Pakistan is in the news once again. As General Asim Munir assumes the responsibility of the next Army Chief of Pakistan, a curious event has added to the challenges facing the country. The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has officially declared an end to the months-long ceasefire with the government of Pakistan that had been the basis of peaceful negotiations between the two parties. The resurgence of the threat to attacks across the country has been in response to the increased activities of the Pakistani military in the north-western tribal areas and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Over the past few months Pakistan has been tackling a range of political, economic and security challenges coupled with changes in the administrations. The open threat of the terrorist organisation would further add to the fragile security situation of the country. However, before delving further into what the threats of the Tehrik-e-Taliban would mean for Pakistan, it is important to understand what the Tehrik-e-Taliban is and what are the reasons behind this renewed tension between the organisation and the state.
What is the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)?
The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan occupies the status of the most prominent militant organisation in Pakistan with closer ties to the Afghan Taliban. While Afghan Taliban took political hold of Afghanistan, it provided a boost to the violent activities of the TTP.
The radical Islamist policies and extremist ideologies of the TTP have posed a threat to the Pakistani establishment since its establishment in 2007. The organisation is primarily concentrated in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) located along the Durand Line which forms the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The TTP has categorically challenged the Pakistani establishment’s interference in these areas and aimed towards building an Islamic Caliphate by overthrowing the state structure. The organisation also opposes the merger of the FATA to the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the issue of autonomy has been a major cause of contention between the state and the TTP.
Attempts for peace
Now over the years, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan has waged an open war against the Pakistani state however, there have been attempts to bring both the sides to a peaceful resolution. One such endeavour at negotiations, surprisingly mediated by the Afghan Taliban in its attempt to forge peace, concluded with the decision to impose a ceasefire with both the parties agreeing to the terms on their side. One of the major demands from the TTP was for the Pakistani state to release the prisoners belonging to the organisation and also for the establishment to not interfere with the functioning of the tribal areas which are the strongholds of the militant organisation.
After constant negotiations over the period between Pakistan and the TTP, it was finally decided in May 2022 to extend the ceasefire indefinitely which would mean an end to the decade long hostility between the two parties.
However, this ceasefire has now officially ben broken by the TTP as it claims that several security operations were carried out by the Pakistani state over the last few months. A particular mention has been given to the operations being carried out in Lakki Marwat in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa against the organisation. The TTP maintains the position that the Pakistani state has broken the terms of the ceasefire which has readily prompted the organisation to retaliate. It is worth noting that the TTP had termed all attacks during the negotiations and the ceasefire as ‘defensive attacks’ against the operations of the Pakistani security forces. However, now with the ending of this ceasefire, the TTP has occupied a more offensive stance as it also claims to be responding to the killing of its leader Omar Khalid Khusarani by the security forces.
Incidentally, this announcement has come just in time as Lieutenant- General Bajwa, who has played an important role in negotiating the ceasefire in question, steps down from his position to give way to the new Army Chief.
What does this mean for Pakistan?
What the implications of the ceasefire annulment means for Pakistan is clearly evident from the recent attacks on the Pakistan police in Quetta, Balochistan. This attack happened in the backdrop of the ending of the ceasefire, much like a strong message from the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan to the state establishment about the seriousness of the threat.
The suicide bomb attack, officially claimed by the TTP took the lives of four people including a police officer and three civilians, while injuring around twenty three people. The attack has sent shivers across Pakistan as the government now has a direct militant challenge facing it once again. One aspect of the ending of the ceasefire is that the TTP leadership has called for operations across the country when the attacks were just limited to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province earlier. This has brought the entire Pakistan forces to a red alert and could indicate a series of continued attacks like this in the near future.
The response to the threats and the attack by the Pakistani government has so far remained ambiguous however, it seems as though formal talks may not happen any time soon as the Interior Minister Rana Sannaulla has refused to initiate any negotiations with the outfit.
The state of Pakistan is facing a bold threat to its security in the form of militant organisations. The growing dissatisfaction of the Balochistan Liberation Army coupled with the end of this ceasefire with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan adds to the already fragile security situation of the country. This also poses a challenge to the newly formed political administration in the country as well as the new leadership of the army. As the army itself is grappling with its own dynamics of defining its role in the Pakistani political structure and aiming to restore the faith of the civilians in the structure, it would be imperative to note the response of the establishment to this imminent threat.