ON Monday, while announcing that it was ending its ceasefire with the state, the banned TTP ordered its fighters to strike “wherever and whenever you can”. By Wednesday morning in Quetta, it was abundantly clear that these chilling instructions were being faithfully obeyed by the terrorist group’s cadres.
At least four individuals have died following a suicide attack on a law enforcers’ vehicle; the security personnel were reportedly deputed to guard polio teams.
In a statement, the terrorist group claimed the atrocity was ‘revenge’ for the killing of Omar Khalid Khorasani. The notorious militant was killed in a car bombing in Afghanistan in August.
The TTP’s violent campaign against the state had been picking up pace over the past few weeks, with the most significant attack coming in KP’s Lakki Marwat district last month, in which at least six policemen were martyred. But the Quetta attack signals the new beginning of a violent post-ceasefire campaign by the TTP, unless the security establishment and political leadership decide to strike hard and nip this evil in the bud.
The nation is, unfortunately, all too familiar with the TTP’s bloody history, and it would be foolishness of the highest order were the authorities to ignore the emerging threat.
After the ending of the ceasefire and before the Quetta attack, some in government had been advocating for continuing negotiations with the militants, with the special assistant to the KP chief minister telling a seminar in Peshawar that the TTP needed to be dealt with as per a “comprehensive approach and open mind”. The official was quick to add that the state should respond “vigorously” should the militants carry out attacks.
The fact is that the TTP were never serious about negotiations, and their demands — such as the reversal of the tribal districts’ merger with KP and the release of hardened terrorists — were unjustified and impossible to meet, for the state would have had to partially surrender its sovereign authority in order to please the militants.
From here on, the path ahead will not be easy, but difficult circumstances demand difficult decisions.
The political leadership, as well as the new military high command, must be clear about the goal: under no circumstances should the militants be allowed to re-establish a foothold in the country. The state needs to strike now, while the Afghan Taliban must be unambiguously told that their soil cannot be used to host anti-Pakistan terrorists.
Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2022