TTP rejects Pakistan’s amnesty offer; govt maintains need for dialogue

TTP rejects Pakistan’s amnesty offer; govt maintains need for dialogue

TTP rejects Pakistan’s amnesty offer; govt maintains need for dialogue

Representational Image (Picture credit - ResoluteSupportMedia/Flickr)

By Sania Arif

Despite announcing a ceasefire with the Pakistani government on October 1, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has continued to orchestrate attacks in the country. 

Islamabad: Last week, five security personnel were killed in three separate attacks near the Afghanistan border. While the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has denied that it orchestrated the attack, the group has claimed multiple attacks in Pakistan over the past two months.

Last month, a soldier of the Pakistan Army was killed in North Waziristan. This incident followed a bomb attack on a local political leader, for which the TTP claimed responsibility. A day after that five law enforcement personnel — police and security agency officers — were killed in Bajaur on the Afghan border.

The TTP announced a 20-day ceasefire after Prime Minister Imran Khan said his government was in talks with some factions of the proscribed group, and that they would be pardoned if they surrendered. The TTP rejected Islamabad’s amnesty offer and, instead, demanded that the government impose Islamic Sharia law in the Muslim-majority South Asian nation. 

“Some groups of the Pakistani Taliban want to discuss peace and reconciliation with Pakistan,” Khan said in an interview. “We are in talks with them.” 

When asked whether the Afghan Taliban was helping to mediate the dialogue, the prime minister responded in the affirmative, saying it was because “the talks are taking place in Afghanistan”.

Following the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul, Khan had lauded the development as the locals ‘breaking the shackles of slavery’. The statement, coming from the head of a country officially allied with the US against jihadist groups in Afghanistan, was seen by experts as evidence of Pakistan’s doublespeak in the region, and of Islamabad’s support to the Afghan Taliban.

Last month, President Arif Alvi and Foreign Affairs Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, too, had said that the government would extend amnesty to TTP members if they were not involved with the armed group any longer and don't engage in criminal activities.

However, Qureshi had expressed concern about the news that TTP leaders were being released from prisons after the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan. “After their release, if they create problems for us here, it will affect the lives of innocent people, and we don't want that,” he had said. 

The Taliban’s reaction

In response to Khan’s statements on the ongoing talks between the two sides, the TTP said they were an organised movement with a collective policy, and not a victim of factionalism.

“The TTP has not declared a ceasefire anywhere, and our policy on meaningful dialogue is clear,” TTP spokesperson Mohammad Khorasani said, also warning media houses against branding the group a “terrorist outfit” and using terms such as “terrorists” and “extremists”.

On the government’s amnesty offer, the TTP said, “Pardon is usually offered to those who commit crimes, but we are quite proud of our struggle. We can offer conditional amnesty to our enemy, if they promise to implement Sharia in the country.” 

The Pakistan government, the army and the Taliban have tried to reach an agreement on several occasions in the past. In fact, the country entered into both formal written and unwritten agreements with a number of extremist organisations and reached three such major pacts in Swat and South Waziristan. 

Analysts believe there are two important references to these agreements. First, at the time of these negotiations, the state writ in these areas was exhausted and the army was in loss, which left the government in a weak position and gave the extremists the upper hand. Second, nearly all these agreements failed to bring about peace, as a result of which militant groups could not only make headway in these areas but could also spread to others.

“It’s likely that Pakistan may, once again, seek help from the Afghan Taliban to negotiate with the TTP,” said security analyst Rasool Dawar. “If they are successful, Pakistan won’t be targeted by the TTP.”

“However, the presence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is a threat to both the Afghan Taliban and Pakistan because the Afghan Taliban has no control over ISIS.”

According to the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), the TTP claimed responsibility for as many as 14 attacks in August and September alone. While their attacks have been more prominent since the Afghan Taliban’s takeover in Kabul, the power of the Pakistan Taliban has been on the rise in tribal regions for the past couple of years.

“The TTP had fragmented into various factions, but they have been reuniting of late,” explained Director of Pips, Muhammad Amir Rana. “This has led to an increase in their attacks.”

Casualties over the year

In 2020, as many as 220 people were killed and 547 injured in 146 terrorist incidents, including three suicide bombings, in the country, according to PIPs data. Moreover, 67 terrorist attacks were reported last year in the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas, which are now part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. At least 100 people were killed and 206 injured in 79 attacks in this northwestern province in 2020.

Balochistan was the other highly affected province, with 95 people killed and 216 injured in 42 terrorist attacks. Similarly, 20 deaths and 66 injuries were reported in 18 attacks in Sindh, and five were killed and 59 injured in seven such incidents in Punjab. 

Experts maintain that regional cooperation is needed to thwart attacks by extra state militia. Both Afghanistan and Pakistan have long accused each other of harbouring terror outfits that target their respective territories. Now, there is speculation over whether this could change, with the Taliban in charge in Kabul.

“In recent years, Pakistan and Afghanistan have followed a two-way mechanism, including security and intelligence cooperation,” said Mansoor Ahmad Khan, the Pakistani ambassador to Afghanistan. “Therefore, Afghanistan would need to participate in an international counterterror network.”

On November 8, the TTP and Pakistan agreed on another month-long ceasefire. The Afghan Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi confirmed to the BBC that the group is mediating a new round of talks between the TTP and the Pakistan government. Some of the demands include a political office for TTP in a third country, the reversal of the merger of Federal Administered Tribal Areas with the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province and the introduction of an Islamic system in Pakistan. The Pakistani government has rejected their demands and has asked TTP to lay down their arms and issue a public apology for the terror attacks they perpetuated as a precursor for amnesty. 

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