AS a negotiated settlement eludes Afghanistan, and the grim prospect of large-scale violence begins to haunt that country in the aftermath of the US withdrawal, neighbouring states, specifically Pakistan, have genuine security concerns. This is especially so if the government in Kabul — which at the best of times has maintained only tenuous control over the country — is unable to resist an Afghan Taliban onslaught on the capital. It is for this reason the country’s security establishment will be briefing the nation’s elected leadership during an in-camera session in parliament tomorrow.

Asked why the conclave was being convened, the prime minister’s aide Babar Awan said that all parties’ heads had discussed the Afghanistan situation in their speeches during the budget session and the lawmakers would be briefed on the security conditions prevailing across Pakistan’s western border.

Editorial: The US, Pakistan and other regional states must prepare for another Taliban govt in Afghanistan

Pakistan has good reason to be concerned. After all, thousands of hardened anti-Pakistan terrorists are currently seeking refuge in Afghanistan, and if the situation in that country deteriorates, these inimical elements will have a freer hand to wreak havoc here. The Foreign Office pointed out on Monday that 5,000 terrorists belonging to the proscribed TTP have sanctuaries in Afghanistan, questioning a statement by Kabul that the TTP does not operate in that country. Moreover, the fact that hardened militants are hiding in Afghanistan has been confirmed by third parties, including the UN and US.

A UN monitoring body had earlier this year pointed out that the TTP and various allied groups were active in Afghanistan, while the Afghan Study Group for the US Congress had made similar observations. Amidst these groups is the ‘Khorasan chapter’ of the self-styled Islamic State, which has carried out a number of bloody attacks inside Afghanistan.

The fact that a cross-parliamentary body is being briefed by the intelligence agencies on possible threats emanating from Afghanistan is welcome. A thorough strategy is needed with all pillars of state on board to deal with the possible fallout of chaos in Afghanistan. This country has in the past paid a heavy price losing civilians as well as men in uniform to terrorist outfits operating from foreign locales. While the security situation has improved considerably domestically, the threat remains, as the blast in Lahore last week indicated. Once foreign forces leave Afghanistan, anti-Pakistan terrorist outfits may well have a greater opportunity to strike this country, therefore all state institutions must remain alert.

Of course, it is valid to ask why the world’s leading military powers were unable to uproot militant groups active in Afghanistan despite spending two decades in that country ostensibly to fight terrorism. However, Pakistan must be ready to confront any refugee crisis, as well as militant activity, emerging out of the post-withdrawal situation in Afghanistan, and terrorist groups must be neutralised before they shed more innocent blood in this country.

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2021

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