur area of Peshawar District in KP.

TTP-linked incidents have surged rapidly since the Taliban takeover of Kabul.

However, a revival of TTP activities has been visible since the beginning of the current year. According to a Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS) report released on October 13, 2021, TTP-linked killings, which had started to decline since 2018 and had come down to their lowest, at 140, in 2020, increased again to reach 171 in 2021. Moreover, the surge picked up momentum from July 2021. Between, July and September 2021, the group carried out 44 attacks, claiming 73 lives.

Pakistan Security Report: 2010-2020 

YearIncidents/AttacksKilling
2010223991
2011221697
20123501131
20136451157
20147311212
2015212384
2016106193
2017213604
2018171449
2019158239
202095140
Total31257197
Source: PIPS Pakistan Security Reports

Indeed, on September 24, 2021, disturbed by the worsening graph of TTP violence, Prime Minister Imran Khan asserted that Pakistan would work with the authorities in Afghanistan to halt TTP and other sources of terrorism emanating from the neighbouring country. He said Pakistan was “extremely concerned” about the threat of terrorism from Afghanistan, particularly from the TTP.

It is pertinent to recall here that, in August 2020, the TTP had reunified, absorbing its splinter factions: the Hakimullah Mehsud Group, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, and Hizb-ul-Ahrar. Likewise, the Saifullah Kurd faction of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), under the leadership of Khushi Muhammad; and the Al-Qaeda in the Indian Sub-continent (AQIS) factions of Amjad Farooqi and Ustad Ahmad Farooq, merged with TTP.

Further, in July 2020, TTP ‘chief’ Noor Wali Mehsud articulated his group’s new vision of separating the ex-FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) region, which is now merged with KP, from Pakistan through a jihadist struggle and to create a Sharia-ruled state there. TTP’s new rhetoric is consistent with the Afghan Taliban’s position of refusing to recognize the Durand Line as a legal border and opposing its fencing by Pakistan because it has divided the Pashtun tribes.

Significantly, the Doha deal of February 29, 2020, between the US and the Taliban had more or less assured the Taliban’s dominant position in Afghanistan and had emboldened the TTP, given the close ties between the two outfits. TTP had been significantly diminished over the preceding years.

In the most recent assertion of the close ties between the two outfits, on October 20, 2021, Zabihullah Mujahid, ‘spokesperson’ for the Afghan Taliban, declared in an interview, “The relationship between the TTP and the Afghan Taliban will continue to be dictated by religious-ideological convergence, ethnic-fraternal linkages and close camaraderie.” The Afghan Taliban enhances the resources and legitimacy of TTP. TTP operatives have been trained and educated at the same religious seminaries that produced the Afghan Taliban, and have been blooded in the Afghan war, fighting shoulder to shoulder with the Afghan Taliban.

Unsurprisingly, like the Taliban, the TTP is also forcing the media to toe to its line. On September 6, 2021, TTP issued a warning to the media and journalists, asking them to refrain from calling the group a ‘terrorist outfit’ or they will be treated as enemies. In a statement released by TTP on social media, its ‘spokesman’ Mohammad Khurasani declared that they were monitoring media coverage branding TTP with hateful titles like “terrorists and extremists.” “Using such terms for TTP showed a partisan role of media and journalists,” Khorasani said, adding that this was a stigma on the profession of journalism. Khurasani argued that the media used such obnoxious terms for the TTP at the behest of ‘one party,’ which had selected it for its rivals. The media should only call them by their name, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Islamabad is trying to buy peace with TTP. On September 10, 2021, President Arif Alvi suggested that the Pakistani Government could consider giving an amnesty to those members of TTP who abjured “criminal activities” and who lay down their weapons and agreed to adhere to the Pakistani Constitution. Further, on October 1, Imran Khan disclosed that his government had initiated a reconciliation process with different groups of TTP to end violence.

As expected at this juncture, TTP has shown little interested in the Government’s overtures. On October 2, TTP ‘spokesman’ Mohammad Khurasani denied media reports about TTP announcing a ceasefire: “The group’s stance is very clear and it has never declared ceasefire.” He also asked his affiliated militants to continue their activities.

As TTP flexes its muscles in Pakistan, particularly in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, the security situation of the country is threatened further. With its Sharia based agenda, the terrorist group will try to carve out a space for itself in the tribal areas. With its present approach of trying to regulate the TTP by coaxing the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistan Government can only experience disappointment and failure.

 *Sanchita Bhattacharya
Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management

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SATP

SATP, or the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) publishes the South Asia Intelligence Review, and is a product of The Institute for Conflict Management, a non-Profit Society set up in 1997 in New Delhi, and which is committed to the continuous evaluation and resolution of problems of internal security in South Asia. The Institute was set up on the initiative of, and is presently headed by, its President, Mr. K.P.S. Gill, IPS (Retd).

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