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Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan

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Policy paralysis haunts our security

By Raza Rumi

Pakistan’s government has appointed a new committee to conduct ‘peace talks’ with the Taliban. The old committee, with journalists acting as peace-brokers, has been replaced by a coterie of bureaucrats who, in spite of their solid credentials, are likely to be men without a mandate. The talks between the TTP and the government in Islamabad will remain in a flux as the right-wing politicians most keen to engage with them still refuse to deliver on what they have sold to the general public — that you can actually negotiate with groups that have killed 50,000 Pakistanis including over 4,000 security personnel. Why do the government’s peace committees have no politician in them?

A recent report by The Wall Street Journal stated that the Pakistan Army has lost almost twice as many soldiers in the conflict with Taliban fighters as the United States (March 10, 2014). Yet, the civilian government and the army are opting for negotiations. This baffles plain logic unless there is a greater strategy at work. The civilian leadership seems split as the interior minister defends the TTP, while the defence minister warns of a military operation. At the same time, most of the demands put forward by the TTP can only be met if the military agrees to deliver on them. Thus, the future of talks remains dogged by this inherent divergence in the power structure within Pakistan. […]

Strategic Blunders

Raza Rumi

tft-51-p-2-bRecent events and statements by the civilian leadership indicate that there is a move towards undertaking a military operation in North Waziristan Agency (NWA). This has been a much delayed option that haunts the state of Pakistan especially the power military which has lost thousands of personnel, officials and five generals in the past few years. If one adds the civilian casualties and the climate of fear that grips Pakistan. Earlier, media reports suggested that in a briefing the army was not too optimistic about the success of an operation. The Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf, whose simplistic position on war, terrorism and domestic anarchy has been informing the discourse, had quoted 40% chances of success in a media interaction.

Admittedly, with a large number of civilians residing in NWA, air strikes and ground operations can be lethal as the recent bombings in Mir Ali demonstrated. The armed forces were successful in hitting valuable targets but it came with a cost. This was a route that ought to have been adopted years ago but Pakistan’s strategic calculations prevented such clarity. In large measure, high tolerance for the existence of a mini-Emirate within Pakistan’s territory was perhaps a means to allow the functioning of Afghan Taliban factions in NWA. This was an opportune moment for the Pakistani militants to increase their strength, enter into alliances with sectarian groups countrywide and enhance their ‘soft power’ through media interactions, and gain the sympathies of political parties such as Imran Khan’s PTI. The results have been disastrous for the country. Pakistanis while condemning acts of terror against civilians are willing to give leeway to the militants terming acts as an expression of resistance to Pakistan’s partnership with the US. […]

February 14th, 2014|Published in The Friday Times|0 Comments

On Malala and ‘Who are the Pakistani Taliban’

I was quoted in these two pieces at CNN.

Attack on Pakistani schoolgirl galvanizes anti-Taliban feeling

“There is a groundswell of sympathy for her and also a very strong demand for the Pakistani state to do something about this issue,” said Raza Rumi..”

The second piece is an excellent report on who are the Pakistani Taliban. I am pasting it below for the readers here:

Who are the Pakistani Taliban?

(CNN) — While its recent attack on a 14-year-old girl in Pakistan brought international outrage, the Pakistani Taliban take credit for a long list of assaults on civilians and the military in the country’s mostly ungoverned tribal area along the Afghan border.

The banned Islamist group, which has intimate links to the Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda, unabashedly confirmed it tried to kill teen activist Malala Yousufzai as she rode home from school in a van October 9.

But before that, the group, formally known as Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), took the global spotlight when Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-American, attempted to detonate a car bomb in New York’s Times Square in May 2010. The TTP took responsibility, and Shahzad testified that he had received training from them.

The following September, the U.S. State Department designated the TTP a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

Are they “the Taliban?”

They are not “the Taliban” that the U.S. forces have been at war with in Afghanistan, according to a Pakistani analyst. But that they adopted the name “Taliban” is no coincidence.

Formally known as Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, the group is very closely linked with its namesake in Afghanistan as well as with al Qaeda. It shares its religious extremist ideology — but is its own distinct group.

The TTP also has a different goal, but its tactics are the same, says Raza Rumi, director of policy and programs at the Jinnah Institute, a Pakistani think tank.

“Their primary target is the Pakistani state and its military,” he says. “It resents the fact that it (Pakistan) has an alliance with the West, and it wants Sharia to be imposed in Pakistan.”

Another terrorism analyst notes that “there is a shared heritage between the two groups.”

“The Pakistani Taliban emerged as a power alongside the Taliban as a kind of network of support,” says Matthew Henman of IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre.

During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, fighters from Pakistan crossed over the border to fight. They retained close relations with the Taliban after returning home, Rumi says.

There are other militant groups in Pakistan’s tribal region not under the umbrella of the TTP, who support the Taliban but do not pursue Tehrik-i-Taliban’s goals of replacing the Pakistani state with an Islamist one.

Where do the TTP’s roots lie?

Pakistan’s army began hunting various militant groups in the semi-autonomous regions along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), in 2002.

In reaction, militant “supporters of the Afghan Taliban in the tribal areas transitioned into a mainstream Taliban force of their own,” according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

In 2007, like-minded militias in Pakistan’s tribal region came together under the command of Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2009.

As a result of its beginnings, Tehrik-i-Taliban are not a unified fighting force but a coordinated coalition of militias.

“Since its formation, the TTP have been dominated by one tribe,” Henman says. “That is the Mehsud tribe.” When Baitullah Mehsud died, factions competed for Tehrik-i-Taliban’s leadership.

The militant groups control different regions within the tribal area and often have different agendas and political objectives. The factions don’t always speak with one voice, although it is widely believed they now recognize Hakimullah Mehsud as their leader.

The TTP may have started in the tribal regions, but have since expanded their network.

They are “not just guys hiding in mountains or caves.” They maintain loose factions spread out as far as Punjab province, Rumi explains.

“And they have also been joined by criminal gangs” to raise money through kidnappings and extortion. But the TTP have maintained the coalition nature of their roots, which leads to internal strife.

The TTP’s opposition to the government and its allies, particularly the United States, has galvanized them beyond their differences.

“When (former president Gen. Pervez) Musharraf sided with the U.S. in 2001 after the ‘you are either with us or against us’ line from (then-President George W.) Bush, this is when the Taliban began to resent the military,” Rumi says.

The TTP do not encompass all militant groups in the tribal regions but does work together with some, such as the Haqqani Network.

What is the Pakistani Taliban’s mission?

The TTP are fighting to overthrow Pakistan’s government via a terrorist campaign, according to the U.S. State Department.

“They reject the Pakistani constitution,” says Rumi. “They reject the democratic process in Pakistan.” […]

October 23rd, 2012|Afghanistan, Pakistan|2 Comments