TTP’s Reemergence Coincides With The Coming Together Of Pakistan’s Opposition Parties
Last month, Pakistan saw the resurgence of terrorist attacks in different cities. The first major incident happened in Karachi on October 21, when five people were killed in a building blast. However, the police did not identify the immediate cause. In another blast, three perished in Quetta, on the same day when opposition parties were staging a rally in the city. However, the site of the blast was around 40 minutes away from Ayub Stadium, where the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) was holding their power show against the government.
According to the police, the blast was caused by an improvised explosion device (IED), which was attached to a motorbike. In another blast in the Hazarganji region of Balochistan, three people died, while several were wounded. The IED in the blast was also strapped to a motorbike.
The deadliest blast in the recent militant attack was in an Islamic seminary in Peshawar, where eight children were killed, while over 110 were injured. The blast occurred during a lecture. This was the biggest blast in the city of Peshawar for years. Since the launch of Operation Zarb-e Azb in 2014, the militancy has reduced significantly in Pakistan. But recent attacks show that the militants are coming back, slowly.
Interestingly, the blasts started right after the allied opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) started rallies against the government across the country. In its warning, the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), on October 23, issued a threat alert for Peshawar and Quetta. According to NACTA, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was planning terrorist activities in two cities. The warning was issued days before the PDM rallies took place in these two cities.
According to some media reports, NACTA stated that TTP could target PDM’s rally in Quetta. “Reportedly, the terrorist plan includes the assassination of high-profile political personalities through a well-articulated bomb blast/suicide bombing in near future,” NACTA said in a letter written to security agencies.
However, PDM went with the Quetta rally, despite the threats. Meanwhile, another rally in Peshawar was scheduled for November 22. “The PDM should reconsider its Peshawar rally in view of the potential threat of terrorism,” the provincial minister Shaukat Yousafzai said. The government has formally banned political gatherings owing to the rise of the second wave of covid-19.
Meanwhile, another major development with regard to these incidents is the launch of intra-Afghan talks between the Taliban and Kabul administration on September 12 in Doha. Talking on the occasion, Kabul administration team’s head Abdullah Abdullah said: “We come here with good intentions to find a peaceful way to end the 40-year-long war in Afghanistan and a political settlement as our people suffered a lot.”
The long-awaited talks are surely a major political and security development in the region. Pakistan has been an integral part of this whole process as US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban have paid a number of visits to Pakistan, for the talks. Furthermore, Abdullah Abdullah also paid a visit to Pakistan recently. Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan chief and former militant commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar also visited Pakistan to discuss the Afghan peace process. The former militant also has a vital role in the ongoing peace process.
Experts underline that these developments show that the Taliban and Kabul are finally ready to settle their disputes, which is also good news for Pakistan. However, it is not for TTP, as its top leadership fled to Afghanistan after a military operation post-2014. Observers say there is a huge possibility that the TTP sneaks back into Pakistan after the final phase of the Afghan peace process begins because the Taliban have historically had cordial ties with Pakistan and they have taken over considerable territory in Afghanistan. It is possible that TTP feels that the ground for them in Afghanistan is getting narrower, hence, the return to Pakistan.
Although not reported in the mainstream media in Pakistan, there are reports that TTP is making a comeback in Pakistan. According to an online news outlet Gandhara.org, TTP has resurged in parts of the Malakand Division, a region near the Afghan border and an administrative region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). According to the reports, in parts of Lower Dir, one of nine Malakand districts’ residents are living in fear as masked men, in groups of eight or nine, patrol at night.
“Some villagers say they are thieves and robbers, while others say they are Taliban fighters,” one of the residents of Lal Kala Village says. A school teacher was shot dead on October 1 by unidentified killers. Furthermore, the locals told the media outlet, that businessmen and politicians have started to flee Lower Dir, after receiving threats from the Taliban.
“The Taliban have sent a letter to ruling party PTI leader Abdullah Shah for ‘negotiations’, then they fire rockets at his resident, hence, he left the area for Peshawar,” residents stated.
The local residents have expressed disappointment, stating that they don’t know how these armed men managed to enter Pakistan despite all security measures, including fencing of the Afghan border.
Commenting on these incidents, a deputy inspector general of police in Malakand Division, Ijaz Khan said that police have prepared a plan to stop the “miscreants” from disturbing the peace.
Experts say that whether it was to stop the PDM rallies, a result of the Afghan peace process, or the reemergence of Taliban in Lower Dir, terrorists are making a comeback in Pakistan. The positive aspect is that it is in the early stages, and can be controlled; however, the flipside is that there is no news in mainstream media over the resurgence of militants in northern parts of the country.
The writer is a Lahore-based journalist