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Photo Source: Dawn

Pakistan Reader# 323, 3 May 2022

A hot Durand Line: TTP, Pakistan, Taliban and the coming anarchy



The recent attacks by the TTP and Pakistan across the Durand Line highlights the bilateral fault lines between Pakistan and Afghanistan

Ankit Singh

On 25 April, the Afghanistan defence minister speaking on the death anniversary of Mullah Mohammad Omar reminded Pakistan that the Taliban would not tolerate invasion by any external power. He referred to Pakistan's helicopter raid on 16 April. The attacks that killed several civilians and children in Afghanistan's Kunar and Khost provinces were in response to the TTP's attacks in Waziristan. On 30 March, TTP launched a special operation Al-Badar against Pakistan's security forces employing targeting killing, ambush attacks, laser and sniper tactics methods. The operation by the TTP against the law enforcement personnel had led to the loss of 24 lives.

The attacks and counterattacks across the Durand Line have the potential to become an inter-state conflict, for the following three reasons.

First, Pakistan's cross border raids. A month-long ceasefire between the then government and TTP was signed on 1 November. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was to act as a mediator in furthering the ceasefire. However, the ceasefire did last long; the TTP accused Pakistan of not adhering to the terms of the truce. Pakistan resorted to targetting the terrorist sanctuaries of TTP across the Durand Line. The Taliban is ideologically and ethnically closer to the TTP. The ISIS-K threat is becoming serious and uncontrollable for the Taliban. As a result, Pakistan's cross border operations does not bode well with the Taliban internally. Taliban wants to be seen as an independent actor within Afghanistan, and would not want any violation of its sovereignty. 

Second, the fencing along the Durand Line. The Afghans have never accepted the legitimacy of the Durand line and preferred a working mechanism to facilitate the Pashtun movement along the imaginary line. TTP has also asked for autonomy to tribal areas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to ensure their focused development and participation in the governance. The border fencing has re-enforced the idea of territorial nationalism on those living on Pakistan side. For the tribes living across the Durand, the freezing of borders is unacceptable. They also complain about the lack of development in the tribal regions of Pakistan. Pashtuns from the Afghan side have often relied on civic amenities available in the urban center of Peshawar; the border fencing to control the movement is perceived as another form of oppression. This perception by the tribes gives a morale boost to TTP in its ideological war against Pakistan.

Third, Pakistan's efforts to lead and represent the cause of Afghans. In recent times, Pakistan has hosted and participated in important discussions and public calls for averting humanitarian crises in Afghanistan. However, the Taliban and the majority of Afghans see the efforts by Pakistan as a strategy to maintain a continued source of income in the cause of helping Afghanistan. The Afghan Youth Empowerment and Protection Civil Society and Civil Society Coordination Center wrote an open letter to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation discarding Pakistan's narrative to enable a strong democratic regime in Afghanistan and rather blaming the nation for enabling the genocide of Muslims by the Taliban since last two decades. The emerging militant contours in Afghanistan and Pakistan have continued the violence on both the sides. The Taliban intends to de-hyphenate its association with Pakistan which might explain the loose control of TTP on the Afghan side. The attack by ISIS-K in Kunduz and northern areas are creating civilian anger against Pashtun led Taliban government, and a weaker and inefficient government in Afghanistan presents Pakistan as more responsible for facilitating peacebuilding at its favourable terms. 

The TTP has been reduced to a tool between the countries to create and resist the Pashtun influence in Pakistan, while Pakistan continues to speak for the cause of the Taliban government to ensure all the strings of peace run through Pakistan's geography.

References
Zahid Hussain, "The frontiers of conflict,Dawn, 27 April 2022
"Afghan defence minister says will not tolerate 'invasions',Reuters, 24 April 2022
Nadir Gurmani, Tahir Khan, "Complete ceasefire agreed between govt and TTP: Fawad Chaudhry,Dawn, 8 November 2021
"Showing Firmness,Dawn, 19 April 2022
Habiba Ashna, "Durand Line:  An Irking Factor in Pakistan- Afghanistan Relations,Pajhwok Afghan News, 18 October 2021
"An open letter to OIC by Afghan Civil Society Coordination Centre," Pajhwok Afghan News, 29 December 2021
"Pakistan-Afghanistan rift widens with Taliban's refusal to handover TTP militants after air strikes," The National Herald, 19 April 2022

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