Return to terror – 20 Dec 2022

Years after we thought the war against militants had been won, and were reminded of this success repeatedly, it seems the battle is still very much on. In a new series of attacks which have torn apart law and order in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and specifically the former tribal areas, four policemen were killed on Sunday during an attack on a police station in the Lakki Marwat area, when militants laid siege to the building and killed four of those on duty. Four other policemen were injured and though a force said to number around 60 fought the militants for almost an hour they were able to flee under the cover of darkness.

In yet another attack, militants have taken over Counter Terror Department station in Bannu, taking CTD personnel hostage and demanding a safe exit to Afghanistan aboard an aircraft. This demand strengthens the suggestion of a link between events in Afghanistan and the new surge of terrorism in KP with at least 118 people killed in militant attacks since August this year. As this edit is written, talks between Pakistani officials and the leadership of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) are underway in Afghanistan – a spokesperson of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government confirming that a jirga left for Afghanistan to negotiate with the TTP’s leadership on Monday. It may be recalled that these attacks have come also amid tensions at the Pak-Afghan Chaman border.

What is needed now is a serious discussion with the current regime in Afghanistan so that some agreement can be reached on avoiding breaches of borders. And, while this is not the ideal solution, Pakistan now needs to give a clear ultimatum to the Afghan Taliban: they have to take action against TTP safe havens on Afghan soil if they wish to have Pakistan in their corner on the international stage and in other areas such as governance help provided by us. The announcement by the TTP that it is ending the ceasefire with the Pakistan government has been followed by an alarming increase in attacks. Counterterrorism forces in Pakistan need to move onto a new footing. We are battling both domestic terror attacks and a belligerent border situation on the west, along with the forever threat of India using any such instability on our land. Pakistan will need to act accordingly, put together a plan and revive the National Action Plan. With Nacta, a robust foreign policy, a determined effort to shun any appeasement of militancy (no ‘good’-‘bad’ Taliban dichotomy), and combining military-led efforts with a healthy input of counterterror civilian policymaking, there is no reason why militancy cannot be taken on by the state. Any failure to do so will just be due to a senseless lack of will.

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