THE inevitable has happened. Pakistan on Sunday condemned “terrorists operating with impunity from Afghan soil to carry out activities in Pakistan”.
This is the strongest possible public statement from Islamabad and a rebuke to the hard-line regime in Kabul, that has been conveniently looking the other way as the outlawed TTP continue to carry out ferocious attacks on Pakistani soil.
Pakistan’s demand for “stern" Afghan action against the TTP comes amid reports of a significant increase in cross-border attacks. In the past week alone, the TTP carried out multiple attacks in North and South Waziristan districts and Dera Ismail Khan, resulting in the martyrdom of several soldiers and policemen. There were also reports, originating from Kabul, that spoke of Pakistan launching retaliatory strikes on suspected TTP bases in Khost and Kunar provinces, though neither the ISPR nor the Foreign Office has confirmed them. One report from Kabul, however, did mention Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan having been summoned on the matter and given a démarche.
Islamabad’s condemnation of the increase in terrorist activities from across the border and Kabul’s protest over the alleged air strikes expose the friction between the two countries. Pakistan has been exercising maximum restraint since the Afghan Taliban took control of Kabul last August.
Contrary to their claims and Pakistan’s optimism that the new regime would not allow Afghan soil to be used against any country, there has been a sharp uptick in attacks, all originating from Afghanistan. According to official figures, 119 Pakistani officers and soldiers laid down their lives while battling the scourge from mid-August till last month. This is simply shocking.
For too long, the US-led Western bloc considered the Afghan Taliban to be proxies furthering Islamabad’s interests in Afghanistan. Indeed, there were many in Pakistan too who celebrated the ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s’ second ascension to power, including those who distanced themselves from the war on terror, saying it was not Pakistan’s war. This was despite warnings that the TTP and the Islamic Emirate were, in fact, two faces of the same coin.
With Pakistan’s casualties mounting in the renewed war against terrorism, that narrative has died down, or so it seems at the moment. Pakistan’s open and blunt condemnation, and its demand that the Afghan Taliban contain the TTP, is one such indication. There is, however, no sign from across the border that Kabul is paying heed.
It is time that Pakistan used all available diplomatic and economic resources at its disposal to make it absolutely plain to Kabul that it cannot get away with allowing Afghanistan’s territory to be used by militants to spread terrorism in the region. The pressure on the Afghan Taliban must be increased. Afghanistan’s rulers must also be made to realise that they cannot absolve themselves of the responsibility of the attacks by asking Islamabad to engage with the Pakistani militants based in Afghanistan.
Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2022