NationalVOLUME 18 ISSUE # 06

TTP on the rampage again

The largest terrorist network of the country, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), has been on the rampage since it ended a ceasefire in November, killing dozens of police officials in attacks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces and even extending its activities to the federal capital. There are certain key features of the new wave of terror by the TTP which must be quite concerning for law enforcement agencies as well as the general public.

The most important feature of the new wave of terrorism from the TTP is that the group has regrouped very strongly. It had entered into an indefinite ceasefire with the Pakistani government in June this year. However, the end of hostilities between the Pakistan government and the militants had not been perfect and there were violations of it and each side blaming the other. However, the TTP has taken the fullest advantage of the time it gained during the ceasefire to regroup and replenish its ranks and come up with a new strategy. The way the terrorists in the Counterterrorism Centre, Bannu, took hostage the security personnel for days speaks volumes about the new daredevil strategy of the group. Moreover, the manner in which the TTP head, Noor Wali Mehsud, exhorted his men in Bannu to fight the Pakistan security forces personnel suggests that the group is now going for an all-out attack on the Pakistani security personnel. During the Bannu hostage crisis, Mehsud messaged his men in these words: “I congratulate you for carrying out this sacred act. I instruct you not to surrender to these “infidels and apostates” under any circumstances.”

It means that the taking over the Bannu centre although for a while by the TTP was a well-planned strategy to free its men. However, the Pakistan security forces valiantly wrested control of the centre and more importantly with least casualties among the hostages and killed at least 25 terrorists. The operation by Pakistan Special Services Group (SSG) commandos backed by the regular army and police personnel is another feather in the cap of the Pakistani forces’ successful anti-terrorism war. Therefore, all praise for the valiant officers and soldiers who conducted the operation in Bannu.

But the most concerning aspect of the Bannu incident is the statement of Noor Wali Mehsud in which he has termed the Pakistan security forces “infidels” and “apostates.” It is unfortunate that someone is using the name of Islam calling other Muslims, who are indeed waging Jihad against terrorists with such titles. The common Pakistanis know the religious credentials of the terrorists but the point of danger is that such words foment more and more extremist attitudes among the files of the terrorists by their top commanders. It will foreclose any prospects of further talks or a new round of peace talks with the TTP by Pakistani authorities because talks can only be held when there is some flexibility in the posture of a side. The TTP, on the contrary, has assumed a more radical stance.

Importantly, the TTP has been able to strongly regroup with the support of the Afghan Taliban while having bases in Afghanistan. It is important to note that 0when the Afghan Taliban had captured Kabul on August 15, 2021, they freed thousands of TTP fighters incarcerated in Afghan jails for their long-standing support to their fight against US and NATO forces as well as now disbanded the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). Since then the Afghan Taliban have been consistently prodding Pakistan to hold peace talks with the TTP. The Afghan Taliban regime has taken the stance that if the TTP remains at war with Pakistan, then there are strong chances that it would forge an alliance with the Afghanistan-based non-state Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) group, which would be an extremely dangerous scenario for both Afghanistan and its Taliban regime and Pakistan. However, it is now an open secret that the Afghan Taliban has used the TTP-IS-K alliance as a pretext to help out its TTP brethren in arms. The situation has come at the altar of Pakistan, because, as mentioned earlier, the TTP has used the time and support from the Afghan Taliban to regroup and make a strong comeback with another wave of terror in Pakistan.

Although the Taliban regime of Afghanistan has been denying that the TTP is based in Afghanistan, it is a well-known fact that the group is almost entirely based in the neighbouring country. This is not good at all for relations between Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban. The Afghan Taliban, since their emergence in 1994 to capturing power for the first time in Afghanistan in 1996 at the force of arms to their ouster by US-NATO forces in 2001 and a two-decade long insurgency against the occupying US-NATO forces to their capturing power for the second time in 2021, got moral, material and diplomatic support from Pakistan. However, since coming to power they have assumed a vehement anti-Pakistan posture and even refused to recognize the international border between the two states as permanent and final and vowed to remove the barbed wire fence set up by Pakistan spending millions of dollars on it. It teaches us a lesson that a non-state militia which does not believe in democracy or legitimacy by the people shall not be supported by a state in another state as the assistance would to all probability boomerang.

A very important aspect of the new wave of terror is that it has particularly targeted police officials in KP, particularly in Lakki Marwat, Tank, Bannu, D.I. Khan and North and South Waziristan districts. Reportedly, the TTP has threatened police officials in Lakki Marwat district to leave their jobs or else face consequences in the shape of attacks. The group is attempting to demoralize the police force and the attacks on police officials suggest it. However, hats off to KP police officials, who for 15 years have valiantly fought terrorists and neutralized them despite facing beheadings, suicide attacks and attacks on family members.

It now appears that the TTP will try to become more deadly and in the short-run there may be a great spike in attacks from the group. However, this would be a push to put the state on the defensive. It remains to be seen how the state negotiates the threat.