• Interior ministry says militants continuously trying to sabotage fence along Afghan border
• Six barbers from Dera Ghazi Khan shot dead in Mir Ali
• Four militants killed in operation in Miramshah, says ISPR

ISLAMABAD / NORTH WAZIRISTAN: The continuous influx of TTP members in significant numbers, with recruitment, training and placing of suicide bombers, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s mer­ged districts is “a cause of concern”, the Ministry of Interior informed the upper house of parliament on Tuesday.

The ministry’s statement came as the Senate was briefed about the escalating influence and activities of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) following the withdrawal of US troops’ from Afghanistan and the inaction of the interim Afghan government against the banned group.

The interior ministry, in a written response during question hour, highlighted the TTP’s reorganisation and operational expansion during the peace talks in 2022, which has significantly increased its militant activities.

“It has given significant rise to its activities and is seeking the support of other militant groups to increase strength and capabilities. It is mostly concentrated in KP, especially merged districts, with footprints in Balochistan and trying to activate its network in the country,” it said.

“The arrival of tashkeels of TTP in significant numbers continue in merged districts along with recruitment, training and placing of suicide bombers is a cause of concern,” the ministry said.

The ministry said Daesh — an Arabic acronym for the self-proclaimed Islamic State militant group — was also trying to establish a foothold in Pakistan and resorted to terrorist activities against Shias and religious minority communities to ignite sectarian strife.

It said fencing along the western borders of Pakistan had largely been completed to further strengthen the state mechanism of curbing the illegal movement from across the border. However, it pointed out that the two organisations, particularly the TTP, continued to sabotage the fence.

Pakistan started fencing its porous border with Afghanis­tan in March 2017, after facing a spate of deadly attacks from Afghanistan-based militant groups in the previous year.

The barrier, being built on the 2,640km Durand Line, is near completion. It passes through rugged mountains, densely forested valleys and narrow rock passages.

Militants have ramped up their attacks since they revoked a ceasefire with the Pakistani government in November 2022.

In the deadliest attack on security forces in the outgoing year, at least 23 Pakistan Army soldiers were martyred and more than 30 troops wounded on Dec 12 after militants belonging to the Tehreek-i-Jihad Pakistan stormed a compound used by the military in Dera Ismail Khan’s Daraban area.

And just two days ago, on Sunday, three militants were gunned down when they tried to infiltrate the Pakistan-Afghan border in the Bajaur district.

Deportation to Afghanistan

The ministry said data of 1.45 million registered refugees was updated and expanded through the issuance of smart identity cards. “The cards contain basic information, including biometric data, and are compatible with the local systems,” it said.

It said the rationale for updating and documenting data was to strictly monitor individuals involved in criminal and terrorist activities.

About dismantling the communication networks to combat online extremism, it said the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) was actively monitoring cyberspace.

“A total number of 16,522 complaints were forwarded to social media platforms for blocking of radical/sectarian, anti-state and terrorist content during the year 2022,” it said.

The House was also informed that more than 500,000 illegal immigrants have been repatriated so far under the government’s deportation drive against illegal aliens.

“Around 1.7 million illegal aliens are unlawfully living in the country, the majority of whom are Afghans. They are living without any legal documentation necessary for staying in the country,” the ministry said.

It said 541,210 people had been sent back after the cabinet’s approval of the deportation plan for illegal residents.

Besides, close to 1.15m were still residing in the country, the ministry said, adding that efforts were underway to identify and deport the remaining people.

It said 271,985 people were repatriated via Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 159,161 through Balochistan.

Six barbers shot dead

Meanwhile, unidentified assailants shot dead six barbers in the Mosaki village of Mir Ali tehsil of North Waziristan on Tuesday. The victims were residents of Punjab’s Dera Ghazi Khan district.

According to police, the bodies of the barbers, who had been running shops in Mir Ali bazaar for many years, were discovered in agricultural fields after being abducted and executed in the night by unknown assailants.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the killings.

Bodies of the victims were spotted by local people in the morning and they alerted the police about the incident.

The bodies were shifted to a hospital in Mir Ali for autopsy. Local police have launched an investigation into the incident.

Last month, some unknown armed men kidnapped eight non-local labourers from the Spinwam tehsil of the North Waziristan district.

Four militants killed

Meanwhile, four militants, including a suicide bomber, were killed in an intelligence-based operation (IBO) in the Sheen Kot area of Miramshah tehsil of North Waziristan district, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement on Tuesday.

The statement said the IBO was conducted on the reported presence of the militants in the area. It said that during the operation, an intense exchange of fire took place between militants and security forces in which four militants, including a suicide bomber, were killed.

“The killed terrorists remained actively involved in numerous terrorist activities against the security forces and were planning to conduct a high-profile terrorist attack, which was averted due to proactive response by the security forces,” the ISPR said.

It said that arms, ammunition and explosives were recovered from the militants.

Published in Dawn, January 3rd, 2024

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