Gen Asim Muneer inherits a can of worms
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 02 Dec , 2022

 “The banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has announced an end to the months-long “indefinite ceasefire”, accusing the government of beaching the agreement brokered by the Afghan Taliban,” wrote the Dawn on 30 November.

TTP chief Mufti Noor Wali said they had never refused meaningful negotiation “ as it is a part of Sharia law.”

Pakistan held talks with the TTP in October last year on the persuasion of the Afghan Taliban. Kabul knew that the continued presence of the TTP would become a source of irritation between Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban; they did not like it to happen.

The ceasefire did not last beyond eight months when relations between the Government of Pakistan and the Taliban began to sour. Finally, a few days ago, the TTP announced an end to ceasefire. Their leadership gave clear orders to the activists to resume fighting if Pakistan trespassed their territories.

There are charges and counter charges. Even before withdrawing from the ceasefire agreement, there was a deadlock in bilateral talks. Pakistani sources say that the deadlock in talks ensued because the TTP leadership insisted on the reversal of the merger of erstwhile FATA with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. The merger of FATA had been ordered obviously on political considerations. The aim was to weaken the demand for Pukhtunistan.

TTP has several cogent reasons to announce doing away with the ceasefire agreement. For example, the government does not seem to be prepared to honour and implement the clauses of the ceasefire agreement. Pakistan had agreed to release the prisoners but it did not. Though some of the prisoners were released they were re-arrested and put in prison.

TTP says that despite the ceasefire, Pakistani Rangers and others continued their military operations causing loss of life. What Pakistani side says is absolutely a fabricated story, the Taliban spokesperson said. The TTP also said that there was no dependable communication with the Pakistani side to monitor the successful continuation of the ceasefire agreement.

TTP chief Mufti Noor Wali said that during the eight-month–long ceasefire, there was no progress towards a settlement of the disputes and an uneasy stalemate prevailed. He added that there was stalemate on TTP laying down their arms in a prospect of ceasing hostilities.  Laying down of arms was conditional and the conditions were never fulfilled.

It will be recalled that last month a series of meetings were held between the two sides but without a tangible result. Pakistan dispatched a second delegation within a week. This was a delegation of ulema meaning the religious scholars led by Mufti Taqi Usman of a tribal Jirga which visited Kabul. The ulema entreated the TTP for laying down their arms but the Taliban were not prepared to agree.

Hindsight reveals that there has not been any show of real intentions on the part of Pakistan to finalize an agreement and stick to it. After all, the killing of thousands of Pukhtuns by the Pakistan army in two of its declared operations has left a deep scar in the mind of TTP.

The editorial piece in the Pakistani newspaper Dawn of 30 November indicates that the TTP is deeply angered by the dilly-dallying attitude of Pakistan and its nonseriousness of talking peace with them. TTP’s disenchantment can be fathomed by how their commander has taken the entire episode.

The editorial writes, “ It (TTP) placed the blame for this development on “unabated” operations by the security forces against militants in parts of KP and called on TTP combatants to take revenge. For a nation that has experienced years of wanton violence by religious extremists who did not even spare women and children, and left parks, bazaars, schools, mosques, churches, etc. awash with blood, there can scarcely be a more chilling message.”

Amusingly, as Pakistan got broiled in the mess of internal politics and the looming controversy about the successor to COAS Gen Bajwa, the army sources continued to feed the Pakistani public with the falsehood that negotiations with the TTP were progressing and an amicable resolution of the tension was in sight.

As against this falsehood, skirmishes along the border and the Durand Line continued unabated resulting in loss of life. In April no fewer than two dozen Pakistani soldiers were killed in a skirmish with the TTP.  The latter is said to have used sophisticated weapons in that clash. Subsequently, as a revengeful action, Pakistan ordered airstrikes across the border. Together with that Pakistan issued a stern warning to Afghanistan not to allow Afghan soil to be used for attacks on Pakistan.

How brazen-faced are the Pakistanis who played an active role in the war of the Afghan Taliban against the American and NATO forces and had allowed sanctuaries to the Afghans in Quetta and other towns of Pakistan? She has been using double standards about not facilitating the militants to use the soil of another country. The dozens of Pakistani terrorist organizations, some of them designated by the UN and the US  State Department, are termed by  Pakistan as non-state actors and hence outside the grip of Pakistani law. These so-called non-state actors have been using Pakistani soil for infiltration into and attacks in Kashmir. Where does Pakistan’s principle of not allowing the soil to be used by a third actor evaporate in thin air?

It has to be understood that at the core of the Pak-TTP tussle are two important issues. First is the Durand Line and the second is the integration of FATA into PK. These are the real causes of a prolonged environment of conflict and tussling between the TTP and the Pakistani State.

The Durand Line, drawn by the British imperialists was never accepted by Afghanistan and the Pukhtuns of the Pak-Afghan frontier. Pakistan wants the Pukhtuns and Afghanistan to accept this line through the force of arms. This is the real cause why  the frontier Taliban raised the TTP. The Durand Line divides hundreds and thousands of  Pukhtun families. The TTP is born out of the ideology of the Afghan Taliban, who in turn, are a creation of Pakistan. How then can Pakistan demand that the TTP should not have safe havens in Afghanistan and particularly when power is in the hands of the Taliban in Kabul?

The zarbe azab and other military operations conducted under the command of retired Gen Bajwa resulted in the killing of nearly seventy thousand Pukhtuns. This is the legacy left behind by Bajwa to his successor.

The alienation of the Pukhtuns on both sides of the Durand Line has been further deepened by the Pakistan government’s decision of merging FATA with Pukhtunkhwa against the will of the people. As long as these two issues are not resolved, the TTP will remain active.

Pakistan’s new COAS Asim Muneer is a religion-minded man and has learnt the Quran by heart. The TTP expects him to be an honest man and deal with TTP co-religionists with justice and equity.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

KN Pandita

Former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University.

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