Pakistan’s Tensions with its Strategic Capital
As winter draws to a close, signs of increased activity on both sides of the Durand Line are becoming evident; these areas have become hotbeds of the Pakistani Taliban and their allies. Last year, the Pakistanis attempted to prevent TTP attacks through contact and negotiation, sending political, ethnic and religious delegations to Kabul and Kandahar multiple times in order to reach an agreement with the TTP leaders in face–to–face talks or through the mediation of their Afghan counterparts. Their aim was to prevent the conflict in Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from escalating. These talks resulted in a fragile truce for a while, but it did not last due to the stark differences in the demands of both sides. The Pakistanis also resorted to threats, assassinating TTP leaders in Afghanistan and applying pressure on Afghan Taliban, but neither the TTP backed down from their principal demands nor the Afghan Taliban could fulfill what Pakistani generals had ordered. On the eve of the spring season, Pakistan has resumed last year‘s unsuccessful efforts by sending a high–level delegation to Kabul; however, these talks are unlikely to have a significant impact on changing the course of events resulting from the Taliban‘s return to power. It is now clear that the return of the Taliban to power will not be a strategic victory for Pakistan, but rather the fall of the region into a new round of chaos and radicalism, which will not remain confined to Afghan borders.
Pakistan is now facing the repercussions of its own policy, as the Afghan Taliban are unable to assist them due to two reasons. Firstly, even if the Afghan Taliban wanted to help, they are unable to exercise full control over the TTP. Secondly, the TTP is not a distinct entity from the Afghan Taliban, as it has infiltrated the most influential decision–making circles of the Afghan Taliban and is closely linked to its leadership. They share common leaders, warriors and mentors. Removing the Pakistani Taliban from the equation is as difficult as cutting off an arm or skinning the Afghan Taliban. Therefore, the TTP is as important, if not more so, than the ISI for the Afghan Taliban, and the Pakistani government is aware of this, which is why they are feeling the pressure of managing this precarious strategic asset.
General Nadem Anjem, the Chief of the ISI, appeared to be unhappy following his visit to Kabul, in stark contrast to his predecessor Faiz Hammed who had displayed a triumphant expression after the fall of Kabul in 2021. In the photographs released of this trip, he seemed despondent, and despite the official statement that they had gone to discuss the advancement of trade relations and settle border disputes, it was evident that the Pakistanis on this journey had much more pressing matters than regulating transit routes. It is likely that they had arduous and fruitless conversations with their “strategic capitals”.
Over the past eighteen months, TTP has managed to bring together disparate terrorist factions and jihadist radicals for a unified conflict, luring them with attractive prospects. It is reported that they have established and equipped their forces in the Swat Valley, Balochistan, and Chitral region. The devastating attacks in Peshawar and Karachi are indicative of the difficult times that lie ahead for the people of Pakistan. Unfortunately, it appears that a more complex version of the events of 2008 to 2015 will be repeated in Pakistan.
Terrorism cannot be contained through negotiation and concession; in fact, it will be emboldened. Pakistan will be liberated from explosions and suicides when it ceases to support suicide bombers and terrorists, regardless of the name they are given, and does not oppose democratic movements within the country and in the region.