Pakistan must stop dealing with terrorist organizations by turning one against the other. In the changing circumstances in Afghanistan, Pakistan should be even more cautious especially while dealing with the Afghan Taliban and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The Afghan Taliban should not be considered an ally of Pakistan, given their historic relations with TTP. Pakistan will risk its security if it relies on the Afghan Taliban to tackle with the TTP.
Pakistan has many reasons to worry about its security given the rise of the Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan. First, since the establishment of the TTP in 2007, Pakistan has been facing a severe onslaught of US drones. The TTP had been at the receiving end for not only their global Jihad, but also for providing safe sanctuaries to the Afghan Taliban after the 9/11 in Pakistan.
The TTP, being an associate of Al-Qaeda, had the global agenda to establish Sharia law across the world. This flawed approach of the TTP enraged the US. As a result, the US and Pakistan both joined in the global war on terror and clamped down on TTP. However, despite the US and Pakistani drone attacks, the TTP didn’t stop being allies with the Afghan Taliban. The TTP provided the Afghan Taliban with food, shelter and everything in between. Pakistan needs to be careful to trust the Afghan Taliban. The Afghan Taliban cannot be helpful as they will not go against the TPP, their brothers.
There are number of articles published in various think tanks from Brookings Institute to South Asian Voices to Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in which it has been categorically said that the TTP was weakened after they attacked the Army Public School on 16 December 2014. Over the subsequent years from 2014 to 2018, as a result of Zarb-e-Azab, the TTP’s power was destroyed. Now, the TTP is emerging once again due to the rise of the Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan.
The political ambitions of the TTP and Afghan Taliban are similar, they both want sharia law in Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Both terror organizations have the same DNA, but exist in two different bodies. In fact, the endurance of the Afghan Taliban both in the 1980s against the Soviet Union, and during the last two decades against the US, is a booster shot for the TTP.
TTP is also on the rise because of the change of its manifesto in 2018 in which the organization had shunned its global agenda of Jihad to focus only on Pakistan. This change in mindset had provided the TTP two benefits: one, the US drone attacks stopped; two, Pakistan failed to secure the drone technology for surveillance. Had the TPP not changed its manifesto, by now probably Pakistan would have secured the technology of drone attacks from the US. Thus, it is undoubtedly clear from this move that TTP has grown.
Similarly, in order to gain public legitimacy, the TTP shunned its anti-shia agenda and extended its support to the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM). Previously, the Pakistani public was furious was furious with the TTP for its indiscriminate attacks on public property and lands.
In other words, the TTP has to gain the support of all the religio-political parties in the country who also want to establish Shariah in Pakistan. This kind of soft approach has sent shock-waves across the security establishment of Pakistan who still think that they can handle it by doing negotiations or offering amenities to the different factions of terror groups.
Owing to the above-mentioned approaches of the TTP, it can be said that Pakistan has played a bad gamble relying on the Afghan Taliban for strategic depth. So, what is the way forward for Pakistan? At this time, it has to dismantle its relations with the terror groups and create a national consensus against terrorism. Pakistan security establishment has to come out of their old tactics of maligning movements such as Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) or equating them with terrorists. Describing a genuine movement like PTM as “foreign funded” is not in the favor of Pakistan, especially given the resurgence of the TTP.
In conclusion, Pakistan has to do away with its old tactics of playing one group against the other as it longer suits the region given the lack of influence the US has on Afghanistan, and given no flows of dollars for unrelenting wars. If Pakistan does not stop playing old tricks, it will find the hybrid regime unraveling over time.