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Relocation of banned TTP to North-Western Afghanistan

Shaim Shahid

Amidst fuelling anger of Pakistan, the Taliban regime calling Emirate Islami Afghanistan facing opposition in connection with its promises pertained to shifting or relocating militants associated with banned Tehrik Taliban Pakistan (TTP) away from Pak Afghan border to Northern or Eastern Afghanistan. Non Pushtoons communities like Uzbeks, Tajiks and Turkmens along with Shia Hazara’s showing severe resentment over Taliban rulers commitments with Pakistan, pertained to relocating these Pakistani Taliban, to western and northern Afghanistan. Besides Non Pashtun Afghanistan, Iranian authorities are also unhappy with this decision as it could fuel Sunni extremism in parts and parcels of Afghanistan bordering its eastern provinces.

The Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid, as quoted by the Afghan News Agency, stated that TTP fighters currently residing in Khost, Kunar, and other border areas of Afghanistan will be stationed in northern Afghanistan. The plan involves relocating these fighters to remote provinces away from the Durand Line. In the light of Zabih Ullah Mujahid statement, almost all of these TTP militants are sheltering near to Pak Afghan border from where according to Pakistani authorities crossing over the border for terror purposes and return to their sanctuaries. But the question arises as Pakistani authorities have time and again made huge claims of protecting its soil with fencing of Pak Afghan border.   

In mid of May, during a tripartite conference at Islamabad, the two countries reached a shared understanding regarding the project. Besides Pakistan and Afghanistan, China was the third participant of the tripartite conference. China has assured financial support to Afghanistan in connection with the relocation project. Pakistan believes the presence of banned TTP along with Pak Afghan border in Afghanistan territories is the major cause of growing violence and terror in all over Pakistan. However, Pakistan’s nationalist and democratic minded circles are considering “fuelling violent acts caused by the military establishment’s wrong policies based on what was framed by the then ISI Gen. Hameed Gul.”

The recent allegations of Pakistan, multiplied with threats of chasing militants inside Afghanistan is not new. Similar attack was made by Pakistan against Jalalabad in 1989 last. The attack was sanctioned/allowed by the then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan despite opposition of late Prime Minister Shaheed Benazir Bhutto and some of her cabinet members. At that time, Kabul was governed by the late President Dr. Najib Ullah. After evacuation of USSR troops, President Najib Ullah troops had not only repulsed this over two weeks long attack but even early 1990, it had foiled Defense Minister Shah Nawaz Tanai lead military coup with alleged support of Pakistan through Gulbadin Hekmatyar.

Though soon after tripartite conference and starting of relocation of banned TTP militants from certain areas, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mumtaz Zahra Baloch had declined to comment on the report during a weekly press briefing in Islamabad couple of weeks back, but now Taliban rulers working on different option in the wake of opposition from non Pushtoon communities. While declining to comment, the foreign spokesperson Ms Zahra Baluch told media, “I would not like to go into specifics on this particular issue. We are engaged with the Afghan interim government on the serious concerns that Pakistan has about the menace of terrorism.” “Our regular engagement is an ongoing process. All aspects of countering this menace remain under discussion between the two sides. Besides, it is not appropriate for us to make comments on any such media statements,” she said, adding “Islamabad is looking forward to working “closely” with the Afghan side to counter the terrorist threat.”

Couple of days back, in the high level security high ups conference at Rawalpindi-Islamabad, the participants directly held no other than banned TTP for ongoing deadly violent acts in Pakistan. And on such grounds, the Afghan regime of Tehrik Taliban Afghanistan was asked to behave otherwise it was threatened with dire consequences. In reaction, the Emirate Islami Afghanistan has not only rejected Pakistan’s charges but the Deputy Information Minister and chief spokesperson has repeated, “ there is no presence of Pakistani militants in Afghanistan. All these Pakistani militants engaged in terror acts are sheltering across the border in Pakistan.”   

Whatever might be the nature of Pakistan’s allegations and reaction to the Taliban regime, reports reveal that after the previous May, the Kabul regime had shifted certain families to Orazgan, which is considered South-western part of Afghanistan. Likewise a few families belonging to Waziristan have been shifted to Northern Afghanistan. But now the non Pushtoons are publicly opposing this project of relocation of Pakistani militants. Besides others former Vice President Amar Ullah Saleh, Rashid Dostam and Ahmad Masoud while opposing relocation of TTP militants to Northern and western Afghanistan, also urged the UN and other global organs to take its early notices. 

The TTP relocation in northern Afghanistan is deceptive and dangerous, the AFF warns

in a statement. The armed anti-Taliban Afghanistan Freedom Front (AFF), strongly criticized reports of the Taliban relocating members of Tahreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to the northern regions of Afghanistan, describing it as a “deceptive” and “dangerous” action. The AFF expressed concerns that such a move would disrupt the harmonious coexistence of ethnic groups in Afghanistan. The Anti- AFF said: “We firmly believe that this demographic shift in the north of our country will sow the seeds of division, extremism, and terrorism in Afghanistan forever.”“The repercussions of these actions will pose a grave and catastrophic threat, not only to Afghanistan and the region but also to global peace and security.”

According to AFF claims that alongside ties with Al-Qaeda and ISKP, the Taliban has facilitated ground for the relocation of other like-minded extremist groups, including the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, and Jamaat Ansarullah of Tajikistan, to the northern regions of Afghanistan.

The history of banned TTP slipping into Afghanistan is not new but it started in 2009 with the ending of military operation Rah-i-Raaast in Swat valley and its adjacent districts. At that time, the then TTP Chief Mullah Fazal Ullah was mysterious escaped from Swat and landed in Kunar province of Afghanistan. Later he was followed by militant commanders like Maulvi Faqir Mohammad, Latif Mehsud and others from North and South Waziristan and Mangal Bagh from Khyber. In the wake of military operation Zarb-i-Azab commenced on June 15th 2014 in North Waziristan, Hafiz Gul Bahadar shifted to Afghanistan’s South-Eastern zone. The Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid, as quoted by the Afghan News Agency, stated that TTP fighters currently residing in Khost, Kunar, and other border areas of Afghanistan will be stationed in northern Afghanistan. The plan involves relocating these fighters to remote provinces away from the Durand Line.

No one can deny the fact that Afghan Taliban have out rightly regretted Pakistan’s demand of either taking action or evacuating banned TTP militants. In fact, both TTA and TTP are from the same school of thoughts with similar goals in both the neighbouring countries and other regional countries. Taliban are staunch Sunnis and known for their hostile attitude towards Shia’s. Iran is already in close links with all Non Pushtoon Afghans who are dominating almost Northern and western parts of that war-devastated country. Since signing of Doha Qatar agreement, TTA  Or Emirate Islami Afghanistan are very well exposed in its obedience and loyalties to US lead allies especially Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Pakistan has already expressed doubts over banned TTP links with several other foreign countries. On such grounds, shifting of these TTP associated militants to Northern and Western parts of Afghanistan could be considered another shift in prolonged war, being fought by a number of global powers through regional countries on the soil of Afghanistan.

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