TTP hot pursuit

Published April 15, 2023

ARMY chief Gen Asim Munir’s observation at yesterday’s in camera session of the National Assembly that the negotiation process with the TTP — launched under the PTI administration — had helped the banned organisation regroup was not new. Similar views had been voiced last week when the civilian and military leadership, during a meeting of the National Security Committee, linked recent acts of terrorism to a “soft corner” for and “thoughtless policy” towards the militant group. A comprehensive manner of tackling terrorism was once again emphasised. However, although there are a number of options when it comes to dealing with terrorist groups within Pakistani territory, one aspect that needs clarity is: what are Pakistan’s options when the militants have a safe haven in Afghanistan and can plan and launch their attacks from there? The choices, it seems, are limited, which is perhaps why Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, while talking to Voice of America recently, referred to the possibility of going inside Afghanistan to target the group.

This would not be an advisable course. Despite the Afghan Taliban’s intransigence and lethargy in cracking down on their ideological comrades, it would be unwise of Pakistan to unilaterally cross over into a sovereign nation to strike at the terrorists. Violating another country’s borders to go after terrorists will only complicate matters. That the suggested option apparently did not come up for discussion in yesterday’s in camera briefing, may be a sign that other avenues are being explored to weaken the militant base. However, Pakistan must be firm with Kabul’s rulers and hold them to their earlier promise of preventing terrorists from using Afghan soil to launch attacks against other countries. To build up pressure, the authorities here should work with regional states to send the same message to Kabul — after all, it is not only Pakistan that faces a threat from militant groups next door. At the same time, the state should not renege on its resolve to not hold talks with the militants, as long as they continue with their unconstitutional demands — such as rolling back Fata’s merger with KP. One hopes that lessons have been learned this time — the previous military leadership was in favour of talking to the TTP — and that the state and government show commitment to the goals set by NAP/NAP II so that terrorism can be eradicated.

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2023

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