Menace of terrorism in AfPak region

Recently, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Syed Asim Munir has said that the Armed Forces of Pakistan had serious concerns on the safe havens and liberty of action available to the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Afghanistan. The Army Chief made these remarks in the context of Zhob terrorist attack during which several soldiers got martyrom and a few others get injured during a terrorist attack on a military installation .

The COAS expressed hope that the interim Afghan Government will not allow the use of its soil to perpetrate terror against any country, in the real sense and in line with commitments made in Doha Agreement. According to him, the involvement of Afghan nationals in acts of terrorism in Pakistan was another important concern that needed to be addressed. The Army Chief declared that such attacks are intolerable and will elicit an effective response from the Security Forces of Pakistan.

Pak Army Commander Inchief observed that military operations against terrorists would continue unabated and the Armed Forces would not rest till the menace of terrorism was rooted out from the country.

There had been a sharp uptick in terrorist activities by the proscribed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) after the banned outfit called off ceasefire in November last year and resumed its terrorist activities against the state of Pakistan in most parts of the country particularly in Erstwhile FATA and Balochistan. The senior commander and the reins of the banned group took refuged to neighbouring Afghanistan during the successful Counter Terrorism operations of Pakistani Security Forces during 2015-2016. The banned group currently camped inside Afghanistan and wage a war against Pakistani state institutions in the recent months.

Meanwhile, the bilateral relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan suffered a brief setback over the issue of terrorism stems out of border regions of neighboring Afghanistan. The Pakistani authorities had urged Kabul to eliminate terrorist safe havens and take action against the banned terror outfits camped and operate out of Afghanistan. However, Afghan interim authorities displayed hesitation in taking stern action against their ideological brothern and came up with multiple plans to facilitate the TTP, which includes previously fractured peace deal between the TTP and Islamabad, and recent offer for settlement of TTP fighters in Northern Afghanistan with monetary assistance from Pakistan.

Presently, the TTP has become a thorny issue between Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban. Despite efforts, the two sides could not find a common ground to deal with the issue. After continuous bilateral engagement through diplomatic channel, the recent China-Pakistan and Afghanistan trilateral Summit urged Afghan interim rulers to remove terror safe havens and do not allow terrorist groups to use it’s soil for cross border attacks against other nations. Although, Afghan authorities agreed to uphold their commitments under Doha agreement and Islamabad Summit, but failed to take any appropriate action against TTP miscreants staying in their country.

Meanwhile, a Taliban spokesperson has recently claimed that the interim government was not allowing its soil to be used against any country and that TTP was a problem of Pakistan to deal with, that further disappointed Islamabad in this regard.

Presently, the bilateral relations between Islamabad and Kabul are at the record low because of terrorism issue. Recently, the TTP has demanded the Pakistan government to reverse FATA merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, so it can establish Afghanistan style Khalafit in tribal area. This situation rang the bell in the policy making circles in Islamabad and recent statement by the Army Chief clearly illustrates frustration on part of Pakistan due to the lack of cooperation from the Afghan Taliban to tackle the TTP threat. Constitutionally, the TTP and Pakistan can’t go hand in hand as TTP agenda is totally opposite of the Constitution and fundamental essence of state of Pakistan, meanwhile, tolerating terrorism undermines negational Soverigenity of Pakistan. Historically, Pakistani leaders had always advocated on behalf of Afghan authorities at all global forums out of love for Taliban, but Kabul recent attitude over terror issue has trashed the hopes and unreal fascination of Pakistani Strategists about Taliban, who always enjoyed a close association with Islamabad.

The current scenario, present a grim situation of the entire AfPak region where several multilateral regional connectivity, and energy projects and transnational cooperation marred by the issue of terrorism. The people of the region had suffered utmost from unceasing hostilities and this movement of cooperation and mutual benefits had been visualized after countless sacrifices and a long journey that must not be lost for unrealistic agenda, that would not only have unbearable cost for it’s propellers but will surely destroy the peace of the region. At the same time, the Pushtun nation would be the biggest loser in case of any Pak-Afghan conflict because Pushtuns live on both sides of durand line and linked with close historic bonds.

Interestingly, New Delhi and Washington had worked tirelessly over the past two decades to create such situation between Pakistan and Taliban but failed, that has been created by some insane individuals from both sides of Durand line. In fact, both parties must not fall prey to the conspiracies of their common foe and demonstrate passion and wisdom to resolve their issues amicably. However, the Taliban regime must take initiative to clear doubts and reset it’s relationship with Islamabad so both nations move toward peace, greater cooperation and shared growth in the future.