For years Pakistan’s policymakers and their mouthpieces on electronic, print, and social media distinguished between the good and the bad Taliban. This caused confusion among the public. The good ones are those fighting against the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan and the bad ones are those who are waging a war against Pakistan, the former being the Afghan Taliban and the latter Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan.
One of the reasons why the Afghan Taliban were touted as good Taliban was because those who formulated the Afghan policy thought it would be a good idea to have an exclusively Taliban-led government in Afghanistan and that it would help us achieve some key objectives.
Getting rid of the TTP with help of the Afghan Taliban was one of the main objectives behind supporting their takeover of Kabul. Before the Taliban government in Afghanistan came to power, Pakistan claimed that the TTP was getting support from the Indian intelligence agency RAW. Pakistan had hoped that the Afghan Taliban would keep their promise and help dismantle the TTP but instead of doing this, they released hundreds of TTP prisoners from jails during their takeover of Kabul, which helped them get back on their feet. The Afghan Taliban also failed in their promise that they wouldn’t allow terrorist organizations to operate from Afghanistan against other countries, in particular the neighbouring ones. One example of this was the TTP roaming around freely and planning attacks on Pakistani soil via Afghanistan. Instead of countering the TTP, the Afghan Taliban are encouraging talks to solve the matter between both parties, which is a clear violation of their promise.
The policy of appeasement needs to stop and our decision-makers need to snap back into reality, and realize that there’s not much of a difference between the so-called ‘good Taliban’ and the ‘bad Taliban’.
We have seen how talks failed between the state and TTP, and it has only helped them strategize their next move, given them space to regroup. This time when the state decided to initiate peace talks with the TTP, and the Afghan Taliban facilitating them, the TTP demanded the impossible demands i.e. reversing the 25th amendment for starters.
This is their core demand, they want this to be done so that they can again make erstwhile FATA region a buffer zone that borders Afghanistan with no presence of the security forces in the area and carry on with their nefarious activities, continue their attacks on the rest of Pakistan from there and enhance their twisted agenda by brutally terrorizing the society or perhaps carry on with the grand plan of their spiritual masters the al-Qaeda or the IS-K. Evidently the TTP has increased its attacks and is growing stronger.
According to a report by the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies, “As many as 433 people were killed and 719 wounded in 250 terrorist attacks in Pakistan between 15 August 2021 and 14 August 2022, according to details” that’s a 51 pc spike in attacks since last year since the Afghan Taliban took over Kabul.
Since last year, the TTP has been executing attacks in peripheries of the country, mostly in the Kyber Pakhtunkhwa province. However, recently the TTP claimed responsibility for a bomb blast in the Federal Capital city, Islamabad. The car carrying the explosive material was stopped at a police checkpoint when the terrorist exploded the device, which killed a police officer and injured a few other policemen.
This evidently shows that urban cities are not far from their reach and they have the capability to shift the theatre of war from peripheries to center.
The point is, the policy of appeasement needs to stop and our decision-makers need to snap back into reality and realize that there’s not much of a difference between the so-called ‘good Taliban’ and the ‘bad Taliban’. The so-called ‘good ones’ aren’t doing our bidding. They’ve provided the TTP with not just a safe haven in Afghanistan but also an operational ground to plan attacks into Pakistan. They’ve sided with their brethren who fought with them side by side against the NATO forces in Afghanistan as they have in the past as well. So let’s just call a spade a spade.
The writing on the wall is that the war on terror is back, and the media, political parties and the establishment needs to pick a side.
This also calls for an overhauling of our Afghan policy. At the same time, we mustn’t isolate indigenous progressive grassroots voices which stand tall against militancy. This is a decisive battle for Pakistan, we ought to treat it like one.