Chitral incursion

Published September 8, 2023

TWO cross-border infiltration attempts by militants, as well as tensions at the Torkham frontier, point to the disturbing reality that both on the security front and where bilateral ties are concerned, Pak-Afghan relations are going through a highly dysfunctional phase.

Though bilateral ties with Kabul have never been tension-free, some within our ruling structure had great expectations that an Afghan Taliban dispensation across the western border would benefit Pakistan. That has not been the case.

Perhaps the most disturbing of the aforesaid incidents was the militant incursion in Chitral on Wednesday. At least four troops were martyred when a “large group of terrorists”, as per ISPR, crossed over from the Afghan side and attacked two Pakistani positions.

Though the military’s media wing has not mentioned the number of attackers, some foreign outlets have said ‘hundreds’ of terrorists belonging to the banned TTP were involved. Intelligence reports had been circling for some time, indicating that a cross-border attack was imminent.

In the second incident, several militants were killed when they tried to infiltrate North Waziristan and were repulsed by security forces. Meanwhile, the situation remained tense on Thursday at the Torkham border crossing after Pakistani and Afghan security men traded fire a day earlier. The dispute emerged after the Afghan side reportedly started work on building a checkpoint in the vicinity.

Though TTP activity has been observed in several parts of KP and northern Balochistan, Chitral has not been known as a hotbed of militancy. This indicates that terrorists are feeling confident enough to extend their area of activity, which should set off alarm bells.

As for the trouble at Torkham, this is not the first time personnel from both sides have been involved in violent exchanges; sadly, several such encounters have occurred this year alone.

It is clear that effective mechanisms need to be put in place so that officials can swiftly contact their Afghan counterparts at higher levels and prevent misunderstandings from spiralling into violent exchanges.

Meanwhile, the interim administration and security establishment should realise that the TTP is arguably amongst the gravest threats facing the country at the moment, and while the issue needs to be pursued with the Afghan Taliban, all the state’s efforts need to be concentrated on preventing this outfit from making further inroads into the country, and on neutralising or expelling the militants.

Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2023

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