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Have Taliban Reemerged In Former FATA?

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Talimand Khan assesses the fresh wave of terrorism in erstwhile FATA and KP, policies of the state and the implications of the recent terror attacks.

The newly-merged districts of former FATA are once again being pushed into violence and chaos in a fresh wave of militancy. Waziristan has been in the grip of interminable targeted killings, abduction enforced disappearances, particularly for the last two years. It started when the terrorists, whom we have viewed as ‘good Taliban’, re-grouped and reemerged in the region. The main target of this group so far are the members and activists of Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) which has been critical of the state’s policies vis-à-vis war-on-terror.

However, gradually and subtly, the unrest has expanded to other districts like Khyber and Kurrum. On July 23, a blast took place in Parachinar that wounded 15 civilians. On July 21, two unknown target killers opened fire at Advocate Fazal Khan’s car in Peshawar, but he survived miraculously. Fazal Khan is the father of an APS victim. He is associated with the PTM as well as APS Martyrs Forum. Similarly, Swat witnessed four cases of targeted killings between December 2019 and March 2020.

Some political activists and members of the law enforcement apparatus had formed Village Defence Committees (VDCs). These members of the now defunct local bodies received alert calls from the security agencies that a group of Taliban had entered Swat. In April, an ex-tehsil councilor, on condition of anonymity, expressed the concern that the agencies merely informed the locals of the threat and asked them to be careful. “But how and for how long should we be careful? Shall we confine ourselves within the four walls of the house?”, he asked me. On the same day when I cross-checked this information after speaking to a local journalist, he confirmed its veracity but expressed his inability to report the development because neither anybody was willing to be quoted nor the authorities ‘like’ such reports.

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According to some reports, Taliban are actively regrouping in ex-FATA while causing a wave of fear in other regions of the Pakhtun belt through targeted killings or threatening messages to the locals.

This means that there is a long way to go in eradicating terrorism. And this time the reemergence of this hydra cannot be justified under the garb of national security.

The contours of international politics changed after 9/11. But nearly two decades later, regional realignments are taking new shapes. On July 13, daily Dawn reported about China and Iran economic and security partnership that includes $400 billion Chinese investment in Iran over 25 years. “The United States and five Central Asian countries have pledged to build economic and trade ties that would connect Central Asia to markets in South Asia and Europe”, it said.

Many commentators see this as the emergence of a new ‘Cold War’ where Pakistan might be forced to pick a position. Besides, once again the ‘selected’ government is crumbling, leaving the powers-that-be with no alternative at the moment.

But responding to this complex situation by employing the old script is likely to rock the boat. This time it would be hard to sell the old wine in the new bottle, even within the country. Whatever happened in Parachinar in the aftermath of the recent terror attack should be taken as a wake-up call. People who have long been the victims of terror no longer look towards any traditional political party or leader to assist them. On the contrary, they now take their own decisions as a response to violence.

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This time the political parties, particularly PPP and PML-N, should not repeat the mistakes of the past and refrain from making compromises for petty gains; otherwise they might face redundancy as well as the people’s wrath.

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