Khorasani’s killing

Published August 11, 2022

OMAR Khalid Khorasani, a dreaded TTP ‘commander’, lived by the sword and very much died by the sword. But beyond the violent life of this leading light of militancy, questions have now risen about the status of the peace process this country is pursuing with the banned outfit Khorasani belonged to after his elimination in a bombing — said to be an IED — in Afghanistan’s Paktika province, along with several other figures belonging to the terrorist group. For the record, Khorasani, born Abdul Wali in what is now KP’s Mohmand tribal district, was a founding member of the TTP and a staunch opponent of peace with Pakistan. At one time leading the Jamaatul Ahrar faction, and also pledging allegiance to the self-styled Islamic State, Khorasani was responsible for a long list of bloody attacks against this country. Therefore, while few will miss him, the killing is likely to have an impact on parleys with the TTP.

The first question that emerges is who was responsible for his elimination. At this point, it is mostly conjecture, and could range from state actors to rival militants to his Afghan hosts. After all, in the murky world of militancy, life expectancy is short, and the nature of the job means that meeting a violent end is a distinct possibility. Unless some group comes forward with a claim for the hit, we may never know who killed Khorasani. As for the more important matter of peace talks, opinion is divided about what shape the negotiations will take after Khorasani’s departure. The late terrorist was apparently not a big fan of talking to Pakistan, and was extremely rigid about the demand for reversing former Fata’s merger with KP. Moreover, another factor has emerged that is likely to shape talks with the TTP: the reshuffling of military commanders, specifically appointing Lt-Gen Faiz Hameed as Bahawalpur corps commander. While he was commanding the Peshawar corps, Gen Hameed was seen as the driving force behind talks with the TTP. It remains to be seen if his successor in Peshawar, as well as the military leadership, will be willing to pursue peace talks with the militants with the same vigour.

So far the TTP has remained quiet about the fate of negotiations. There was a statement from the terrorist group eulogising Omar Khalid Khorasani’s so-called ‘services’ to the ‘cause’, but nothing about the status of the talks. Certainly, if the more hard-line group within the TTP prevails, we can assume talks will most likely break down. This paper has always argued that talking to the militants — especially going the extra mile to accommodate them — is a bad idea. The desire for peace from the other side is lukewarm at best, and the state must have a strategy ready to counter the terrorists if they decide to ditch talks and again take up the gun.

Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2022

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