Home Editorial Editorial: TTP and Pakistan’s Ties with Afghanistan

Editorial: TTP and Pakistan’s Ties with Afghanistan

Islamabad can ill-afford to alienate Kabul while tackling militants who find shelter across the Durand Line

by Editorial

The 2,600km border fence between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Photograph by Nazar Ul Islam

Pakistan is experiencing a resurgence of terrorism due to a revitalized Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), raising questions over its alleged facilitators in Kabul. A recent report of the U.S. Institute for Peace has gone so far as to warn that “the Afghan Taliban are unwilling to end their support for the banned TTP.” This, unsurprisingly, could worsen ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan, with reports of border clashes between the neighboring states already a regular occurrence.

Playing up “brotherly ties,” Islamabad has thus far downplayed reports of any connections between the situation on the border and the trouble posed by the TTP. However, the refusal of the supposedly “friendly” Kabul government to accept the Durand Line as the international border between Pakistan and Afghanistan continues to undermine trust and provoke enmity. Despite the U.N. declaring the Durand Line as the officially recognized border between the neighboring states, the Taliban government has questioned it once more—to the delight of some circles close to the TTP; it is widely believed the Taliban’s military victory in Afghanistan has proved “inspirational” on groups like the TTP seeking to impose sharia in Pakistan.

The global community is watching the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan with trepidation, as it implements a brand of sharia primarily focused on banning women’s education and participation in public spaces. It has also pulled back on basic healthcare and infrastructure development, deficiencies that are echoed in Pakistan’s erstwhile tribal areas despite efforts to ‘normalize’ them.

Islamabad’s calls for peace and stability have, for the most part, fallen on deaf ears, with Taliban fighters tearing down parts of the fence on the Pak-Afghan border even as Pakistan suffers a surge in cross-border terrorist attacks, which Kabul claims to have no authority to prevent. In a speech at the U.N. General Assembly, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif summed up Pakistan’s concerns, noting specifically the threats posed by Afghan-based Islamic State, TTP, Al Qaeda, among others. The continued presence of all terror groups in Afghanistan either betrays the Taliban’s inability to enforce their mandate—or shows a level of facilitation that the world can ill-afford. Pakistan, thanks to its geographical position, is in the unenviable position of once again being a frontline state that itself struggles to establish its writ in areas where it is most needed.

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