THE interior ministry’s call for ‘extreme vigilance’ and instructions to security forces to conduct ‘search and strike’ missions against the TTP sounds like a death knell for the ill-fated peace process between the state and the terrorist group. Observers, including this paper, had been sceptical all along of the former PTI-led government’s, as well as the incumbent administration’s, optimism about chances of peace with the militants. Now, as reported on Thursday, the interior ministry has raised the alarm saying that the country faces a heightened risk of terrorist attacks while negotiations with the TTP have “come to a standstill”. The ministry, in a letter sent to senior state functionaries, warned that the TTP or its offshoots may relaunch a campaign of terror to avenge its fallen leaders. The letter also noted reports of militant activity in KP’s tribal districts, as well as other parts of the province, terming it “a worrisome phenomenon”.
Talks with the TTP seemed doomed from the get-go. Past administrations had hammered out numerous deals with the outfit, only to see these agreements violated every time. Moreover, delegations of lawmakers and tribal elders as well as clerics were dispatched to Afghanistan — where the militants have taken shelter — to talk peace with the TTP. While there was plenty of positive rhetoric, little of substance emerged from these attempts. In the meantime, terrorist activity in parts of KP began to pick up. In fact several large peace rallies were taken out by locals in Swat and Khyber as well as other areas demanding that the state take action against creeping militancy. These concerns were dismissed as exaggerated, with the state, particularly the security establishment, saying all was well. As the growing number of violent incidents, including assassinations and extortion attempts linked to militants, and now the interior ministry’s warning demonstrate, all is clearly not well. From here on the state must take the bull by the horns before the monster of militancy once more rampages through the land unimpeded. By no means should the terrorists be allowed to re-establish themselves in the areas where they once had created autonomous fiefdoms. While the rulers in Islamabad may be distracted by power games, and a transition is taking place in Rawalpindi, both the civilian and military leadership must prioritise counterterrorism plans. Moreover, the Afghan Taliban must be clearly communicated the message that there can be no room for anti-Pakistan terrorists on their soil.
Published in Dawn, October 7th, 2022