The National Counter-Terrorism Authority (Nacta) has said that the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had "gained considerable ground" and "increased its footprint and magnitude of activities" in Pakistan during the peace talks process.

Nacta made these revelations in a document presented on Thursday to the participants of a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Interior. During the session, Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan Senator Mushtaq Ahmed raised concerns over the rising terror incidents in the country.

It is pertinent to mention that the TTP last month called off the ceasefire agreement with the government and ordered its militants to stage attacks across the country.

In a statement, the militant group had said it had repeatedly warned the people of Pakistan and "continued to be patient so that the negotiation process is not sabotaged at least by us."

"But the army and intelligence agencies did not stop and continued the attacks [...] now our retaliatory attacks will also start across the country," the TTP had claimed.

Talks between Pakistani officials and the militant outfit broke down in August due to a deadlock on the revocation of the merger of erstwhile tribal areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

In a document presented before the committee on Thursday, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, the security body said: "Peace talks emboldened the militants and their presence in Swat can be attributed to their efforts to gain the pulse of locals and response by the state."

It pointed out that the US withdrawal from Afghanistan last year "gave impetus" to TTP activities with its base intact in the neighbouring country.

"Overall rise in the terrorism index is being witnessed," Nacta said while listing four recent terror incidents in Pakistan that the banned outfit claimed responsibility for.

These included:

  • In August 2022, TTP militants held LEAs hostage in Swat's district Matta and released them after 12 hours.
  • In September 2022, militants fired on police in Swat.
  • TTP also claimed responsibility for IED attack on a vehicle in which a member of the Peace Committee and two policemen were killed.
  • Abduction of seven cellular company staff members and demand of Rs10 million ransom.

Briefing on the prevailing environment, the letter stated that the Malakand Division was vulnerable due to its central location and access to settled areas.

"Strong protests by masses/all segments of the society in Swat is a good development. The locals, especially the political leadership active against the militants, need to be supported and protected through institutional management."

It called for the monitoring of "morphing in the local population in adjoining areas" and collective efforts of the security apparatus to counter the presence of militants in the area.

"Owning to winters and lack of support structure/logistics, militants are likely to move from mountainous regions," the letter added.

Separately, the deputy inspector general of the Malakand Division told the committee that so far 200 search and sanitisation operations and 77 intelligence-based operations have been conducted in the area.

"Most of the militants in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are affiliated with the TTP," the official added.

Subsequently, the committee decided to hold an in-camera briefing on the issue in the the next meeting.

Peace talks

Talks between Pakistani officials and the militant outfit first started in October last year but broke down in December.

These later resumed in May this year. The process, however, broke down once again due to a deadlock on the revocation of the merger of erstwhile tribal areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Subsequently, attacks by the TTP have been on the rise since September after the group's ceasefire with the army ended. Most of the attacks have happened in and around Dera Ismail Khan, Tank, South Waziristan, and North Waziristan districts in KP.

In October, the Ministry of Interior had warned that more than year-long peace negotiations between the TTP and the government of Pakistan “had come to a standstill”, which had led to unease within the TTP’s ranks.

It had noted that the TTP accuses the Pakistani government of failing to fulfill its main demand — the reversal of the merger of former Fata with KP — as well as continuing to detain TTP members while a truce was still being negotiated.

The ministry had also highlighted the risk of TTP sub-groups defecting to the militant Islamic State (ISKP) or joining hands with the Hafiz Gul Bahadur group to resume terrorist activities.

Earlier this month, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah had said the government had not reached a settlement with the banned outfit, nor had it initiated any sort of formal dialogue with the banned group in the past.

He had said that the military leadership had been authorised to hold dialogue with the TTP under the Constitution, but only with those who were ready to lay down arms and peacefully become a part of society. Sanaullah, however, added there were several factions within the TTP, some of whom wanted reconciliation while some still wanted to fight the Pakistani state.

He had also said that the doors will remain open for those interested in peace and dialogue and at the same time terrorism will be crushed with full force.

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