How inconsistent policies helped TTP gain strength in Pakistan

Once again, Monday’s attack in Peshawar raised fears of terrorism trend rising across the country, while the announcements of meeting of National Security Committee (NSC) appear devoid of firmness.

Pakistan has seen a gradual rise in terrorism in Pakistan over the last three years. There is 28 percent increase in the incidents of terrorism in 2022 as compared to 2021. According to a recent report of Pakistan Institute of Conflict and Security Studies, over 300 incidents of terrorism happened in the country for the first time in a year after 2017. This is serious as security experts had also also been expressing their concern about the possibility of increase in terrorism this year. All these incidents become all the more critical at a time when the country is facing political and financial challenges.

The country is witnessing politics even on issues including terrorism. Former prime minister Imran Khan admits that his government wanted resettlement of Taliban under a dialogue with banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), but the present government and establishment ignored the situation. Hence, Imran Khan believes, country is facing surge in terrorism. The sitting government accuses the previous government (Imran Khan’s) of importing terrorism into the country.

Terrorism had taken place in Pakistan before 9/11 incident in the US and it was on its peak during General Musharraf’s tenure up to 2008. Country had to face terrorism on daily basis until 2013 despite dialogues and operations. However, there was decline in these incidents after 2014 till 2020 and people of Pakistan saw a peaceful time. With increase in terrorism since 2021, the country is witnessing a situation like that of 2014.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) carried out terrorist attack on Army Public School in Peshawar in 2014 and martyred 122 innocent students and 22 teachers. This incident gave a direction to the confused policy of Pakistan that it should carry out quick and effective action against terrorists. All stakeholder of Pakistan united and the state evolved a Zero-tolerance policy towards terrorism, resulting in conspicuous decline in the incidents of terrorism.

According to a report of Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies published in 2015, there was visible decline in terrorism in 2015 after the implementation of National Action Plan (NAP). While 600 incidents of terrorism were noted in 2014 across the country, there was substantial decline in these incidents after military operations.

It was the biggest decline in terrorism since 2007. Similarly, terrorist incidents declined in 2016 and 441 terror incidents were reported. Though terrorist incidents were declining, terrorism could not be eliminated. In 2017, terror incidents further declined.

According to a report of Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies, 370 terror incidents were reported in 64 districts during 2017, 262 in 2018, while 229 in 2019.

The year 2020 saw 146 terrorist incidents, but in 2021, terrorism trend began to rise. This was the year when the US started pulling out from Afghanistan and the government of Pakistan preparing ground for talks with proscribed TTP. Pakistan hoped that the Afghan government of Taliban would not allow its soil to be used for terrorism inside Pakistan because Pakistan had played an important role of mediation in withdrawal of the US and Nato forces from Afghanistan and in Doha negotiations.

The then prime minister Imran Khan was happy with the Taliban government in Afghanistan and he used to make reference of Taliban government in Afghanistan in his speeches as he used to tell the people that the Taliban had defeated the US and Nato forces and they had broken the shackles of slavery.

The Imran Khan government was hailing the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan and welcoming the Taliban coming into power in the neighbouring country. At that time, TTP chief Noor Wali was found telling CNN in an interview that the victory of Afghan Taliban was success of Muslim Ummah.

Imran Khan has also admitted that his government was negotiating for resettlement of the TTP people. Last month in a seminar, Imran said that Afghan Taliban asked the Pakistani Taliban to go back after they captured Kabul. “And that was an opportunity for us, and my government was already talking to them so that 40,000 people could be mainstreamed. But after my government’s fall, the new set-up and the military establishment did not pay heed to it. It’s the reason we are observing a new wave of terrorism,” Imran Khan maintained.

The former Prime minister said that now the TTP people have entered Pakistan and Afghan Taliban say their land is not being used for attacks against Pakistan. He added that now attacks were taking place from inside the country, but Pakistan blames that Afghan soil was being used for attacks.

It is noteworthy that with the conquest of Taliban in Afghanistan, the threats of terrorist attacks by the TTP were felt. And instead of dealing with it, the rulers of that time focused on talks with the TTP.

When the talks failed, the aftereffect came to the fore. The PTI government is passing the buck on regime change. The incidents of terrorism is linked to the change of government in Afghanistan while prior to that, the terrorism was related to the strong presence of the TTP in Pakistan.

It did not happen over a year, as the trend of terror attacks was on the rise in the start of 2020-2021. Not only the TTP but also the Islamic State (IS) were carrying out terrorist activities in Pakistan, and with that Balochistan’s militant groups also activated themselves.

