The regime change in Pakistan has brought the country into a collision course with Afghanistan
over Islamist terror groups using the latter’s territory to launch attacks deep inside Pakistan.
The Shahbaz Sharif administration in Pakistan, coming to power after voting out the Imran
Khan government in the National Assembly, is in a mood to militarily retaliate against any
terrorist group indulging in violent attacks on Pakistani territory using Afghan territory as a
base, though it has not officially voiced such thoughts.
Kabul received a strong message earlier in April in the form of a Pakistani military air strike in
the eastern Afghanistan provinces of Khost and Kunar. The toll was close to 50. Islamabad
urged Kabul to immediately act against militants launching attacks from Afghan soil.
Border tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan were rising ever since the Taliban seized
power last year, with Islamabad claiming militant groups are carrying out regular attacks from
Afghan soil. The Taliban deny harbouring Pakistani militants, but are also infuriated by a fence
Islamabad is erecting along their 2,700-kilometre (1,600-mile) border.
The Pakistani military has not commented on the attacks, but the foreign ministry urged the
Taliban in Kabul to take “stern actions” against armed fighters launching attacks against
Pakistan from Afghan soil. “Terrorists are using Afghan soil with impunity to carry out
activities inside Pakistan,” the statement, which was unusually harsh in its language, said. The
reference is to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a terror group operating from inside
“Pakistan requests the sovereign Government of Afghanistan to secure Pak-Afghan Border
region and take stern actions against the individuals involved in terrorist activities in Pakistan,”
Pakistan’s foreign ministry said. It said seven Pakistan soldiers were killed in North Waziristan
district on Thursday by “terrorists operating from Afghanistan”.
“Unfortunately, elements of banned terrorist groups in the border region, including TTP, have
continued to attack Pakistan’s border security posts, resulting in the martyrdom of several
Pakistani troops,” the foreign ministry was quoted by the media as saying.
“This is a cruelty and it is paving the way for enmity between Afghanistan and Pakistan,”
Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said, adding: “The Pakistani side should
know that if a war starts it will not be in the interest of any side.”
The TTP wants its fighters to be allowed to return to Pakistan after the Afghan Taliban began
pressurising them to leave their country. However, Pakistani security forces are now in no
mood to allow them entry. That is why tensions are rising between t he two sides. So much so,
the TTP announced in March that it will launch a fresh offensive against the Pakistani military
from the first day of Ramadan.
Imran Khan as Prime Minister made an overreach to the terrorist groups by bargaining with
them. That did not fetch any positive result for him, but encouraged the terrorists to up their
ante. So much so, that in no time, Pakistan realised its policy on terror was backfiring on the
Khan government. Khan even pleaded with the United Nations to help stop cross-border
terrorism emanating from Afghan soil. In his statement to the UNSC, Umer Siddique, a Pak
diplomat said “UNSC listed terrorist entities [TTP & JuA] have carried out hundreds of cross-
border terrorist attacks against Pakistani military and civilian targets from Afghanistan thru
external support. We would like to pay homage to all these victims of terrorism.” The statemen
came in the wake of the TTP organising several attacks on Pakistan army camps in Balochistan.
There was a time when Khan batted for the terrorists, initiating talks with TTP terrorist leaders,
seeking a reconciliation. He kept insisting that he did not favour military solutions. He once
called terrorists “normal citizens” and even said in a television interview that the US “really
messed it up” in Afghanistan by initially finding a military solution and later looking for a
political solution.On the allegations of Pakistan’s direct support to the Taliban in the ongoing terror and more
than 10,000 Pakistani fighters travelling to Afghanistan to assist the Taliban, Imran Khan
claimed in the interview that they were not Taliban or its supporters, but “normal civilians, who
are returning to their country”.
Media reports in 2021 said that according to UN Security Council, more than 6,000 terrorists
of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have joined their counterparts in Afghanistan. It is alleged
that Pakistan has facilitated the travelling of Pakistani fighters into Afghanistan to assist the
Taliban in their war against the Afghan national government. Imran Khan believed that the
Afghan Taliban was fighting a holy war or “Jihad” against the enemies of Islam in Afghanistan.
Way back in 2012, “Imran Khan had repeatedly tried to justify the Taliban’s terrorism, calling
it a ‘holy war’ for Islam”.
An Al Jazeera analysis said: “At one level, the Taliban’s resurgence is a thorough repudiation
of Khan’s theory of terrorism in Pakistan. Khan claimed that the Taliban were motivated by
the presence of US forces in Afghanistan and by the US-Pakistan alliance, not by ideology. But
the US departed Afghanistan earlier this year. As for the erstwhile partnership with
Washington, Khan – still waiting for a phone call from President Joe Biden – will be more
aware than most that it lies in tatters. And yet Taliban violence continues unabated, the group
responsible for almost a 100 terrorist attacks in 2021 alone, a figure the prime minister
shockingly dismissed as a mere “spate”. Even taken on its own terms – and let us not mince
words, he was and continues to be nonsensical on the topic of terrorism – Khan’s theory has
Sub-continental counter-terror experts are of the view that, to quote media reports, “the TTP’s
desire is to overthrow, violently or otherwise, the Pakistani state and impose their interpretation
of Sharia throughout the country…there is no offering short of this, no concession or act of
generosity, that Islamabad will be able to buy TTP forbearance with.”
By March, Imran Khan was pushed to a corner as TTP attacks inside Pakistan increased. One
of the worst attacks led to the killing of 63 people and injuring 200 others in a suicide bomber
attack on a Shia mosque in north-west Pakistan. Shocked by the ferocity of the attack, Khan
vowed “zero tolerance” for terrorists.
After Khan’s exit, the real pushback against terrorists holed up in Afghanistan has begun. It is
not clear how the new Prime Minister, Shahbaz Sharif, will react to the terror attacks, but the
air strike on Afghan territory sends a clear message. Till March this year, terrorists attacked
targets in Pakistan 52 times in which over 150 people were killed.
France 24 said in a report: “Some experts were quick to note that the Pakistani accusation
marked the first time since the Taliban takeover that a country publicly declared Afghan
territory was being used for cross-border international terrorism. The irony that Pakistan was
the first country to complain was not lost on Afghans who have long accused Islamabad of
supporting the Taliban and other jihadist groups.”