Thursday June 01, 2023

Rising militancy

By Editorial Board
August 12, 2022

The recent reports coming in from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa about the regrouping and rise of the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Swat are alarming. More than 80,000 lives have been lost at the hands of the TTP terrorists and a long battle spanning over a decade was successfully fought to get rid of them by our security forces. KP and former Fata have seen the worst violence in recent decades at the hands of the TTP. It was only after the APS attack in 2014 that a proper political consensus was built around a military operation to eliminate terrorist networks. All that effort is in danger of slipping away. Security personnel have been attacked, more lives have been lost, negotiations with the TTP were started, then went off the rails and then back – all since the Afghan Taliban took over government in Afghanistan. Ever since the Afghan Taliban overran Afghanistan in August 2021, there had been apprehensions in Pakistan about its possible fallout here. Turns out that those apprehensions were not entirely misplaced. Recently, TTP commander Omar Khalid Khorasani and two others were killed in a roadside bomb attack in Afghanistan. There are several versions related to the details of the attack and it is not yet clear who carried out the targeted attack. But what is clear is that the TTP is regaining strength.

In a case of unwelcome deja-vu, the people of (former) Fata and other parts of KP are once again experiencing the fear of rising militancy. With a fast deteriorating law and order situation, there have been anti-militancy protests in parts of a province that has already seen too many of its own targeted by terror. It is also worrying that the PTI government in KP is blaming the federal government for the rise of the TTP in Swat and adjoining areas. Provincial governments are essentially responsible for the law and order situation in their administrative areas and the PTI has been in power in the province since 2013, not to mention the fact that the PTI was also in power at the centre when the negotiations started with the TTP last year. This was done without taking parliament into confidence. The past year or so also saw unfortunate attempts to somehow paint the Afghan Taliban as heroes and the TTP as a bunch of 'angry young men' who could just be converted back into accepting constitutional rule in the country. While locals in places such as Dir and Swat are witnessing an increased movement of the militants, they also fear reprisals in case they raise a voice against the rising militancy.

What is needed is a strong political consensus on negotiations with the TTP. Serious questions also await answers: why did Pakistan agree to these negotiations when the TTP was in a weak position? How many TTP members have laid down arms? Is the TTP willing to obey Pakistan’s constitution or is it just buying time to regroup as it has done in the past? From Nek Mohammad to several other deals, we have seen how the TTP has not abided by any agreements in the past. It is important for Pakistan to now set some ground rules and then approach any such negotiations. With a political and economic crisis on the one hand and the hydra of terrorism rearing its head again on the other, any attemps atdealing with the TTP must be formed via consensus and a well-thought-out plan. Pakistan cannot afford such a security nightmare at this time.