KARACHI: Defence Minister Khawaja Asif has said the Afghan Taliban have a camaraderie with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants but they still want to distance themselves from the group carrying out attacks in Pakistan, Dawn.com reported.

In an interview with Voice of America (VOA) on Tuesday, the minister said Pakistan shared good relations with the interim government in Afghanistan, but at the same time expressed concern that the TTP was “using Afghan soil” even today for attacks in our country, especially Khyber Pakhtunkhwa“.

“[In the meeting] the [Afghan] Taliban had expressed their determination to deal with this problem and said that they won’t allow their land to be used for terrorism as per the Doha Agreement,” Mr Asif told VOA.

In response to a question, the minister said that there was no difference between the TTP and the Afghan Taliban. “But according to our talks with the Afghan Taliban … it seems that they want to distance themselves from the TTP,” he pointed out, adding that the Afghan Taliban were “politically astute” people.

He said the TTP has been fighting with the Afghan Taliban against Nato together for the past 20 years.

“According to my information on TTP militants, between 7,000 to 8,000 of them have been involved in the war against Nato with the Afghan Taliban.

“In this context, there is a camaraderie between the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban which was also seen in their [Afghan Taliban’s] words during our meetings that they are not in a position to oppose them [TTP] but they also want to help Pakistan,” he said.

During the interview, Mr Asif said TTP militants were equipped with advanced weapons such as night vision goggles that were left behind by the American forces when they exited Afghanistan.

“They are also getting such devices from other countries,” he claimed. “Those who do not have good relations with Pakistan, like India, to name a few, have provided help in the past through their consulates inside Afghanistan,” he told VOA.

Talking about the recent protests in KP against rising militancy, the minister said that the people of the province were not ready to “coexist” with the TTP.

“It is remarkable that people are protesting unarmed against the return of the Taliban [in Pakistan]. These people have been poisoned by the Taliban in the past as well,” the minister said.

Published in Dawn, April 12th, 2023

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