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Resurgence Of Tehreek-E-Taliban Pakistan And Rawalpindi’s Meek Response – OpEd

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While the armed forces are extremely sensitive about matters concerning national security no matter how insignificant they may appear to be, it’s usually the politicians, who purely for purposes of political expediency, are the ones that often downplay even the most serious national threats. 

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But in Pakistan, just the opposite seems to be happening, 

On the one hand, Pakistan’s Defence Minister Khawaja Asif has himself accepted in National Assembly that public sentiments against increasing presence of proscribed terrorist group Tehreek-e-Taliban [TTP] fighters in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa [KP] province are running high due to which the situation is getting worse across KP.”  

However, Pakistan army’s media wing Inter Services Public Relations [ISPR] is convinced that claims regarding “presence of large numbers of proscribed organisation TTP’s armed members in Swat Valley” are both “grossly exaggerated and misleading.” Since ISPR has asserted that its assessment is derived after “confirmation on ground,” logically speaking, there should be no reason to doubt the same. 

However, if ISPR’s claim is indeed true, then what explains the ongoing month-long public protests by the people of North Waziristan demanding peace and protection? 

Furthermore, by admitting that “presence of small number of armed men on few mountain tops between Swat and Dir has been observed, located far away from population,” isn’t ISPR contradicting itself? Or is it that for Rawalpindi, it’s fine with armed men occupying mountaintops inside Pakistan- as long as their numbers are small, and they are located far away from the population?

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Similarly, ISPR’s avowal in the same press release asserting that “presence of militants anywhere will not be tolerated, and they will be dealt with full use of force, if required,” is equally perplexing on two counts. One, when it has itself acknowledged presence of “armed men” in KP, then why is it tolerating them? 

Two, why add the laughable caveat about using force, “if required”- after all, do terrorists understand any other language? Most importantly, if ISPR’s affirmation that “required measures are in place by all LEAs [law enforcement agencies] for the safety and security of people of adjoining areas” is correct, then why are people of KP protesting against the burgeoning TTP menace?

The fact of the matter is that Pakistan army’s hesitation in taking a tough stand against TTP is primarily due to the fear of derailing its ongoing attempt to broker a peace deal with this terrorist group responsible for the 2014 Army Public School [APS] Peshawar massacre. 

The harsh reality is that despite its much-hyped claim of ‘zero tolerance’ for terrorism and the solemn pledge to bring perpetrators of the APS carnage to book, Rawalpindi is so desperate to pacify TTP that it has conveniently turned a blind eye to the unconditional release of TTP fighters jailed in Pakistan for participating in attacks in which several of its rank and file and innocent civilians have been killed. 

Pakistan army’s near-complete submission to TTP has also exposed its brazen lie of this terrorist group being the creation of Indian spy agency RAW for “whipping up terrorism” in Pakistan and was fully supported by the Ashraf Ghani government. 

More than one year has elapsed since the fall of the so-called ‘pro-New Delhi’ government in Kabul and closure of all Indian facilities in Afghanistan, which according to Rawalpindi was teeming with RAW agents. But instead of the TTP withering away due to the abrupt exit of its benefactors from the scene, this alleged ‘Indian proxy’ purportedly being supported by Afghanistan’s previous regime rebounded with such unprecedented fury that Pakistan’s mighty army has been brought down on its knees by being forced to negotiate. 

TTP’s prowess can be gauged from the fact that the November 2021 unilateral ceasefire was both announced and subsequently called-off by TTP and not the Pakistan army. Furthermore, while Islamabad has released TTP terrorists, this terrorist group hasn’t ceased its attacks on security forces, LEAs and civilians!

Seeing its pathetic plight, one would have liked to sympathise with Rawalpindi. However, the current sorry state of affairs is the bitter [but expected] harvest of its perverse ‘strategic asset’ policy that entailed nurturing and providing safe sanctuaries to internationally proscribed terrorist groups like Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network. So, Rawalpindi has no one but itself!

Rawalpindi was under the magnificent delusion that since it was helping these entities achieve their debased objectives, its proteges would repay their benefactor with unconditional gratitude and implicit obedience. Perhaps it never heard [or realised the profound import] of Warren Buffet’s famous quote – “You can’t make a good deal with a bad person”! 

In fact, so strong was its faith in its proteges that neither Islamabad nor Rawalpindi paid any heed, when way back in 2011, the then US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton cautioned Pakistan about the perils of keeping snakes in the backyard, expecting them to only bite neighbours, and even warned that such ‘snakes’ would ultimately bite those rearing them. 

Just a decade later, and Ms Clinton’s prognosis came true.  

After seizing power, the Afghan Taliban not only outrightly rejected Rawalpindi’s request for custody of TTP fighters jailed by the previous government, but went and unconditionally released at least 2,300 TTP terrorists. This included TTP’s former deputy chief Maulvi Faqir Mohammad, who was responsible for masterminding some of the bloodiest attacks against Pakistani security forces. 

Some perceive this a brazen act of betrayal and ungratefulness on the part of Taliban, which had for a decade enjoyed Rawalpindi’s refuge and protection. However, there are many who opine that since Rawalpindi had similarly disregarded its ‘war on terror’ allyWashington’s repeated requests to act against Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network during its ongoing, by [in former US President Donald Trump’s words] providing “safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan,” Pakistan army  rightly deserved the Taliban’s rebuff. 

Pakistan sympathisers also maintain that that by refusing to act against TTP, the Taliban regime in Afghanistan has gone back on its promise not to allow terrorist groups use of its soil for attacking other countries or as safe sanctuaries. However, by clarifying that “It is dependent upon Pakistan, and Pakistani ulema, not the Taliban, to decide whether or not the TTP’s war is legitimate, and to formulate a strategy in response,” Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid has made it amply clear that just like Pakistan didn’t consider that Afghan Taliban was a terrorist organisation, the present Taliban regime in Kabul doesn’t consider TTP to be terrorist group! 

Looks like Rawalpindi’s bad ‘karma’ has finally returned to haunt it!

Nilesh Kunwar

Nilesh Kunwar is a retired Indian Army Officer who has served in Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, Nagaland and Manipur. He is a ‘Kashmir-Watcher,’ and now after retirement is pursuing his favorite hobby of writing for newspapers, journals and think tanks.

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