Taliban’s Days Of Listening To ‘His Master’s Voice’ are Over

By unilaterally calling-off the month-long ceasefire and killing two police men in Tank district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa just to drive home this message, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan [TTP] has made it clear to Islamabad that it has no appetite for dialogue. Though expected all along, this development has nevertheless come as a serious setback for Prime Minister Imran Khan who’s already grappling with a host of other domestic crisis that have seen his government’s rating plummet to new lows.

Islamabad has consistently alleged that TTP had been created by New Delhi to “whip up terrorism” in Pakistan with active support from Afghanistan’s erstwhile spy agency National Directorate of Security [NDS]. So much so, that Pakistan has even been peddling this brazen falsehood in its much hyped ‘dossiers’ on India’s so called “state sponsored terrorism” in a desperate attempt to divert domestic attention form its own failure to act decisively against this terrorist group as well malign India’s image. However, being devoid of any truth, Islamabad’s shoddy narrative has failed to befool the international community.

For the sake of discussion, let’s for a moment assume that Islamabad’s accusation that New Delhi is patronising TTP with active support from NDS. However, once Taliban seized control of Afghanistan, while New Delhi shutdown all Indian run facilities, the NDS completely disintegrated and thus the TTP should have logically collapsed due to lack of military and logistical support from its alleged patrons. However, it wasn’t so; au contraire, at a time when India was busy winding up its consulates and evacuating its staff, while NDS was is a state of total disarray and completely dysfunctional, TTP attacks against Pakistani security forces registered an unprecedented upsurge, which completely demolishes Pakistan’s bluff of India patronising TTP!

Having air dashed its ISI chief to Kabul for ensuring that members of the Haqqani network, Pakistan army’s ‘strategic asset’ get hold of key government posts, Rawalpindi was confident that Taliban would unhesitatingly accede to any demand that it made. It was also convinced having hosted Taliban for two decades, as well as extended covert military support that facilitated Taliban’s speedy victory over the Afghanistan National Army, the Haqqani dominated Taliban would repay Rawalpindi for its enduring benevolence by acting against TTP. This is perhaps what made Pakistan army’s media wing Inter-Services Public Relations [ISPR] claim so confidently that it “trusts that the Taliban will keep their promises and take effective measures to ensure TTP does not operate against any country from Afghan soil.”

Pakistan’s Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry too kept up this pretence by saying “We should be satisfied to know with regards to the TTP that for the first time the process of Indian funding [to them]-which had been going on for a long time, has ended and at this time they are in disarray.” Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan Mansoor Ahmed Khan also buoyantly said that “The Taliban government has not said at any stage it would protect the TTP or give them sanctuary,” adding that Kabul had assured Islamabad that in case TTP doesn’t cease attacking Pakistani security forces, then the Taliban would take “military action” with the promise that such groups “will be eliminated.”

With Taliban playing ball and officially brokering a ceasefire-cum-dialogue between Islamabad and TTP, things seemed to be progressing well. However, if Islamabad had expected that the Taliban government would continue acting as Pakistan army’s lapdog, it was in for a big shock. Just within days of seizing power, Taliban set free several TTP terrorists jailed by the Ashraf Ghani government, including its former deputy chief Maulvi Faqir Mohammed [whose custody Pakistan was seeking since 2013]. Not only this, despite Pakistan officially handing over a list of TTP terrorists operating from Afghanistan, Taliban hasn’t handed over even a single TTP terrorist till date!

The next shocker for Pakistan came when TTP chief Noor Wali Mehsud not only congratulated Taliban for seizing Kabul and pledged support to its chief Hibatullah Akhundzada but also declared that TTP was part of Afghan Taliban. While Afghan Taliban may have denied any association with TTP, but its failure to fulfil the promise made to Islamabad that “military action will be taken” against terrorist groups that use Afghan soil for terrorist activities against other countries does raise serious suspicions about its sincerity on this issue.

More pertinently, by saying that “… we request Pakistan to look into their [TTP’s] demands for the better of the region and Pakistan,” the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan [IEA] has made very powerful statement regarding its transformation from the ‘Quetta Shura’ obligated to Islamabad for providing it safe sanctuary, to an independent entity. Furthermore, by its “request” that Islamabad should “look into” the TTP’s demands, IEA has indirectly conveyed that it does find merit in TTP’s demands. Lastly, by summarily rejecting Pakistan’s demand that TTP terrorists should not be provided safe sanctuary in Afghanistan, the Taliban has made it abundantly clear that the days when Rawalpindi’s words were considered to be ‘his master’s voice’ are now over!