ISLAMABAD: A United Nations Security Council report has reminded about the persistent threat Pakistan’s security faces from the Afghanistan-based Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), and warned that prospects of success of the ongoing peace process were bleak.

The annual report of the 1988 Taliban sanctions committee monitoring team noted TTP’s linkages with Afghan Taliban, explained how the group benefitted from the fall of Ghani regime last year and touched upon its relations with other terrorist groups operating from Afghanistan.

The banned TTP, the report noted, had up to 4,000 fighters based in east and south-east areas along Afghanistan-Pakistan border and made up the largest group of foreign fighters based there.

This was the team’s first report for the committee since the Taliban takeover of Kabul last year. Its original focus was on Taliban’s internal politics, its finances, relations with Al-Qaeda, Daesh, and other terrorist groups, and the implementation of the UNSC sanctions.

Report by UNSC sanctions committee on Afghan Taliban says banned group remains persistent threat to Pakistan’s security

The report’s launch coincided with the start of the third round of talks between Pakistan government and TTP last Thursday.

The first round of talks, held late last year, had yielded a month long ceasefire that later broke down after TTP accused Islamabad of not fulfilling promises. TTP subsequently resumed attacks against Pakistani forces and statistics tabulated by the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies reveal that this year, it carried out nearly 46 attacks, mostly against law enforcement personnel, in which 79 people lost their lives.

Read more: 24 law-enforcement officials martyred in TTP attacks since late last month in KP

On March 30, TTP, while emulating Afghan Taliban’s strategy during the US war in Afghanistan, announced a ‘Spring Offensive’ against security forces here.

The peace process, which is being facilitated by Taliban interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani, meanwhile, resumed earlier this month after both sides took confidence building measures. TTP, first announced a ceasefire on the occasion of Eid, and later extended it after Pakistan released couple of its (TTP) commanders, who were then on death row. The round, in which the Pakistani delegation was led by Peshawar Corps Commander Lt Gen Faiz Hamid, ended with both sides presenting their set of demands.

TTP demanded withdrawal of security forces from erstwhile tribal areas, annulment of merger of FATA with Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa province, withdrawal of cases against its fighters and their release, and introduction of Shariah based ‘Nizam-e-Adl’ in Malakand Division.

Although security forces here say that these demands are unacceptable and their acceptance would mean capitulation of the State, but still the government delegation has entered into the third round of talks. The top priority for the government side in the latest round is to secure extension in ceasefire, which is expiring on May 30.

Read more: Talking to the TTP

The Pakistani side has, however, maintained complete silence on the talks.

The UN report has warned that “The group (TTP) is focused on a long-term campaign against the Pakistani state”, which implies “that ceasefire deals have a limited chance of success”.

It importantly noted that TTP, which has recently been reinvigorated through the return of 17 splinter groups into its fold, feels that maintaining a hardline position in talks with Pakistan government would help maintaining unity in its ranks.

Sirajuddin Haqqani, whose Haqqani Network is said to be independent of the grouping within Afghan Taliban, has been “relied upon more than anyone else in the de facto administration” to act as an intermediary this process, which highlights the influence that he holds over TTP and other Pashtun groups.

The report observed that as compared to other foreign militant groups, TTP was the biggest beneficiary of last year’s Taliban takeover and used this opportunity for conducting attacks and operations in Pakistan.

“TTP also continues to exist as a stand-alone force, rather than feeling pressure to merge its fighters into Afghan Taliban units, as is the prospect for most foreign terrorist fighters,” it further said.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2022

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