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Photo Source: Dawn

Pakistan Reader# 485, 24 December 2022

The resurgence of TTP violence



What do the recent attacks mean?

D. Suba Chandran

There have been a surge in militant attacks during the last one month. The latest suicide attack in Islamabad, hostage-taking in the Bannu police compound, attack on police station in Lakki Marwat, and the suicide attacks in Waziristan should highlight the intensity and its geographic spread.

On 23 December 2022, Friday, when policemen tried to stop a car, the man triggered a device, killing a constable. A senior official commented on saving “Islamabad from a major incident,” meaning the suicide vehicle had a target. Dawn quoted a police tweet that the terrorists “wanted to detonate in a densely populated area to attack the police and public.” Last week, on 17 December, the militants attacked a police station with in Lakki Marwat district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, using automatic weapons, hand grenades and rockets, killing four policemen. (The district situated in the southern part of the KP, bordering the erstwhile FATA, has been witnessing militant attacks targeting the police. According to a Dawn report, the above attack was the fourth in the region during the last month; there were three attacks in November 16, 23 and 25, the first one killing six policemen). Again during the last week, on 18 November, militants detained in a counter-terrorism department (CTD) facility of the KP police in Bannu took over the compound. They held security personnel hostage within the compound, demanding safe passage to Afghanistan. After trying to negotiate with the militants in the compound and the TTP leaders in Afghanistan, the security forces stormed the CTD building; the operation ended up with killing 25 militants, and three soldiers. On 14 and 19 December, in Miran Shah in North Waziristan, there were two suicide attacks targeting the police and military, however killing civilians as well.

The above incidents of violence should be seen outside what is happening along the Durand Line in Chaman, between Pakistan and Afghanistan. And also, outside the regular violence taking place in Balochistan with different actors.

Back to the recent resurgence in TTP-led violence, the easiest conclusion is to trace them to Pakistan Taliban’s unilateral withdrawal from the ceasefire on 29 November 2022. The TTP leadership gave a call to its cadres to attack wherever and whenever. The second conclusion could be the tactical nature of State’s ceasefire with the TTP and the strategic failure to implement it. This is not the first time that the TTP has walked away from a ceasefire and resumed operations. The State walked into another ceasefire early this year, after a similar attempt during November-December 2021; after agreeing to a truce, the TTP broke it subsequently, every time. In May 2022, another “indefinite ceasefire” was agreed upon but broke in November. One could see a pattern in the agreements and their breakups. Third, there is a divide between the political parties in dealing with the TTP; the PTI was always keen to strike a deal with the TTP, despite opposition from other parties and even civil society. Fourth, Pakistan has been eager to blame Afghanistan for the TTP attacks within; it started when Karzai was the Afghan President, and continues, even after the Taliban became the rulers in Kabul.

The political differences between the PTI and PDM, and the current political crisis between the two, has been a factor in the government’s lack of focus on the larger threat. A few commentators also refer to the divide between the KP government and the national one. However, the political parties alone cannot be blamed totally for the lack of coherent policy towards the TTP. The Establishment led the counter-militancy operations and the larger counter-militant strategy. Questions should be raised on what the GHQ has done so far, and what it has in mind to deal with the TTP. So far, the Establishment’s TTP approach has been muddled.

So, what would be next? Given the history of the State’s dealing with the TTP, it would remain muddled, increasing the Establishment’s engagement within. 

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