While it has been known to everyone about the romance between the notorious terrorist outfit Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and deposed Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistani media has now openly accused Imran Khan, stating ” the fighters of TTP succeeded once again in organising themselves and becoming active. The policy of reconciliation and soft corner adopted with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan during the former Government of Imran Khan led to the terrorists once again becoming powerful”.
“Officials have claimed that the links of most of the terror attacks are connected to eastern Afghanistan where the Afghan Taliban host the TTP fighters as their guests”.
On January 30, 2023, a man detonated his suicide vest inside a mosque in the Police Lines area of Peshawar, a high-security zone where police headquarters are located, killing more than 100 worshippers, most of them police officers, and wounding scores of others. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (Movement of the Pakistani Taliban, TTP) has carried out many attacks in recent years in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, of which Peshawar is the provincial capital. These attacks have increased since the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August 2021.
It was expected that TTP – which describes itself as a branch of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA, i.e., the Afghan Taliban) would carry out a major terror attack to avenge the August 2022 killing in Afghanistan of Omar Khalid Khorasani, a leading jihadist commander who was part of the TTP alliance. It is believed that Pakistani security agencies killed Khalid Khorasani.
Despite initial media reports suggesting that the TTP had claimed responsibility for the Peshawar mosque bombing, the TTP issued a statement the same day denying any involvement in the attack and citing an excerpt from its strategy document forbidding attacks in mosques, madrassas, graveyards, funerals, markets, or other public places.
Urdu-language newspapers in Pakistan, the Roznama Jasarat, published editorials on the mosque bombing, exploring all possibilities of what could have gone wrong with Pakistan’s counter-terrorism policy, which in recent years has forced the TTP jihadists to flee to Afghanistan. It may be mentioned here that Roznama Jasarat belongs to Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistani (JeIP), which also runs two more publications, namely Roznama Express and Roznama Jan.
Roznama Jasarat, in its editorial titled ‘The blast in Peshawar’s mosque’ wrote:
“Now the rulers have reacted as expected, saying that there is a need for a big operation against it; in other words, once again the State is going after an unseen enemy”.
It said, “As usual, in the first instance, a statement came in which the TTP accepted the responsibility for the blast, and later in the night, news came denying the statement. By which means this statement of admission came, and where did the denial come from? Newspapers have reported that TTP accepted responsibility for the attack and claimed to have taken revenge for the killing of Khalid Khorasani.
“Then suddenly, the denial also came. If the claim were correct, then why did they need to deny it? These claims and denials are always doubtful, and if the police were their source, then surely the same would be wrong.
“Police and investigating agencies, first of all, described it as a suicide attack to dismiss the story; now, if the attacker is not alive, then there is no question of interrogation, and the factories that issue statements about claims of admission can then release anything. Due to the publication of such news, the direction of investigation of serious tragedies gets altered.
“Those military and police responsible for the defence of Pakistan should say, was there no value for people’s lives? Now the rulers have reacted as expected saying that there is a need for a big operation against it. In other words, once again, the state is going after an unseen enemy”.
Meanwhile, Roznama Jang, in an editorial titled ‘The terrible tragedy of terrorism’, wrote “, Pakistan was already gripped by the worst political and economic instability, but now the anti-national elements have sped up their anti-humanity activities to play with Pakistan’s integrity. And all of this is happening as the Taliban have taken power in the neighbouring country of Afghanistan. The land of Afghanistan is being badly used for terrorism in Pakistan, while the Kabul Government, which has apparently soft corners for Pakistan, instead of preventing it, is sitting idle.
“It has been reported that as soon as the group prayer began in the mosque, the unfortunate suicide bomber who was in the first row blew himself up with explosives. As a result, the mosque’s roof fell down, and part of it became martyred”.
“Struck by pieces of explosives and due to being buried under debris, more than 200 worshippers, including police officials, prayer leader, and one woman, were martyred or injured. At that time, many worshippers, including more than 400 security officers, were in the mosque. Among the martyrs, most were police officials”.
“The Pakistani military and security institutions had broken the back of terrorists in Pakistan, and they had been forced to hide in their safe havens in Afghanistan. But after the Taliban government came to power in Kabul, the Imran Khan government of Pakistan began conciliatory talks with the group of the Taliban called Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. Taking advantage of this, this group’s terrorists began returning to Pakistan freely and started their terror activities from their former hideouts”.
