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Resurgence of terrorism

Col IkramUllah Khan

Col (r) Ikram Ullah Khan 

A fresh wave of terrorism with full force has been witnessed in Pakistan during the past few weeks with TTP and other terrorist outfits launching attacks after attacks on Pakistan from Afghan soil. 

A slew of deadly terrorist attacks on Pakistan’s security forces and military installations during the past couple of weeks including on a police station in DI Khan, naval base in Turbat and the devastating March 16 suicide attack on a military post in North Waziristan claiming the lives of seven soldiers including two officers that prompted Pakistan’s retaliatory air strikes inside Afghanistan on March 18 targeting suspected hideouts of TTP and Hafiz Gul Bahadar’s militant group. 

The recent terrorist attack that took place in Besham on March 26 in which five Chinese engineers working in Dasu hydropower project were killed, is a crude attempt to sabotage the friendly relations between Pakistan and China. This isn’t the first incident of its kind. Prior to this, similar terrorist attack was carried out in Dasu in July 2021 killing 13 innocent people including 9 Chinese engineers and 4 Pakistanis. 

In this context, it’s worth mentioning here that Dasu hydropower project is part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flagship project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). From this, it’s not very hard to understand the elements who are bitterly against the CPEC and want to see a huge crack in Pakistan and China relationship.

Unfortunately, the incidents of incessant terrorist attacks on Pakistan by TTP and its affiliates using Afghan soil, have become a routine affair since Afghan Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021. A surge in terrorist attacks is witnessed, and fighters equipped with the latest weapons that the US-led allied forces left behind, weapons that even Pakistani forces do not have, are carrying out terrorist attacks including suicide attacks on security forces claiming hundreds of innocent lives.

Pakistan has been repeatedly protesting with the Afghan government that the TTP and its affiliates are operating from across the border using Afghan soil as safe haven and launch attacks inside Pakistan, but that has gone unheeded. According to the latest data, more than 650 terrorist attacks were carried out across Pakistan during 2023 where nearly 1000 people, predominantly security personnel, were killed. The bulk of attacks targeted the provinces of KPK and Balochistan, both of which border Afghanistan. 

It may be noted that Pak-Afghan border is different from traditional borders around the globe with respect to its contours, terrain, topography, length and sensitivity. Managing such a long and porous border needs men and material of huge magnitude and above all, sincere commitment from both the neighbours to rid both the countries of terrorist outfits operating from across the border with complete impunity. 

Cross-border terrorist incidents will keep happening unless both the countries join hands and show resolve to stamp out terrorism from their soil. In this regard, main responsibility lies with the Taliban government of Afghanistan to rein in the terrorist groups like TTP and Hafiz Gul Bahadar’s militant group operating from Afghan soil unhindered.

There is a need to understand that the terrorists activities which are on the rise these days, are carried out to destabilize both Pakistan and Afghanistan as our enemies can’t see both the neighbours enjoy good relations and achieve political and economic stability. Both the neighbours need to understand that if terrorist activities go on unabated, it will hurt their vital interests benefitting only their enemies. If both the neighbours maintain hostile posture towards each other instead of removing the irritants through dialogue, both the countries will end up as losers. This is what our enemies want. 

The Taliban government of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) must realize that it has chosen a perilous path and is dancing on a razor’s edge by adopting a belligerent posture against Pakistan who is always found standing with the people of Afghanistan through thick and thin and has always offered friendly overtures towards Kabul against all odds. Kabul needs to understand that the hostile posture adopted by it against Pakistan is craftily and slyly choreographed by the enemies of both the countries in order to foment anti-Pakistan sentiments in the people of Afghanistan.

This is an ingenious manifestation of hybrid war waged against Pakistan by its enemies who want to make Pakistan bleed through their proxies without fighting a formal war. 

By sheltering the banned terrorist outfit of TTP and letting them operate against Pakistan liberally using Afghan soil while ignoring the constant protests lodged by Pakistan, Kabul is shooting itself in the foot. Taliban leadership must realize that being a landlocked country, Afghanistan’s economy is entirely dependent on Pakistan as its transit trade route (TTR) passes through Pakistan only. Those who mislead Kabul into believing that it can economically survive without transit trade through Pakistan and offer them an alternate trade route via Chabahar port are doing it merely to serve their own end and make Afghanistan dependent on them. They know it well that this isn’t a viable option and can’t serve as an alternate route to the perennial Transit Trade Route (TTR) passing through Torkham border. 

It’s hoped that Taliban leadership in Kabul will see reason, sense the gravity of the situation, come to grips with reality, adopt a reconciliatory approach and address the genuine security concerns of Pakistan before situation gets out of hand. This is the only path leading to salvation and a guide to sense and sensibility providing practical and enduring solution.

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