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EDITORIAL: A former spokesman for the so-called Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Mufti Khalid Balti alias Mohammad Khorasani, is reported to have been killed in the Afghan province of Nangarhar by unidentified gunmen. According to counter-terrorism officials in Islamabad, Balti was still a “vital core member and an active high-level commander” who was busy planning terrorist activity in Pakistan at the time of his murder. He was the one who had claimed responsibility for the 2014 carnage at the Peshawar Army Public School, and was also involved in planning last July’s attack on a bus carrying Chinese workers in Dassu. Not surprisingly given the close links between the Afghan Taliban and TTP, the deceased terrorist was a regular visitor to Kabul since the former took over power in Kabul. Even though the new rulers of Afghanistan had given an undertaking to the international community not to allow any extremist group use Afghan soil to launch terrorist attacks against other countries, they have yet to fulfil that commitment, which is the key reason the international community, including their well-wishers, have refused to recognise their government.

Pakistan had expected the interim Afghan government to act firmly against the TTP terrorists who have killed more than 80,000 Pakistanis in attacks over the border from Afghanistan. A list of TTP commanders was provided to Kabul for action against them. Instead, Pakistan was advised to hold negotiations with terrorists. As a matter of formality the proposal was given a try. But nothing came out of it as emboldened by the Kabul government’s support the TTP negotiators made demands as if they were the victors. Press reports speak of frequent clashes between security forces and TTP terrorists in the erstwhile tribal areas. ISPR spokesman Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar said at a media briefing a few days ago, “anti-terrorism operations are continuing with full force.” It is about time Islamabad told the Kabul government one more time to crack down on these violent extremists ensconced in Afghanistan from where they continue to plan and execute acts of terrorism in this country. In the likely event of a negative response Pakistan should consider doing that on its own through drone strikes.

Aside from it security issues, Pakistan has a strong interest in seeing the Kabul government become stable through constructive engagement with the international community, which wants the new Afghan rulers to respect human rights and take effective measures against extremist groups. Looking for stability, Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi recently visited Iran where he met with Ahmad Shah Massoud’s son, Ahmad Massoud, who had given considerable resistance to Taliban takeover, as well as Ismael Khan, a Herat province warlord, offering them security guarantees if they returned to Afghanistan. In case they decide to take the offer, that could help the government become a bit steady. But an urgent challenge confronting it is a humanitarian crisis whilst its foreign assistance-dependent economy is on the brink of collapse. No one wants chaos in this war-raged country because chaos suits no one. It is up to Taliban leadership to address the international community’s concerns and avert the looming humanitarian disaster that may trigger a fresh internecine conflict.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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