The Pakistani military establishment’s well-known policy of using terrorist acts as a tool of its neighbourhood strategic plan is backfiring and worsening Pakistan’s security situation. On January 30, a suicide attack aimed a masjid in Peshawar, having killed over 90 people, the majority of whom were police officers.
According to Pakistani media reports, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has disassociated with the attack; however, an affiliated faction acknowledged the bombing and justified it as retaliation for TTP commander Omar Khalid Khorasani’s mystic killing in Afghanistan last year.
Islamist terror groups, particularly the TTP, had also increased violent behaviour in Pakistan since the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August 2021. Importantly, the Pakistani Army establishment negotiated with the TTP for over a year with no success.
The recent increase in terror attacks is a significant failure of Pakistan’s powerful military establishment. While Pakistan’s political leadership has faced criticism from various quarters, the intelligence community should be held accountable for the country’s recent security turmoil. In accordance with a report in Pakistan Tribune, the unity government had not been included within peace talks with the TTP and thus had minimal data on the outcome(s) of the dialogue.
According to Pak media reports, veteran General Director Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lieutenant General (Retd) Faiz Hameed led negotiations with TTP alone and may have compromised on certain controversial demands of the terror group.
The terror organisation primarily targets security forces in the former federally managed tribal Areas (FATA) as well as other sections of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province. In the latest annual report of the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), Pakistan will witness 376 terror attacks in 2022, with KP province experiencing an exponential rise in violence, with “fatalities there increasing by 108%.
After the Taliban took over Afghanistan, Islamabad did promise stability in the tribal regions. On the other hand, Pashtun areas have been among the hardest hit by Pakistan’s ‘new’ wave of militancy.
The recent bombing at the Peshawar Mosque was also a terrorist act. According to reports, the bomber was front row at the time of the fire. The mosque is housed within a ‘highly fortified’ compound in Peshawar, which also houses the KPK police force’s headquarters and Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) offices. TTP militants seized a CTD police station in KPK’s Bannu district last month and took hostages in order to negotiate with government officials.
Following the suicide bombing, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and General Syed Asim Munir reportedly met in Peshawar to discuss the law-and-order situation in KPK. Sharif stated that the country’s anti-terrorism institutions and police would be strengthened, and that the National Action Plan (NAP) would be “fully implemented.”
In a tweet, Imran Khan said, “It is critical that we improve our intelligence collection and appropriately empower our police agencies to combat the increasing threat of terrorism.” Khan’s well-known “soft approach” on the TTP issue, as well as the PTI government’s lax attitude, have been blamed for the disaster in KPK province.
The Peshawar attack was the fatal terrorist attack since a suicide bombing at a Shia Mosque in the Koocha Risaldar area during Prayer services in March 2022, which killed 58 people and injured 200 more. According to the investigation, the attacker was a “Afghan exile” who received training with the Islamic State (IS) within a week of detonating a bomb.
The security situation in Pakistan has been worsening for decades due to a complex web of factors including political instability, economic challenges, ethnic and sectarian tensions, and the ongoing conflict in neighbouring Afghanistan.
Pakistan has also struggled with militancy and terrorism, which have been fueled by a range of factors including the country’s history of supporting jihadist groups, the influence of foreign powers, and the rise of extremist ideologies. Despite efforts to address these challenges, Pakistan continues to face significant security threats both domestically and regionally.
To effectively tackle these issues, it is crucial for Pakistan’s leadership to prioritise stability, economic growth, and social cohesion, while also engaging in constructive dialogue with neighbouring countries and the international community to build a more secure and stable future for Pakistan and the wider region.