Pakistan Reader# 436, 1 December 2022
On 30 November, according to the officials, three civilians and a police officer were killed in a suicide attack in the Baleli area of Quetta. 27 others including 20 policemen and four civilians were injured in the attack. The explosion took place near a police truck which was on its way to provide security to polio workers. TTP claimed responsibility for the attack. The attack came in the background of TTP calling off the ceasefire with the government and asking its combatants to carry out attacks across the country. Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Quddus said, “All the elements involved in the incident will be brought under the grip of the law.”
Why was the ceasefire called off?
The TTP and the government had a ceasefire agreement since June 2022 followed by months of negotiations mediated by the Interior Minister of Afghanistan Sirajuddin Haqqani. According to Dawn, the process could not move beyond confidence-building measures, as the TTP’s demands for a final peace agreement against the FATA merger did not find positive results with the state. The slow negotiation pace with the government and the targeted killing of its top commanders made TTP call off the ceasefire agreement on 3 September 2022 informally. The announcement was not confirmed but the recent bomb and gun attacks were claimed by the group after the informal call-off. The formal denouncing of the ceasefire after the span of two months made TTP direct the field commanders to resume attacks across the country in retaliation for the relentless operations by the security and intelligence agencies in violation of the truce.
What are the reasons to call off the ceasefire?
1. Loss of trust with factions and Pakistan’s leaning towards the United States
TTP’s announcement came hours after the statement made by the foreign ministry that Deputy Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar will lead a high-level delegation to Kabul for talks with Taliban officials.TTP was invited by Interior Minister Haqqani but it declined the invitation as they have lost trust in the Haqqani faction and aligned with the Kandahari faction of Defence Minister Mullah Yaqoob. Mullah Yaqoob refused to meet the Pakistani delegation in Kabul so as the TTP. According to Dawn, the call-off is regarded as the Kabul regime’s move, to use it as a pressure tactic in their talks with Khar and her delegation as Pakistan shows an inclination to the United States. The TTP timed its truce collapse announcement with Khar’s arrival in Kabul to give a message to Islamabad that the Taliban would no longer speak or negotiate on its behalf. Or this could also be a message to Kabul to put pressure on the Pakistani side for a deal with the TTP.
2. To make the new COAS involved with the negotiation process
TTP announced the call-off a day before General Bajwa was to pass the COAS seat to General Asim Munir. It shows a reminder to the new army chief to revive the negotiation process which has stalled since the transfer of General Faiz Hameed out of Peshawar. According to Dawn, the military wants politics to be out of its discretion and restore the affinity with the Pakistani people which has been undermined during General Bajwa’s tenure.
3. Taliban rule in Afghanistan
The takeover of Kabul by the Taliban in August 2021 made the TTP increase the violence and attacks. They were given assurance of the Taliban’s victory over foreign forces which gave it hope that it could also bring the Pakistani government a downfall. That was the reason the group stepped up attacks in the border regions of Pakistan following the fall of Kabul. It only agreed to engage with the government because the process was brokered by the Haqqanis with whom the group enjoyed close ideological affinity and organisational ties throughout the Taliban insurgency.
How does the government restrategize dealing with TTP?
The government is reviewing its strategy for dealing with the TTP as it had called off the ceasefire agreement leading to a surge in violence. According to the Express Tribune, the new COAS had headed the Military Intelligence and Inter Service Intelligence earlier. General Asim Munir spearheaded initial efforts aimed at facilitating direct talks between the US and the Afghan Taliban. So the dynamics of TTP could be made clear. To the government on the policy review on the TTP and Afghanistan.With this change in command, the government could discuss the resurgence of TTP and the threat of militancy. According to a government official, in the official visit of Hina Rabbani to Kabul, Pakistan’s special envoy Ambassador Muhammad Sadiq was part of the delegation meaning the issue of the TTP must have come up for discussions to make direct talks with the TTP as the government had a previous stand of not having direct talks with TTP.(Ghalib Nihad, “Policeman among four dead in suicide blast in Quetta’s Baleli area: police,” Dawn, 1 December 2022; Kamran Yousaf, “Govt to review strategy after TTP calls off truce,” The Express Tribune, 1 December 2022; Naveed Hussain, “SITUATIONER: Why TTP chose to tear up ceasefire deal now?,” The Express Tribune, 30 November 2022)