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TTP attacks give a bloody nose to Pakistan’s interim government

TTP militants

Pakistan has come a full circle from August 2021 when the then Prime Minister Imran Khan welcomed the Taliban in Kabul by saying that it has “broken the chains of slavery”. His comments raised eyebrows across the world after photographs of heavily-armed Taliban fighters swarming and inspecting the presidential palace went viral.

Exactly two years later, Imran Khan’s successor and Pakistan’s interim prime minister Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar is dealing with those very groups who took over Kabul. The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), with close ties to the Taliban regime in Kabul, has unleashed relentless attacks in Pakistan’s north-western province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa almost on a daily basis.

Geopolitical analyst Mark Kinra told India Narrative: “The main task of the interim government is to ensure that elections are held in 90 days. The interim prime minister is close to the army, a known fact, therefore, we know that he will abide by whatever the army says. Considering the political structure of Pakistan, where the army takes decisions on most of the important issues including internal security, under the current arrangement, the Pakistani Army will take full responsibility for security issues in the country”.

Kinra adds that both the current hotspots on the border – TTP attacks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Chitral and the skirmish at the Tokhram border are the responsibility of the army.

That Pakistan’s interim government is mostly a helpless bystander to what is happening on the hot Af-Pak border is a sentiment echoed by other experts as well.

Kakar’s hands are bound because he heads a government with a narrow mandate – a supervisory role that Pakistan goes to the polls in 90 days. A Pakistani activist told India Narrative: “Kakar and Interim Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti along with the entire cabinet are toothless. The decisions are taken by the Pakistani Army in conjunction with the intelligency agencies in GHQ”.

The Pakistani expert said that the TTP has learnt fast from its erstwhile mentors – the Pakistani Army which is believed to have taken nearly $33 billion in aid from the US under the pretext of fighting the war on terror and used the aid to help fund Taliban insurgents on the sly.

“Pakistan and Taliban are on the same page but have different issues and priorities. The TTP is doing to Pakistan – spread radicalism and dismantle the democratic state – what Pakistan did to Afghanistan”.

In the latest attack, a soldier was killed and six others including civilians were injured after an improvised explosive device (IED) blew up on a military vehicle in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Monday.

The incident took place just days after four soldiers were killed in clashes with TTP militants reportedly infiltrating from across the Afghan border. Some reports have said that the TTP has taken control of several villages inside Pakistan.

Hundreds of TTP militants are believed to have crossed over into Pakistan in Chitral, a sensitive region that borders the Wakhan Corridor and China’s controversial western region of Xinjiang.

To the south of Chitral, the Pakistani border personnel had a firing incident against the Afghan border guards at the Torkham border crossing on September 6. The provocation was the construction of a building on the Afghan side of the border which Pakistan claims runs contrary to the agreements between the two sides. Diplomacy and meetings between Pakistani and Afghan border officials have failed to resolve the issue.

Amid an intensifying diplomatic spat, Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch even accused Afghanistan of “These [terrorist] elements are enjoying sanctuaries inside Afghanistan as confirmed by the UN Security Council’s Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team in its latest report”.

With hands tied, the interim government is bidding its time as Pakistan’s strategic policy of using terrorists as statecraft comes back to haunt it.