Why Does TTP still Survive in Pakistan?

On September 6, Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) attacked military check posts in Chitral district in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

On September 6, Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) attacked military check posts in Chitral district in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Pakistan government claimed that the attack was perpetrated by TTP militants from Afghanistan, having complete impunity in the matters whatever they do in the territorial jurisdiction of Pakistan. In the last decade, Pakistan inflicted numerous crushing defeats on TTP members. Unfortunately, it resurged again in 2018 and intensified attacks on Pakistan security personnel. Its rebirth is accredited to the factors which are mostly not debated in the mainstream media.

Some point out that the ideological association between the Afghan Taliban and TTP makes their relation unbreakable. By and large, the members of both organizations follow the ‘Deobandi’ creed of the Sunni school of Islamic jurisprudence. The common source of ideology, to a large extent, cements their identity for the outside world: the perception of similar ideology amplifies TTP’s power in the eyes of common people. What is more, the ideological affiliation of TTP with the local population in the areas on both sides of Durand Line increases its chances of survival.

In addition to the ideological affinity, the upper and lower echelons of TTP have had close rapports with the Afghan Taliban since the days of Soviet invasion. The memories of common resistance against Soviet aggression appear a bulwark in the way of its total military defeat. Moreover, common language and ethnicity are more than powerful factors which can not be ignored easily.

Adding to the agony of Pakistan, the Afghan Taliban’s role as an effective mediator puzzle many and emboldens TTP. keeping in view of their ideological, cultural and linguistic affinity, Pakistan repeatedly requested the Afghan Taliban to help in the cessation of hostilities by TTP. However, the Afghan Taliban’s inaction against TTP further fuels the fire. As expected by Pakistan, the Afghan Taliban seems reluctant to publicly disown TTP. The Afghan Taliban’s harsh rhetoric came as a surprise for Pakistan after the Chitral attack. Zabiullah Mujahid, spokesperson of the Afghan Taliban, instead blamed Pakistan for not doing enough against TTP.

The strategic orientation also comes in the way, since its inception in 2015, the Islamic State Khorasan has always been at loggerheads with the Afghan Taliban. Immediately after the Afghan Taliban took over Kabul in August 2021, ISK started to launch a massive military campaign to gain some security leverage. The ISK composition further clears the point that the majority of its members were previously working in TTP. knowing fully this fact, the Afghan Taliban’s hesitation to pressurize TTP members makes some sense for them, as any aggressive move against the group could incentivize the fighters to join the Afghan Taliban’s rival group ISK.

After the Afghan Taliban regained power in 2021, its first act was to release 4000 TTP prisoners across Afghanistan, who had been imprisoned by the USA and the Afghan National government. This included the senior TTP commanders like former spokesperson Khalid Balti and deputy Amir Maulvi Faqir Muhammad Bajauri.  This goodwill gesture reinforced TTP numerical strengthen and looted weaponry of the coalition forces made TTP the deadliest organization for Pakistan ever since its creation. To the dismay of Pakistan, these added strengthens in TTP toolkit end up pouring hundreds of militants into Pakistan for violence.

The Doha accord was signed on 29 February, 2020 between the Afghan Taliban and USA. As a consequence, a sigh of relief for the militant groups like TTP. Eight militant groups, including the former splinters of TTP, again merged into TTP in the first phase of mergers in 2020. This unification helped TTP to fortify its fragile organizational presence in the strategically important areas like Baluchistan and former tribal areas of Pakistan. The obvious implication was the merger of 4 Baloch militant groups with TTP in 2022, as it causes spiraling bloodshed in already volatile Baluchistan province.

The returned of the Afghan Taliban rekindled hopes Pakistan would eventually get rid of unrelenting terrorism, contrary to the expectations, Pakistan could not restrain the Afghan Taliban to act in line with its demands. Also, Pakistan decade old fantasy about the Afghan Taliban would help it in containing TTP seem to make no sense now. The Afghan Taliban’s uncompromising commitment with TTP means that Pakistan has to either ignore the violence or concede to TTP to maintain a healthy relationship with the Afghan Taliban.