AS uncertainty surrounds the fate of the government’s ceasefire with the banned TTP, there is growing disquiet regarding the resurgence of militancy in KP, particularly in the province’s tribal districts that were worst affected by terrorist violence. As reported in this paper on Monday, according to sources the peace deal with the TTP is effectively “on hold”, as there has been no activity on this front since a Pakistani tribal delegation visited Afghanistan for peacemaking purposes in late July. A mission consisting of senior Pakistani clerics had also visited Kabul a few days before the tribal representatives for similar purposes. While the ceasefire has largely held, there have been sporadic attacks on security personnel, with the terrorist group claiming it was acting in ‘self-defence’. Coupled with this vagueness about the ceasefire are growing concerns amongst the people of KP’s tribal districts regarding the return of militancy in their areas. A large rally was held in Khyber on Sunday, with marchers calling upon the state to take action against terrorism, targeted killings and extortion in the area. Similar demonstrations against the perceived rising militant threat were held in Swat last month.
It is difficult to say whether the TTP or other militants have been given the green signal to return to their old stomping grounds, as very little is known about the nature of the peace deal. This paper has consistently argued that the TTP are both unpredictable and unreliable, and that no peace deal should be finalised with the group unless they agree to disarm and to live by the law of the land. Moreover, the killers involved in horrific acts of terrorism — such as the APS massacre in Peshawar — cannot simply be forgiven with a stroke of the pen. The state, therefore, should make clear the terms of engagement with the banned group. As for the people’s concerns, these are genuine and the state must address them. Citizens of erstwhile Fata have witnessed death, destruction and displacement from close quarters due to the militants’ rampage, and subsequent military operations to cleanse the area of the terrorists’ presence. Clearly, their anxieties about a return to the bad old days are very real. The state needs to assure the people in unambiguous terms that it stands by them, and will not let militants destroy their lives again, while terrorists and criminals involved in extortion need to be apprehended and punished.
Published in Dawn, September 6th, 2022