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What had been forecast by this writer after the post-APS military operations in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s (KP’s) tribal areas in 2014 has come to pass. Not being able to sustain the unrelenting firepower of our military against them, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) retreated into Afghan territory in order to live to fight another day.

For the next seven years, they continued to enjoy the ‘hospitality’ of the Afghan Taliban, particularly the Haqqani Network. Although the armed militants had retreated across the Afghan border to relatively safe havens, they had left behind a whole network of sleeper cells in anticipation of the day when their fortunes would turn.

That day has now arrived. The attack on the Karachi Police Office (KPO) in Karachi on February 17, 2023 came as a shocking, violent jolt. Three terrorists armed to the teeth (including suicide jackets) entered the compound relatively easily through the rear where police residential quarters are located. Throwing

hand grenades and firing their weapons, they easily overcame the thin security at the gate of the residential quarters, cut the barbed wire on top of the wall separating the residences from the main KPO building, and entered the complex brimming with police staff on duty.

The reaction of the police, Rangers and army commandos in winkling out the terrorists after a severe battle is commendable. Two terrorists were shot dead, one blew himself up. Four deaths (one civilian) and about 18 wounded on the law enforcement agencies’ (LEAs’) side indicate the ferocity of the clash.

Pakistan should have foreseen the revival of the TTP on our soil and carried out sustained and unremitting intelligence-based operations against the remnants and sleeper cells of the TTP left behind after they retreated into Afghan territory seven years ago.

Unfortunately, the advent in 2018 of Imran Khan’s government proved a setback since those who know him recognise that he is a (not so secret) Taliban sympathiser.

Proof if needed of this statement can be garnered from his government’s policy regarding the Afghan Taliban and their Pakistani counterparts. When the US ignominiously accepted strategic defeat and withdrew in shambolic fashion from Afghanistan in 2021, clearing the way for a relatively easy takeover by the Afghan Taliban, Imran Khan stated: “The Afghans have broken the shackles of slavery.”

Perhaps he should be encouraged to revisit his triumphal statement by asking the non-Pashtun nationalities and women of Afghanistan whether they have not in fact been shackled even further in the Afghan Taliban’s new/old medieval system that has little to do with the liberatory spirit of Islam.

Alarm bells should have rung in the corridors of power in 2021 that the advent of the Afghan Taliban to power would inevitably encourage and embolden the TTP to revive its terrorist campaign. Instead, Imran Khan’s government opened the door to the return to Pakistan of the 30-40,000 TTP fighters lodged in Afghanistan.

General Faiz Hameed (retd), then ISI chief, is said to be the chief architect and facilitator of the return of these enemies of the state. The only alarm bells that did ring out were those of the inhabitants of KP, whose memories of what they had been through at the hands of the TTP prior to 2014 produced fresh nightmares when armed TTP fighters appeared in the province, seemingly without let, hindrance or fear of being checked, since 2021.

We must shed our unending ability to mislead ourselves as a country. Even after the Peshawar Police Lines mosque bombing in which about a hundred people died, some ‘optimists’ amongst us were still prattling on about the inability of the TTP now to strike beyond KP. Lo and behold, the KPO attack has shredded this complacency.

The fact is that the TTP network of sleeper cells and facilitators is spread out all over the country. They have the natural advantage of choosing when and where to strike. Their concern is not that their fighters will be killed. They are clear these are suicide missions, from which few if any will return.

Whatever damage and casualties they are able to inflict in such actions are not the strategic aim. It is the buzz created by such bold actions that feeds the TTP cause with the oxygen of unprecedented publicity in today’s media (mainstream and social) saturated world.

The KPO attack is likely to go down, even more than the Peshawar Police Lines one, as the arrival once again of the terrorist TTP. In a statement after the KPO attack, the TTP has warned our frontline anti-terrorist force, the police, to stop defending the ‘un-Islamic’ state of Pakistan and beware of continuing alleged extra-judicial killings of their cadre on pain of severer punishment.

The TTP has reportedly been bolstered by the stock of weaponry and equipment left behind by the US in Afghanistan, a part of which appears to have been generously gifted to the TTP by their Afghan Taliban ‘elder brothers’.

Modern weapons aside, they now boast thermal imaging telescopic sights on their guns that give them a big advantage in night operations over our relatively poorly armed and equipped police, particularly in small towns and the rural areas.

But the real weakness in our response to a resurgent TTP is the lack of a central coordinating intelligence structure that can match the united efforts of the enemy and help pre-empt attacks through timely intelligence-based operations. Intelligence agencies by their very nature guard their information closely.

Add to that the gulf (if not mistrust) between the military intelligence agencies and our civilian ones, and you have an intelligence structure with plenty of holes the terrorists can wiggle through.

NACTA may not have achieved the hopes that resided in it that it may prove the apex coordinating body of our post-2014 National Action Plan, but a revived NACTA or some other body is the need of the hour, since the struggle against the TTP now is not going to be of the nature of the post-2014 concentrated military operations but the protracted, difficult, intelligence-based winkling out of an underground terrorist organisation operating not from some recognisable base area (KP’s tribal areas in the past) but operating through small group terrorist attacks throughout the country.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

Rashed Rahman

[email protected] , rashed-rahman.blogspot.com

Comments

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Alok Ghosh Feb 21, 2023 05:23pm
Very appropriate analysis. Good Talibans have now changed to ugly Talibans
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Aisha Feb 22, 2023 12:29am
@Alok Ghosh, not now they are always terrorist/their false ideology based on false narrative of jihad..it was started by some militants then many social insecurities formed many such Taliban
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