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EDITORIAL: TTP terrorists remain active in the erstwhile tribal areas. In the latest incident on Sunday after security forces received information about the presence of militants in an area of North Waziristan tribal district an intense exchange of fire ensued in which five terrorists were killed and one soldier embraced martyrdom.

According to a statement issued by the military’s media wing, ISPR, weapons seized from their possession included submachine guns, hand grenades and a large quantity of multiple calibre rounds. They were involved in terrorist activities against security forces, targeted killing and kidnapping for ransom. The statement also revealed that last week security forces had killed a terrorist, foiling his attempt to enter a military posts in Dossali tehsil of North Waziristan by hurling a hand grenade.

Unfortunately, the Kabul government has remained unwilling to expel TTP terrorists from their country, telling Pakistan instead to hold talks with them. This was given a try, even if only for the sake of an argument. The resultant ceasefire did not last more than a month since emboldened by the support of their ideological brothers they set impossible conditions.

Meanwhile, the Afghan Taliban have kept offering Pakistan the assurance that the TTP would not be allowed to use its soil for cross border attacks. Yet only earlier this month three soldiers were martyred and four others injured when TTP militants attacked a security check-post in Kurrum district, bordering Afghanistan. Media report now say Taliban Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani has helped resume peace talks with the terror outfit and that Pakistan has released several militants from de-radicalisation camps.

Reports, however, also say the release came about after a tribal jirga held two meetings with the TTP leadership in Paktia and Khost provinces of Afghanistan. That though is unlikely to lead to a big breakthrough as the TTP is still said to be setting conditions for a ceasefire, including the release of its 102 militants, among them leaders of Swat Taliban whose unforgivable crimes include beheading of several law abiding citizens.

According to a recent report by a team of UN monitors, the TTP has between 3000 and 5000 fighters in Afghanistan. As frequent clashes with the security forces show they have considerable presence in the tribal districts of Pakistan as well. That raises a dilemma for the authorities. It seems to make sense therefore for the government to give those a chance who did not commit any heinous crimes and want to live in peace with their families after undergoing de-radicalisation in special centres.

Strict vigilance though will be required so they do not further fuel extremism in an already extremists-infested society. Others have to be dealt with through military means. Since the Afghan Taliban have made clear their intention not to oust or rein in the TTP, Pakistan should have no hesitation to launch drone strikes to eliminate leaders of this terror outfit which has claimed more than 80,000 Pakistanis, civilian and soldiers, alike. If and when the TTP is eliminated violent extremism will remain a serious challenge for a long time to come.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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