“Even today, Pakistan shelters hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees on its soil and provides a livelihood for them, but the Taliban Government in Kabul is patronising its enemies”.
“Unfortunately, the Taliban Government of Kabul refused to see their activities across the border. As a result, these terrorists are launching attacks on the border posts from the soil of Afghanistan. They have become active in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Baluchistan, Punjab, and areas of Sindh.
“The Kabul Government, despite being reminded about it, is not taking any steps to prevent their activities from its lands. Even today, Pakistan shelters hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees on its soil and provides a livelihood for them. But the Taliban government is patronising its enemies”.
“The situation demands that the government and intelligence agencies ensure the implementation of the National Action Plan against terrorism, adopt a serious diplomatic policy about the Kabul Government, and with regard to this make difficult and audacious decisions”.
Roznama Express, in its editorial titled ‘The heads of terrorists must be crushed’, wrote, “to target Muslims whose heads bow before the Creator of the Universe is an act of enmity against Islam and humanity. In reality, the agenda of the terrorists and their facilitators is to destabilise Pakistan. With this attack, the terrorists have crossed a red line. After initial successes against terrorists in counter-terror operations, the federal and provincial governments adopted a soft policy regarding terrorists during the past three to four years, demonstrating their disregard. As a result, the sleeper cells of the terrorists and their support network were not fully destroyed”.
“Then, at the behest of the Afghan Taliban, negotiations were held with the TTP. Meanwhile, the fighters of TTP succeeded once again in organising themselves and becoming active. The policy of reconciliation and soft corners adopted by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan during the former Government of Imran Khan led to the terrorists again becoming powerful”.
“Officials have claimed that most terror attacks are connected to eastern Afghanistan where the Afghan Taliban host the TTP fighters as their guests”.
The focus of terror attacks during the past few months was centred on Bannu, which joins Waziristan, Bajaur, and Kurram districts. These districts are connected to the Afghan provinces of Kunar, Nangarhar, Paktia, and Paktika. For this reason, these areas are used to enter Pakistan to carry out terror attacks. And then, these terrorists successfully carry out terror attacks in Islamabad and other big cities of the four provinces.
“Our enemy forces have developed plans to destabilise Pakistan by using terrorism. In the first stage, an effort was made to destabilise the country’s economy, and the dollar was made to disappear from the Pakistani market. An artificial economic crisis was created, and an impression was given that Pakistan may go bankrupt and become destroyed economically, thereby becoming cut off from the international economic system”.
“There was also talk that when Pakistan gets caught in an economic crisis and the banks become corrupt, lawlessness will spread in Baluchistan, separating it from Pakistan. Also, there was talk about India’s occupation of Pakistan-controlled Azad Kashmir and India occupying Sindh – so much so that it was also said that after the economic crisis, only nuclear assets would be left with Pakistan, about which a deal would be made [by the international community]. The anti-Pakistan powers should know that if Pakistan’s peace is threatened, they also cannot live in peace”.
“On the one hand, Pakistan has fought a war against terror organisations, and on the other hand, it has also faced a propaganda war against itself. Pakistan is fighting against fifth-generation warfare”.
Pakistan caught into its own trap
For decades, Pakistan has been patronising terrorism and radical Islamic jihad. At the same time, it has also been funding and promoting terrorist activities within Jammu & Kashmir in India and various provinces. In Bangladesh, Pakistani spy agency Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) has been funding and promoting several jihadist outfits, including Ansar Al Islam (AAI), Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), Hizbut Tahrir and pro-Caliphate Hefazat-e-Islam (HeI). It seems one of the prime policies of Pakistan is to promote terrorism, while it has been accused that Pakistani ISI is generating hundreds of millions of dollars through joining hands with Afghan drug cartels, thus becoming their partner in transnational drug trafficking.
Now the January 30, 2023 jihadist attack on a mosque at the Police Lines area of Peshawar proves, for Pakistani state machinery, their own patronised militancy outfits have started emerging into Frankenstein, which may onwards not only pose the gravest threat to the country’s security but also would push Pakistan towards an unknown destination. Meanwhile, the existence of pro-jihadist politicians like Imran Khan and his notorious Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf would continue to extend open support to terrorist entities. At one stage, Imran Khan became the prime enemy of the Pakistani people. To address such critical issues, Pakistan now badly needs secularist forces to play a crucial role in saving the country from going rogue.
(The writer is an internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, writer, research-scholar, counterterrorism specialist and editor of Weekly Blitz)