The Fall of Kabul was an eye-opener, imprinted for decades to come on the minds of the Afghan youth, as well as all of Afghanistan’s pro-democratic forces; a democratic state turned into a theocratic regime governed by a few Taliban heads over a matter of days. To the Taliban, this is the ultimate triumph. Afghanistan is clean of un-Islamic forces, and they have free reign to implement their form of Shari’a in the country. In the Doha Agreement, they agreed on the point that Afghan land would not be safe haven to terrorist non-state actors, and that their Shari’a will remain inside the borders of Afghanistan.
With the Fall of Kabul, Pakistan celebrated the advent of the Afghan Taliban to power. It considered the new Afghan government to be friendly towards Pakistan, and believed that it will not face aggression, rather gain allies. Pakistan has taken several steps in this good faith for Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis. The Organization of Islamic States held a conference in Islamabad, and Pakistan hosted the Islamic states for discussing the humanitarian crisis and political turmoil going on in Afghanistan. It became a voice for Afghans in the world, attempting to let them be heard by the Great powers to help them in recognition as well as humanitarian aid. Unfortunately, what Pakistan got in return were bomb attacks on mosques, and even international investments. Similar surge in terrorism has been seen in Afghanistan; recently, a Chinese hotel was attacked, and before that, the Pakistan embassy in Kabul was the focal point of an attack. Islamic State- Khorasan Province, as the sworn enemy of the Afghan Taliban, came forward as the perpetrator.
With the Fall of Kabul, Pakistan thought that its issue with the Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan will be sorted out, as for negotiations with the TTP, it needed someone to mediate between both parties- as Pakistan mediated between the US and the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan expected the same from the Afghan Taliban due to their influence and ideological unity with the TTP. Within days of the Kabul takeover, Pakistan’s Director-General Intelligence Faiz Hameed was in Afghanistan and reported telling the Afghan media that everything would be all right. Pakistan and the ruling party put in place a Policy of Appeasement for the TTP, and the stage was set for negotiations to end the scourge of insurgency in the country. However, soon after coming to power, the Afghan Taliban released the TTP prisoners held in the Afghan jails, including many TTP leaders. Due to ideological unity as well as ethnic ties, the TTP looks up to the Afghan Taliban, while the latter have a soft corner towards them. Pakistan’s ex PM Imran Khan also had a soft approach towards the TTP, having plans to not only negotiate with them but also resettle them in erst-while FATA region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The Foreign Minister at the time, Shah Mahmoud Qureshi, was of the belief that the TTP were “intelligent people”, and that Pakistan could negotiate with them. President of Pakistan Arif Alvi wanted to give them a general amnesty to forgive them for the atrocities they have committed against the Pakistani people. To this end, Pakistan sent delegations including clerics and tribal elders to hold negotiations, and the TTP came up with conditions including reversal of the FATA-Khyber Pakhtunkhwa merger, and the state allowing the militant outfit to establish their rule of Shari’a in the Malakand division. Even with the government’s pro-TTP sentiments, these conditions were not possible for Pakistan to accept or even take into consideration. As an act of goodwill, Pakistan had freed over a hundred TTP members which were in custody. With negotiations stuck, both parties agreed to a ceasefire. During this, the TTP leadership had ample time to regroup as well as recruit more fighters to its cause, and after the murder of Khalid Khorasani, the TTP unilaterally ended the ceasefire with Pakistan. They restarted their activities in Khyber Pashtunkhwa, and in quite a short amount of time, expanded nationwide. Even Islamabad, the capital, has been the focal point of a suicide bombing. The Counter Terrorism Department compound in Bannu was held hostage by the TTP for 3 days, in mid-December. A fresh incident occurred at the Police Line Mosque in Peshawar, the responsibility for which was claimed by the brother of Khalid Khorasani- the attack claimed around 102 lives. This rapid resurgence of terrorism in Pakistan leaves no doubt that the negotiations and ceasefire brought the TTP ample time to get back into militant formation.
As a result of all this, the Olasi Pashwan (protest) was called in Peshawar after the attack in the Peshwar mosque on 5th February. A day earlier, the Pashtun youth were calling for peace and self-determination on their land. Thousands of young people have participated and agreed with the slogans that were originally put forward by the youth itself. Olasi Pashwan was originally organized by the youth of Swat earlier in summer of 2022, when they first observed that the TTP is regrouping and reorganizing in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Without any political support, a few young students started organizing these gatherings all over Khyber Pakhtunkhwa every Friday by calling every Leader from the parties across the political spectrum, mobilizing for freedom from the threat of terrorism, and peace, asking that they not be made to relocate once again due to rising insecurity. My interactions with the Pashtun youth show that their belief in Parliamentary politics is fading away, which should be a serious concern for Pakistan. Facing economic instability, religious fanaticism, and a society riven with cracks, the youth is not ready to take another wave of terrorism and target killings lying down. They want to get educated, employed, and live honorably in Pakistan. They ask for a pen, and shun weapons. The state should sense the dramatic change which is taking place in the youth of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Terrorism was responsible for damage and destruction to their physical belongings as well as mental health in the previous war against terror, and they refuse to relive that again. Pakistan should not be part of the games between major powers at the expense of its own youth. We should sit with the youth, hear them out, and resolve their grievances, rather than negotiate with a few thousand terrorists, and look to resettle them.