In January 2021 in Mach area of Balochistan 11 Hazara people were abducted and shot dead. Its responsibility was claimed by the IS or Daesh and such incidents started growing. As the Afghan Taliban were closing in on Kabul during August 2021, the TTP was gaining strength in Pakistan. Polio workers and police officials were being attacked and the TTP was claiming responsibility.

When Afghan Taliban took control of Kabul in August 15, 2021, Pakistan claimed that the new government was friendly. Then prime minister Imran Khan said that Afghanistan has broken the shackles of slavery.

As the Afghan Taliban settled in Kabul there were reports that Pakistan government was holding talks with the TTP and Afghan government was acting as mediator. This initiative was criticized, the media raised questions, and the opposition insisted that Parliament should be taken into confidence.

In October 2021, Imran Khan formally announced that talks were being held with the TTP and he did not believe in a military solution, adding that if TTP group lay arms they would be pardoned and can live like a common citizens.

In November 2021, the government and TTP had a ceasefire accord, and under that agreement Imran Khan government released around 100 TTP officials under a ‘goodwill’ gesture. The establishment of that time and the government were on same page at that time and Imran used to take complete ownership of the agreement.

The opposition, on the other hand, kept expressing concerns on the development. After in-camera briefing to the National Security Committee of the Parliament by the establishment, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that without the nod of Parliament such negotiations would have no legal status. Regarding it, the Sindh Assembly also passed a resolution on November 20, 2021.

However the ceasefire could last only for a month, and in December 9, 2021, the TTP spokesperson announced to unilaterally end the truce. Once again the incidents of terrorism started rising.

The TTP was establishing itself in Pakistan amid talks and continued their terrorist activities in Pakistan while visiting erstwhile Fata area. Data on their activities is surprising.

Compared with the previous years, there were more incidents of terrorism in 2021 when the government entered into negotiations with the TTP and the Taliban were in power in Afghanistan.

According to the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS), Pakistan suffered 207 incidents of terrorism in 2021, which were 42 percent up the incidents of 2020. In these incidents, 335 people lost their lives, which were 52 percent up the casualties in 2020.

The banned TTP, Daesh Khorasan and the local groups of Taliban were responsible for 128 incidents of terrorism in which 236 people lost their lives. In 2020, 95 incidents of terrorism took place. Thus an increasing trend was seen in the incidents of terrorism in 2021. There were negotiations, ceasefires amid attacks.

Meantime, Daesh and the banned militant outfits became active in Pakistan. There were incidents of terrorism in different cities of Pakistan in January 2022 and a continuous increase was seen in their incidence.

On Jan 18, 2022, a police official was killed and two others were injured in an incident of firing in Islamabad. On January 20, three persons lost their life and 33 were injured in an incident of terrorism in Anarkali Bazaar of Lahore. The banned militant outfit Balochistan Nationalist Army claimed responsibility for the attack.

The TTP has claimed responsibility for seven incidents of terrorism that took place between Jan 17 and Jan 20 in Pakistan.

As though it was not enough, Pakistan faced the increased risk of attacks by Daesh Khorasan, and the IGP Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Moazzam Ansari declared it the biggest threat.

Fifty-seven people were killed and over 200 injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up during prayers at a Shia mosque in Peshawar in March 2022. It was the biggest incident of terrorism in Pakistan after which Imran Khan government was ousted and Shehbaz Sharif government came into power.

In June 2022, the TTP again ceased fire with Pakistan and it was formally approved by the Parliamentary Committee on National Security. It was also announced that a parliamentary oversight panel will be constituted that will make sure that the negotiations were being held within the confines of the constitution of Pakistan. However, the TTP revoked the ceasefire in November 2022 and announced to resume attacks countrywide.

Sixty percent increase was witnessed in incidents of terrorism in 2022 compared with the incidents that took place in 2021.

According to the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies, there was a constant increase in the incidents of terrorism in 2022. During the year 2022, 262 incidents of terrorism, including 14 suicide bombings, took place in Pakistan.

During the year, the TTP and its attached wings conducted 179 incidents of terrorism in which 250 people were martyred and 262 injured. Majority of the martyrs were the law-enforcement agencies’ personnel.

This means, the terror trend that started with the strengthening of the Taliban in Afghanistan and formation of their government continued to gather force.

According to a report furnished with the Nacta, the PTI government’s negotiations with the TTP encouraged the terror outfit but Imran Khan is still pointing a finger at the current government. Previously, the federal government blamed the PTI government in KP for the increase in incidents of terrorism. In both scenarios, the state of Pakistan is failing causing Pakistan to suffer.

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