US hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan has raised various questions on the security of the entire South Asian region, where Pakistan has been recognized internationally as one of the most active nations in fighting against terrorism.
Pakistan, a frontline state in the US-led global war on terror, always remained cautious about the political developments of Afghanistan while visualizing a stable and peaceful Afghanistan in its neighbourhood.
The withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan and the emergence of the Taliban as the result of the Doha Peace Agreement 2020 let Pakistan again witness the emergence of clandestine terrorist networks across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. According to the deal signed between the representatives of the Taliban and the US government, the American decision to end its Afghanistan-specific counterterror campaign jeopardized the security of Pakistan, and it has started pushing Pakistan toward critical circumstances in which the potential resurgence of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) dragged the attentions of Pakistan government towards the resuming of its counterterror operations across the country. To avoid the worse impacts of terrorism on the peace and prosperity of the Pakistani nation, the government of Pakistan has accepted the need for a military operation to eliminate the reemergence of TTP, a banned terrorist outfit founded in 2007. The clandestine activities of TTP across the Pak-Afghan border have already caused significant damage to the cooperative bilateral ties between Kabul and Islamabad despite having a number of cultural and ideological commonalities between Afghan and Pakistani societies. The terrorist activities have a brief history of keeping the government of Pakistan engaged in various indigenous counterterror operations in response to the solid ideological connections of TTP with its covertly functioning like-minded groups along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. This banned outfit primarily aimed to sabotage the peace and prosperity of Balochistan and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) provinces of Pakistan.
While constructing its collaborative connections with other banned outfits across the border, the TTP aims to undermine Pakistan’s emerging role in its home region while declaring it internationally a vulnerable destination for major economic investments. Moreover, attacks on foreign nationals in different parts of Pakistan have validated the involvement of foreign elements in the domestic affairs of Pakistan, which is primarily designed to damage the country’s soft image in the world. This situation has already posed serious challenges to the scope of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Pakistan.
The present wave of TTP’s emergences in the Balochistan and KP provinces has confirmed the foreign support to this terrorist outfit for continuing its activities in Pakistan.
The increasing connection of TTP in Balochistan is due to the emerging role of Balochistan in the economy of Pakistan. In addition to the various reports of independent research institutions, the formal positions of Pakistani authorities have confirmed the Indian involvement in empowering TTP to execute its terrorist activities in Pakistan. The Indian backing, in the form of economic and strategic assistance to this group, enabled it to carry out its mission of striking civilian and military targets in the country. In this way, the Indian involvement in Pakistan’s domestic affairs, from Afghan land, is primarily targeting the scope of peace and stability in Pakistan parallel to stigmatizing the national image of Pakistan in the world. In response to this situation, the government of Pakistan has decided to launch a counterterror operation and has given up the option of dialogues. The responses of the Pakistan military to the emerging terrorist incidents of TTP in Peshawar and Sawat and the demands of local people from mainstream affected areas to protect them from the emerging threats of terrorism dragged the attention of the whole nation towards the menace of terrorism again.
Apart from the ongoing political tussle between two political parties in the domestic politics of Pakistan, the consensus of whole nations on the counterterror mission of the government and the appreciable performance of armed forces in the mainstream anti-terror operations has communicated to the whole international community the seriousness of Pakistan in addressing the issue of terrorism. As mentioned by top military officials of the country, the Armed Forces of Pakistan has started a counterterror operation across the board without any distinction because the counterterror operation of the military is strict to its objective of eliminating the menace of terrorism from the country as per the aspirations of the people of Pakistan. Keeping in mind previous efforts of Pakistan in eradicating the threats of terrorism from its soil, it can be said that Pakistan’s contemporary counterterror campaign will let Pakistan’s armed forces efficiently overcome the present wave of TTP’s emergence.
The recent history of Pakistan’s armed forces in fighting terrorism cannot be ignored in this regard due to the fact that the Pakistani nation has already paid a heavy price for initiating its counterterror operations across the country and creating a terror-free Pakistani nation.
Therefore, the current military operation for creating a terror-free Pakistan is a greater mission of Pakistan which is aimed to eradicate terrorism from Pakistani soil, parallel to creating a peaceful and stable Pakistan. A peaceful and stable Pakistan could ensure the prosperity of the whole nation. To widen the scope of its counterterror operations at the regional level, the government of Pakistan has several times highlighted the need for joint efforts in fighting against terrorism in the South Asian region. In this way, the government of Pakistan has a clear vision for various counterterror measures beyond its contemporary unilateral standing on the issue of terrorism across the Pak-Afghan border.
The author is an Assistant Professor, at the Department of International Relations, National University of Modern Languages (NUML), Islamabad.