ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Many in Pakistan’s excitement over the Taliban’s victory in Kabul six months ago is waning. The government had hoped that a friendly – some say proxy – regime in Kabul would ease their concerns about the Pakistani Taliban.
But instead, there has been an uptick in terrorist attacks in recent months, which Pakistani officials say were planned by militants hiding inside Afghan territory.
However, senior Pakistani security and civilian officials remain optimistic about the future, or at least stress that a stable Afghanistan is essential for a stable Pakistan. It is a position that puts Pakistan in a difficult corner: It must continue to help the new Taliban government, while also facing growing economic and security risks to Pakistan as the new regime leaves. attached.
“Is there a possibility that if the Taliban government is tightened, there could be a change for the better? No,” Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan said in an interview with CNN earlier this month, stressing that the world will eventually have to deal with the Taliban because of the lack of a second or better alternative.
He added: “So the only alternative we have at the moment is to work with them and encourage them for what the world wants: inclusive government, human rights and especially the rights of women.
So far, however, government efforts to give diplomatic recognition to the Afghan Taliban and call for more global financial support have yielded little result. The fact that Pakistan does not recognize the Taliban in Afghanistan diplomatically shows the dilemma facing the country.
According to the Islamabad-based Pak Peace Research Institute, Pakistan has seen a 42 percent increase in terrorist attacks in 2021 from the year before, with a significant increase following the fall of Kabul. . The report notes that the fall of Kabul has begun to negatively affect the country’s military and security landscape, saying the change in Afghanistan “doesn’t help Pakistan’s efforts to cope with militant groups that threaten the country’s security.”
The Institute notes that the Pakistani Taliban, or Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, a banned militant group responsible for some of the country’s worst terrorist attacks, has carried out 87 attacks that have killed 158 people. network, an increase of 84% compared to 2020.
By the end of 2020, the Pakistani Taliban seems to have weakened considerably, its top leader killed or pushed into Afghanistan following an attack by the Pakistani army in 2014. But along with the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan , the insurgency is back and is using its resurgence to sow fear among Pakistani traders, government officials and law enforcement.
Report from Afghanistan
Using phone numbers starting with the Afghanistan international dialing code, the Pakistani Taliban called and threatened wealthy Pakistani merchants with blackmail.
Muhammad Azam, a trader in Karachi, said last month he paid about $2,850 for the terrorist outfit.
“If a merchant refused to pay, the warriors would detonate small bombs near their homes to frighten them and intolerable their demands. If they continue to refuse to pay, the militants will harm them or their family members,” Azam said.
Such threats have also extended to senior government officials, many of whom say they pay because they fear being attacked at political rallies or during other public events. — as well as the fates of past high-ranking political leaders.
A senior federal government minister, from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said he recently paid several million rupees to the Pakistani Taliban to avoid attack. Another official who spoke to The Times, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of security concerns, said that when he refused to pay, a fighter threatened him.
Police officers, especially those defending polio vaccination teams, are prime targets of such attacks. In 2021, militants, mainly from the Pakistani Taliban, have killed 48 policemen and wounded 44 others in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, according to police statistics. Most of the violence happened in the last few months of the year.
Despite repeated efforts, Pakistan was unable to receive firm assurances from the Afghan Taliban that it would act against the Pakistani Taliban operating in Afghanistan. The worsening security situation was one of the top items on the agenda in negotiations between the Taliban government and Moeed Yusuf, Pakistan’s national security adviser, when he visited Kabul last month. .
The Afghan Taliban “is committed to taking the necessary steps to ensure that Afghan soil is not used for attacks against Pakistan,” Yusuf said in an interview with The New York Times, adding that Pakistan “will continue to extend humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, and engage with the Taliban on matters of mutual concern and concern within the permitted international framework”.
Analysts also note that the Pakistani economy has been affected by the cross-border situation, as millions of US dollars are reportedly smuggled across the border every day. To mitigate this, the State Bank of Pakistan in October limited the amount of US dollars that travelers are allowed to bring to Afghanistan.
One of the positives for Pakistan after the fall of the previous Afghan government is the damage it has done. According to Asif Durrani, former Pakistani ambassador to Afghanistan and Iran, India’s second front against Pakistan, according to Asif Durrani, former Pakistani ambassador.
Pakistani officials have long accused India of supporting terrorism in Pakistan through Indian consulates inside Afghanistan, with the assistance of former Afghan government intelligence services. After the Taliban takeover, Pakistani officials say that India’s footprint has dwindled, although they still blame India for funding the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistani and Baluch separatist groups.
This is especially acute in southwestern Baluchistan, a province rich in natural gas and minerals and the site of major Chinese projects.
On January 27, the Pakistani military said 10 of its soldiers were killed during a shootout in the Kech district of Baluchistan province. Less than a week later, more than a dozen suicide attackers, armed with missiles and sophisticated weapons, attacked two Pakistani paramilitary camps in the remote districts of Panjgur and Naushki along the border. Pakistan’s southern border with Iran and western border with Afghanistan.
Asfandyar Mir, a senior fellow at the American Institute for Peace, said: “The insurgents in Baluch are also drawing strength from the Taliban and TTP’s example of defeating the United States and the TTP that helped them train and fight. art for a while”. for the Pakistani Taliban. “With Afghanistan being more lenient with the TTP, the Afghanistan-based Baluch insurgency – despite losing the patronage of the previous Afghan government – still has help in Afghanistan.”
Senior security officials in Islamabad also said they are concerned about the capacity issues of the Afghan Taliban, who do not have full control over all of their members. They say that some low-ranking Afghan Talibs still maintain their connections with the Pakistani Taliban, a fact acknowledged by the senior Afghan Taliban leadership, who acknowledge their shortcomings and are determined to alleviate Pakistan’s concerns.
However, some analysts warn that Pakistan is being overly optimistic and pinning its hopes on the Afghan Taliban.
“Ideological convergence between the Afghan Taliban and the TTP terrorist network is inevitable,” said Mosharraf Zaidi, a security and policy analyst based in Islamabad. “Combined with the apparent pro-Pashtun nationalist appeal, the ideological convergence between Kabul and the TTP terror network means the Taliban is not aligned with Islamabad on two key security issues.”
Mr. Mosharraf said Pakistan now has much of the same border as Afghanistan on the border that it did before August 2021, when Kabul fell, but with one profound difference. “The US government no longer has a qualified counterterrorism partner to work with.”
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Ironically, Pakistan, which has backed the Taliban against the United States and has struggled for international recognition since August 2021, is the first to allege that, under the new Taliban administration, the territory Afghanistan is being used for international terrorism, Mr. Mir said.
Pakistan made the allegation after TTP fighters shot from inside Afghanistan killing five Pakistani soldiers at a border post in the northwestern Kurram district on February 6.
Mr. Mir added: “The emptiness in the counterterrorism guarantees of the Afghan Taliban has become apparent in the way they treat the Pakistani Taliban.”
Salman Masood reported from Islamabad, and Zia ur-Rehman from Karachi. Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud contributed reporting from Peshawar.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/22/world/asia/pakistan-afghanistan-taliban.html To maintain its own stability, Pakistan must stabilize Afghanistan first