Pakistan has been facing a serious security situation in its border provinces adjoining Afghanistan because the ‘Durand Line’ was never accepted by the Afghans. The situation has been aggravated because of the border fencing by Pakistan, which is not acceptable to the Afghan Taliban and the TTP.
|The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army|
Asim Munir, also called ‘Mullah General’, has received a gift from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on his taking over as the new Pakistan Army Chief. A day before Munir took over the appointment of Army Chief; the TTP called off its ceasefire with the Pakistani government, arrived at in June 2022, and ordered its cadres to undertake attacks across Pakistan.
The Defence Ministry of TTP instructed all its fighters, senior commanders and governors of the provinces to start attacking Pakistani forces across the country whenever possible in response to the provocative attacks by the occupying forces. The statement noted, “We are giving this message to the people of Pakistan, we have informed you several times and were being patient so that at least we wouldn't be blamed for sabotaging the peace negotiation process, but during the negotiations, the army, intelligence agencies continued their attacks and raids on TTP fighters. So now it is imperative to launch revenge attacks and those will be carried out throughout the country.”
Asim Munir was heading the Inter-Services Intelligence of Pakistan when a convoy of vehicles carrying security forces on the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway was attacked by a vehicle-borne suicide bomber in Pulwama on February 14, 2019, killing 40 CRPF personnel. The Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) claimed responsibility for the attack. It is quite possible that Munir had personally spoken to JeM Chief Masood Azhar to organise the attack since Pakistan-based terrorist organisations form part of the covert arm of the ISI.
TTP instructed all its fighters to start attacking Pakistani forces across the country whenever possible in response to the provocative attacks by the occupying forces
Asim Munir received this gift from the TTP at a time when Imran Khan has called off his long march to Rawalpindi and Pakistan’s economy continues to be in shambles; foreign exchange reserves are down to $8 billion compared to over $20 billion in August 2021, foreign direct investment has fallen by 52 per cent in the current fiscal year and exports are down due to global economic slowdown. Pakistan has already budgeted $2.6 billion of World Bank financing, including $1.4 billion out of the International Development Assistance for the current fiscal year. So far it has received $3 billion from the IMF programme.
Pakistan has been facing a serious security situation in its border provinces adjoining Afghanistan because the ‘Durand Line’ was never accepted by the Afghans, as well as Pashtuns living on both sides of the border. For the Pashtun population, the famous Pashto slogan is: "Lar o bar, Yaw Afghan Low (lowlands of Pakistan) or High (highlands of Afghanistan), Afghans are one.” But the situation has been aggravated because of the border fencing by Pakistan, which is not acceptable to the Afghan Taliban and the TTP.
There have been several clashes along the Pakistan-Afghanistan the border since the Afghan Taliban came to power in Kabul; with the Taliban cutting or attempting to uproot the border fencing. On social media websites, pro-Taliban accounts shared videos of the Taliban fighters destroying pillars of barbed wire, installed by Pakistan, in the Dand-e-Patan district of Afghanistan's Paktia Province.
In a recent incident on November 13, 2022, one Pakistan’s Frontier Corps personnel was killed and two injured in firing from Afghanistan at the Chaman/Spin Boldak border crossing. Consequently, Pakistan closed all business and trade activities at the Chaman border for over a week causing a humanitarian crisis for the Pashtun population living on both sides of the border. However, after multiple flag meetings between the Taliban and Pakistani officials, the authorities reopened the border crossing on November 21.
Pakistan had sought the assistance of the Afghan Taliban to broker a ceasefire with the TTP that came into effect in June this year. But the ceasefire was never complete with both sides attacking each other.
Pakistan had sought the assistance of the Afghan Taliban to broker a ceasefire with the TTP that came into effect in June this year. But the ceasefire was never complete with both sides attacking each other. As already brought out in these columns on November 14, 2022, Pakistani media reported that the TTP has claimed responsibility for carrying out 43 attacks in 18 districts of Pakistan. The TTP’s media wing claims that overall 113 security personnel including 60 Pakistani troops, 30 policemen, 19 FC, and 4 intelligence agencies personnel were killed and injured. The ‘Dawn’, citing the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS), says that September witnessed 42 militant attacks with an increase of 35 per cent compared to August. PICSS has also observed an increase of 106 per cent in violence in erstwhile FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The TTP is creation of the Pakistani army establishment. So as they say: the chickens are coming home to roost. Hundreds of heavily armed TTP cadres are already inside Pakistan. Latest footage shows heavily armed fighters of TTP’s Hamid Gul Bahadur group riding motorcycles heading towards Pashtunkhwa. The caravan also includes suicide bombers of the ‘Khalid Bin Walid’ squad. Whether Pakistan will be able to broker another ceasefire with the TTP is doubtful because the TTP this time appears more than determined. Its stated aim from the very beginning is to establish Sharia rule in Pakistan, which also the Afghan Taliban wants and both are brothers-in-arms.
Violence and instability in Pakistan is, therefore, likely to increase. How much Asim Munir would accommodate the TTP would be interesting to watch. But those opining that Munir will be too busy with internal problems to stoke trouble in India especially J&K are naïve. Having become third-time President of China, Xi Jinping is more than aggressive. It is not without reason he distributed maps showing Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh as part of China and J&K as part of Pakistan at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit held in Uzbekistan on September 15-16, 2022, which was also attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Munir also has intimate support of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey, who is preparing to launch operations in Syria. But more important is Erdogan’s support to Pakistan on Kashmir.
The TTP is creation of the Pakistani army establishment. Hundreds of heavily armed TTP cadres are already inside Pakistan.
During a meeting in Turkey on November 12, 2022, organised by Erdoğan’s secretive paramilitary group ‘SADAT’, the idea of sending foreign fighters to Kashmir and Palestine against the backdrop of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict was raised. In the above meeting, Kashmir-born Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, who has served time in US federal prison, asked “Not only NATO but all the world powers, they said any volunteer, including Americans, you can go to Ukraine, you can fight shoulder-to-shoulder with the Ukrainian army, and they are called heroes. I endorse that. But my only point is, Are these volunteers going to be allowed to go to Palestine, to go to Kashmir? Can we ask the world powers why don’t you feel that pain and suffering when it comes from the streets of Palestine or Kashmir?”
Fai’s remarks were hailed by other participants in the meeting. Fai’s US-based organisation, the Kashmiri American Council (KAC) is funded by Pakistan’s ISI which has partnered SADAT and its affiliated organisations since long. This meeting obviously was on behalf of Erdogan himself because Mesut Hakkı Caşın, Erdogan’s advisor on security and foreign policy, and Pakistani Senator Muhammad Talha Mahmood, the federal minister for states and frontier regions, were among the attendees of the meeting. Notably, Turkish jihadis have been killed in encounters in J&K in the past.
Additional DGP (Kashmir Zone) Vijay Kumar recently said that terrorism in J&K is to be wiped out in two years. This is more of a political statement because without transporting Pakistan’s proxy war back across the border, this will not end. Given the China-Pakistan-Turkey axis, we should be prepared for more terror attacks in J&K perhaps of more virulent types. This would also help Munir in diverting attention from instability and violence inside Pakistan.