The banned TTP has again challenged the writ of the state of Pakistan at a time when the country is facing a serious economic crisis, political instability and damages to property worth $30 billion caused by the floods. The TTP unilaterally declared an end to the ceasefire agreement with the state of Pakistan and directed its militant to carry out attacks.
The Pakistani Taliban first came into the limelight towards the end of 2005 when a group in North Waziristan killed militants of another group and hanged their headless bodies and called themselves the Pakistani Taliban. That was the time when there were different self-claimed Jihadi groups who rose to power and destroyed the tribal structure. In 2007, Al-Qaeda got different so called Jihadi groups united under the banner of TTP. It was Al-Qaeda which financed, organized and equipped the TTP under its ideological banner. Soon, the influence of TTP spread across entire erstwhile FATA and the Pukhtoon belt of Balochistan. In January 2008, the TTP under Baitullah Mehsud declared war on Pakistan, and at the same time in order to get recognition from the Afghan Taliban, thousands of Pakistani Taliban were sent as reinforcements to Afghanistan.
Despite a fatwa from Mullah Omar to not fight the state of Pakistan, the TTP did not pay a heed to it. In 2004, the US introduced the drone attacks in erstwhile FATA and killed hundreds of innocent people. Thus, Pakistan became a victim of terrorist attacks carried out by terrorists who took refuge in erstwhile FATA. The Pakistani army launched the first major operation, Al-Mizan, against terrorists from 2002 to 2006. At the same time, the government of Pakistan signed different peace agreements with the TTP, starting from the Shakai agreement in 2004, the Srarogha agreement in 2005, and the Swat agreement in 2009 etc. All the agreements failed as these were never honored by the TTP because talks for peace were always taken by them as a sign of weakness of the state. In June 2014, operation Zarb-e-Azb was launched in North Waziristan to clear it from terrorists. The operation was a success which cleared the region after defeating the Taliban, and those who escaped the operation fled to Afghanistan where they were provided safe heavens.
Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad was launched in February 2017 to consolidate the gains of operations across Pakistan. The operation was a continuation of the National Action Plan (NAP) which was drafted soon after the APS Peshawar attack. On August 15 2021, the Afghan Taliban took control of Kabul and declared the independence of Afghanistan. According to the media, after taking over Afghanistan, the Afghan Taliban requested the government of Pakistan to take back the TTP militants. Accordingly, talks were held between government of Pakistan and the TTP facilitated by Afghan Taliban. The TTP demands included the imposition of Sharia and the release of their militants from Pakistani jails, in addition to the reversal of the merger of Pakistan’s tribal areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. A cease fire was agreed, however talks remained inconclusive.
In December 2022, the TTP unilaterally ended the ceasefire agreement and directed its militants to carry out attacks across Pakistan. The recent surge in terrorist attacks across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa reflects their growing strength in the province and foothold in Balochistan. The TTP took full advantage of the lull period and negotiations to regroup. The recent Peshawar police lines mosque blast which martyred over 86 Police personnel has jolted Pakistan. The suicide bombing was claimed by a faction of the TTP, the Jamat-ul-Ahrar to avenge the death of its leader Omar Khorasani. The TTP is all out to kill innocent Pakistanis across the country therefore there is a requirement of an aggressive response to flush out the terrorists who have entered Pakistan from Afghanistan. The TTP now appears to be more organized and armed with sophisticated weapons left behind by the US army during their exit from Afghanistan.
The big question is who is funding and equipping the TTP inside Afghanistan? The possibility could be firstly, sympathizers of the previous government, former officials of NDS, and also by hostile agencies led by India. The options available to Pakistan are ask the Afghan Taliban to take action against the TTP and ensure that there are no more safe havens. Before undertaking an operation, the TTP must be given an ultimatum with the options to surrender to the state of Pakistan with weapons, accept the constitution of Pakistan, and agree to be law abiding citizens of Pakistan or face an operation. On refusal of these options, their hideouts inside Afghanistan and erstwhile FATA must be targeted by air, drones and artillery. Before taking any action inside Afghanistan, the Afghan Taliban must be taken on board to avoid any misunderstandings. However, at no cost should the TTP be allowed to operate from safe havens inside Afghanistan.
The terrorists with the support of their handlers are trying to damage the hard-earned peace of Pakistan. Pakistan has already paid a huge price during the war on terror as more than 85,000 Pakistanis have lost their lives. The Pukhtoons of Pakistan have sacrificed more than any other ethnic groups in Pakistan as a result of this war. If any group deserves real appreciation for their contribution right from 1947, it is the Pukhtoons.
Masud Ahmad Khan
The writer is a retired brigadier and freelance columnist. He tweets at