By: Sajjad Ali
The rise of terror incidents, particularly in Peshawar just before the onset of Muharram, poses a significant challenge for law enforcement agencies entrusted with ensuring the safety of Muharram processions. In Peshawar and the adjacent Khyber District, four major terror incidents occurred in just three days.
These attacks include a devastating incident that took place in Hayatabad, Peshawar, where a suicide bomber targeted an FC vehicle, injuring six FC personnel and ten others. In the same district, terrorists attacked police checkpoints, resulting in the martyrdom of two policemen. In another distressing event, two suicide bombers attempted to infiltrate the police compound in Bara, Khyber District, detonating themselves at the entrance, and causing the martyrdom of four people, including policemen, while ten others sustained injuries.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) remains the most active terrorist group in the region, alongside the presence of ISKP, JuA, and TJP in Peshawar and Khyber District. However, the responsibility of the major attacks is either claimed by the new group Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan or Jammat-ul-Ahrar (JuA).
The TJP claimed responsibility for the Hayatabad suicide attack, while JuA claimed the Bara suicide attack. Meanwhile, the TTP claimed responsibility for the attack on the police checkpoint. Last week, the armed militants of the Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan had launched an attack at Zhob Cantt that left nine soldiers martyred and injured five others.
Who is the Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan
Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan emerged in February 2023, announcing its presence with an attack in Balochistan’s Chaman district, followed by several small-scale attacks and target killings of policemen in KP and Balochistan. The group drew significant attention when it executed its first major terror attack in Qilla Saifullah, using five suicide bombers to target FC personnel.
From where it emerged
Rifatullah Orakzai, an analyst monitoring terrorism and Pak-Afghan affairs, told Ground Zero that Tehreek-e-Jihad has come into existence with a shared ideology, manifesto, and agenda that closely aligns with the TTP. Its formation was prompted by Pakistan’s pressure on the Afghan Taliban to halt TTP’s cross-border attacks. TJP essentially serves as a cover for the TTP, allowing the latter to avoid direct responsibility for major attacks, especially under pressure from the Afghan Taliban and the Afghan interim government. The TTP avoids directly claiming responsibility for major attacks, leaving TJP and JuA, operating under the TTP’s umbrella, to take on that role, especially under the pressure exerted by the Afghan Taliban.
The Afghan Taliban is careful not to let the TTP take direct responsibility for major attacks in Pakistan, as this could strain relations with the Afghan interim government. These smaller groups, such as TJP and JuA, act as cover-ups for the TTP, shielding it from Pakistan’s pressure on the Afghan interim government.
Is Afghan Taliban supporting the TJP, TTP?
Senior analyst Syed Waqas Shah, an expert on militancy, said that TTP militants are part of the TJP, but they have chosen a new name to ease Pakistan’s pressure on the Afghan Taliban. He also stated that Afghan Taliban fighters are supporting the TJP in attacks inside Pakistan. According to Waqas Shah, details of the Zhob Cantt attack revealed that Afghan fighters were also involved in the assault.
It is imperative to recognize that the TTP and the Afghan Taliban are indeed intertwined, and terror attacks in Pakistan are being planned and coordinated from Afghanistan.
On the other hand, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is denying the presence of the TTP in Afghanistan, which further complicates the situation.
Efforts to address this complex security situation are further complicated by the intricate relationships between the TTP, Afghan Taliban, and the Afghan interim government. Convincing the Afghan interim government to take action against safe sanctuaries in Afghanistan proves extremely challenging for Pakistani authorities, including special envoy Asif Durrani who visited Kabul to convince them to take action against TTP. The TTP and Afghan Taliban had previously fought together during the Afghan jihad/war, and the TTP still recognizes the Afghan Taliban’s ameer as its supreme leader. Consequently, any action taken by the Afghan Taliban against TTP militants could drive them to join ISKP, creating significant risks for the Afghan Taliban.
Pakistan’s concerns and response
Asif Durrani, Islamabad’s newly appointed special representative on Afghanistan, has been sent to convey Pakistan’s concerns regarding cross-border attacks, which are crucial to its internal security.
In a recent corps commander meeting, the Pakistani military took a firm stance, sternly warning the Taliban against allowing the TTP and other terrorist groups to use Afghan soil as a platform to threaten Pakistan. The armed forces of Pakistan expressed serious concerns about the safe havens and freedom of action that the TTP enjoys in Afghanistan, as highlighted in the military statement released by the ISPR after the crucial meeting.
Despite the Afghan Taliban’s claims that the Doha agreement was with the US and not with Pakistan, they are bound by the accord to prevent any use of Afghan territory for attacks against any country, including Pakistan, which is a US ally. Ensuring border security remains of paramount importance for Pakistan, but it is also aware of the formidable challenges that come with taking direct action across the border.