Thu, 01 Jun 2023

Islamabad [Pakistan], March 8 (ANI): In a first, the Taliban government in Afghanistan, has sought the financially-suffering Pakistan to bear the expense of disarming and rehabilitating the banned outfit Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) members and their families from Pak-Afghan border areas, reported Afghan Diaspora Network.

Finally, the cat is out of the bag: Afghanistan has asked a financially depleted and bankrupt Pakistan for assistance in relocating Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) members within Afghanistan. The Express Tribune reported that the Afghan Taliban have expressed their willingness to disarm the TTP and relocate members of the organisation from the Pakistan-Afghan border if Pakistan bears the cost of the proposed plan, the Afghan Diaspora Network said.

This was recently revealed at a meeting of Pakistan's Central Apex Committee, held on February 24, to discuss the recent surge in terrorist attacks in the country as well as other security issues. The issue of the banned TTP and its safe havens across the border was one of the main topics on the agenda.

A report published in Afghan Diaspora Network read, the proposal calls for the TTP fighters to be disarmed and relocated from the Pakistan-Afghan border areas. The Apex Committee was informed that the 'interim' government in Afghanistan had proposed a plan to control the TTP. The Afghan Taliban government, on the other hand, has asked Pakistan to fund the proposal and bear the entire cost of TTP rehabilitation. The Afghan Taliban had made a similar proposal to China to address China's concerns about the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, according to the Apex meeting.

However, Pakistan has yet to respond to the Afghan Taliban's proposal, citing concerns that it will fail. Nonetheless, it was for the first time that the Afghan Taliban proposed disarming the TTP.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif presided over the meeting, which was attended by the chief ministers of the four provinces and Gilgit-Baltistan, the AJK PM, senior cabinet ministers, the Army Chief, DG ISI, and other officials.

The immediate context for this meeting was a delegation led by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif's visit to Kabul on February 22, 2023 to share "irrefutable evidence" with the Afghan Taliban about the presence of TTP in the neighbouring country. A Pakistan Foreign Ministry press release states, "Matters relating to the growing threat of terrorism in the region, particularly by TTP and ISKP came under discussion. The two sides agreed to collaborate to effectively address the threat of terrorism posed by various entities and organisations".

The purpose of the visit was to send a clear message to the Afghan Taliban that Pakistan would no longer seek talks with the TTP because the group had used previous peace efforts to regroup and target Pakistan.

Some estimates place the number of TTP fighters in Afghanistan between 8,000 and 12,000, with the figure rising to 30,000 when family members are included. The Afghan Taliban reportedly suggested relocating the TTP at Pakistani expense during Defence Minister Khawaja Asif's recent visit to Kabul. The Pakistani delegation also included Lt Gen Nadeem Anjum, DG, ISI.

Sensing a hardening of the Pakistani position, the Afghan Taliban proposed a new plan that included disarming the TTP and relocating their members from border areas within Afghanistan. Meanwhile, a statement issued by the PM Office said the Apex Meeting agreed that "the elimination of terrorism, economic recovery and political stability are interlinked". "Pakistan cannot afford internal insecurity. The need for national unity, unity, and collective struggle is urgent. To achieve these objectives, a national consensus must be formed, and obstacles must be removed," according to the statement.

In other words, Pakistan is ironically concerned about recent terrorist incidents in Peshawar and Karachi, as well as other attacks that indicate an intensification of the TTP's campaign against the Pakistani state.

Terrorist incidents, particularly those at the Peshawar Police Lines Mosque on January 30, 2023 and the Karachi Police Office on February 19, 2023, as well as the subsequent situation, were thoroughly reviewed at the Apex Committee meeting.

Representatives from various institutions briefed participants on the overall security situation and anti-terrorist operations. Previously, Pakistan used the same actors under different names such as JeM and LeT to carry out attacks in JK and the rest of India. These developments occur at a time when Prime Minister Sharif has stated that the government must "unwillingly" accept the strict terms of a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in order to provide a lifeline to an economy in distress, Afghan Diaspora Network reported.

"We have to accept the strict conditions of the IMF deal unwillingly," he said, adding that an agreement was still a "week, 10 days" away. Pakistan's dire economic situation has resulted in repeated requests to the IMF and other lenders to help it cope with low foreign exchange reserves and some sectors of the economy grinding to a halt. Pakistan has been negotiating with the IMF since early February 2022, with the goal of signing a staff-level agreement that will pave the way for additional inflows from bilateral and multilateral lenders. Once the agreement is signed, the IMF will begin disbursing funds from the $6.5 billion bailout agreed to in 2019.

The Pakistani Prime Minister also stated unequivocally that the release of the next tranche would not end the country's economic woes. He then mentioned a much-needed loan from a friendly country, without naming China, and provided US$700 million to cash-strapped Pakistan without waiting for the IMF programme to be revived.

The Afghan Taliban requesting money from Pakistan to re-locate the TTP within Afghanistan is sweet vengeance for Afghanistan. They will not only bake the cake, but they will also eat it. If this occurs, TTP cadres may join the Afghanistan Taliban, bolstering its forces.

According to Afghan Diaspora Network, after telling Pakistan that the TTP was making the same demands as previous Kabul governments and that it would not help disarm the TTP, it has now found a way to squeeze Pakistan. Islamabad is unmistakably trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea. Pakistan, having burned their fingers in previous negotiations with the TTP, is now at a crossroads in their very existence. Will China also assist Pakistan in overcoming its difficulties? (ANI)

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