A calm and persistent warning is circulating in Pakistan’s rugged tribal areas bordering Afghanistan: the Taliban are returning.
Pakistan’s own Taliban movement, which has waged a violent campaign against the Islamabad government in previous years, is buoyed by the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan.
They seem to have been preparing to regain control of the tribal areas lost in a major operation by the Pakistan Army about seven years ago. The Pakistani Taliban is already expanding its influence. Local contractors report the surcharges imposed by the Taliban on each contract and the killings of those who disobeyed them.
For example, in early September, a contractor named Nur Islam Dawar built a small canal just a short distance from the town of Mir Ali near the Afghan border. It cost no more than $5,000. Nevertheless, the Taliban came calling, demanding their share of $1,100. According to relatives and local activists, Davar had nothing to offer and pleaded for his understanding. A week later, unidentified gunmen shot and killed him. His family blames the Taliban.
The Taliban of Pakistan, known as Tehreek-e-Taliban or TTP, is a separate organization from the Taliban of Afghanistan, although they share and are affiliated with the same fundamentalist ideology. The TTP emerged in the early 2000s and launched a campaign of bombings and other attacks, vowing to topple the Pakistani government and gain control of many tribal areas. The military action of 2010 managed to suppress it.
But even before the Afghan Taliban took Kabul on 15 August, the TTP was reorganizing into safe havens in Afghanistan.
Brian Glynn Williams said, “The astonishing success of the Afghan Taliban in defeating the American superpower has enthused the Pakistani Taliban … they now believe that they too can wage a successful jihad against the Pakistani ‘Kafir’ state and in insurgency mode.” I have returned.” Professor of Islamic History at the University of Massachusetts, who has written extensively on jihad movements.
The TTP has intensified attacks in recent months. According to the Islamabad-based Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, more than 300 Pakistanis, including 144 military personnel, have been killed in terrorist attacks since January.
Amir Rana, executive director of the Islamabad-based Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies, said the events in Afghanistan have also activated scores of radical religious parties in Pakistan.
These parties openly denounce minority Shia Muslims as heretics and sometimes bring thousands on the street to defend their fanatical interpretations of Islam. One party, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, has only one agenda: to defend a controversial blasphemy law. The law has been used against minorities and opponents and can incite mobs to kill on charges of insulting Islam.
Rana warned that already plagued by growing religiosity, Pakistani society is in danger of turning into one similar to Taliban-run Afghanistan.
A Gallup Pakistan poll released last week found that 55% of Pakistanis would support an “Islamic government”, as advocated by Afghanistan’s Taliban. Gallup surveyed 2,170 Pakistanis shortly after the Taliban takeover in Kabul.
Pakistan has been reluctant to unilaterally recognize an all-out Taliban government in Afghanistan, but is prompting the world to join forces with the new rulers. It has urged the United States to release funds to the Afghan government, while urging the Taliban to open their ranks to minorities and non-Talibans.
Pakistan’s ties with the Afghan Taliban are a source of constant anger in the US, where Republican senators have introduced a law that would sanction Islamabad for allegedly working against the US to bring the Taliban to power. The allegation has angered Pakistan, whose leaders say it was questioned and brought the Taliban to the negotiating table with the US, eventually paving the way for the US’ eventual withdrawal.
Pakistan’s relations with many Afghan Taliban go back to the 1980s when Pakistan was staging a US-backed fight against Soviet forces in Afghanistan. Notably, the Haqqani group, possibly Afghanistan’s most powerful Taliban faction, has a longstanding relationship with Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI.
Asfandyar Mir, a senior expert at the US Institute of Peace, said Pakistan has turned to Sirajuddin Haqqani, the interior minister in Afghanistan’s new Taliban government, to help start talks with the Taliban.
Some TTP figures in North Waziristan – a rough area once controlled by the group – are up for talks. But the most violent groups led by Noor Wali Mehsud are not interested in talks. Mir said Mehsud’s Taliban wanted control of South Waziristan.
It is unclear whether Haqqani will be able to bring Mehsud to the table or whether Afghanistan’s new ruler is ready to sever close ties with Pakistan’s Taliban.
According to two Pakistani figures, in efforts to negotiate with Islamabad, the TTP is seeking control of parts of tribal areas and stricter interpretations of Islamic Sharia law in those areas, as well as the right to lay down its arms. Familiar with the demands. He spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media and because he fears retaliation.
Bill Roggio of the Foundation for Defense of Democracy, a US-based think tank, said Pakistan was starting talks with the Taliban to stop mounting attacks on its military, but warned that “the government is opening Pandora’s box.”
“The TTP will not be satisfied with ruling a small part of Pakistan, it essentially wants more than it has been given,” Rogio said. “Just as the Afghan Taliban wanted to rule Afghanistan, the TTP wants to rule…
Credit: www.independent.co.uk / Pakistan