ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will ask the supreme leader of Afghanistan’s Taliban to rein in militants in Pakistan after a suicide bombing killed scores of police in a mosque, officials said on Saturday.

Since the Taliban returned to power in Kabul, Pakistan has witnessed a dramatic uptick in attacks in regions bordering Afghanistan, where militants use rugged terrain to stage assaults and escape detection.

Officials have blamed an affiliate of the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) for the January 30 blast in Peshawar, which claimed the lives of over 100 people at a mosque, located inside a fortified police compound.

The TTP share common lineage and ideals with the Afghan Taliban, led by Hibatullah Akhundzada who issues edicts from his hideaway in the southern city of Kandahar.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister Faisal Karim Kundi said delegations would be sent to Tehran and Kabul to “ask them to ensure that their soil is not used by terrorists against Pakistan”.

A senior police official in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province where Monday’s blast took place said the Kabul delegation would hold “talks with the top brass”.

Hibatullah Akhundzada to be approached, delegations to be sent to neighbouring countries to hold talks

“When we say top brass, it means… Afghan Taliban chief Hibatullah Akhundzada,” he said on condition of anonymity.

Afghan officials did not immediately respond to AFP’s request for comment.

However, Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi on Wednesday warned Pakistan should “not pass the blame to others”.

“They should see the problems in their own house. Afghanistan should not be blamed,” he said.

During the 20-year US-led intervention in Afghanistan, Islamabad had often been accused of giving covert support to the Afghan Taliban, but since the ultra-conservatives seized Kabul in 2021, their relations with Pakistan have soured, in part over the resurgence of TTP. Over the first year of Taliban rule, Pakistan witnessed a 50 per cent uptick in militant attacks, concentrated in the border regions with Afghanistan and Iran, according to Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies.

The TTP, notorious for shooting schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, has “arguably benefitted the most of all the foreign extremist groups in Afghanistan from the Taliban takeover”, a UN Security Council report said in May 2022.

Last year Kabul brokered peace talks between Islamabad and the TTP but the shaky truce collapsed.

Published in Dawn, February 5th, 2023

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