Pakistani Taliban Allegedly ‘Training’ Baloch Militants in Terrorist Camps Along Afghanistan Border

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa paid a visit to Balochistan province on Tuesday, days after two deadly terrorist strikes at different military bases killed nine soldiers. The terrorist raids on 2 February have been claimed by the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA).

The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terrorist organisation, an offshoot of the Afghan Taliban*, is training fighters from the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) at its facilities located along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, a TTP militant has claimed, talking to Sputnik.

“In return, the BLA is providing us with access into Balochistan”, the TTP fighter, who is based in the South Waziristan district of Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, said.

The militant alleges that “hideouts” in Balochistan have of late acted as refuge for TTP fighters as they escape the Pakistani Army’s counter-insurgency operations in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Most of the alleged training camps are located along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, the TTP militant said, refusing to divulge any more information as to which side of the border these sites are located on.

The BLA and the TTP are known to espouse different ideological motives, with the former involved in an ethnic secessionist movement against the Pakistani state.

The main aim of the TTP, on the other hand, is to overthrow the Pakistani state and implement Islamic Sharia law in the country.

Both Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces share a border with Afghanistan. The two have witnessed an uptick in militancy since the Taliban stormed to power in Afghanistan last year in mid-August.

A study conducted by security the Pakistan Institute of Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS) think tank found that Balochistan last year recorded 103 attacks and 170 deaths, while the province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa was the second-worst affected.

At a press conference last week, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid also admitted that the TTP had stepped up attacks since last year. The ceasefire between Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government and the TTP could not go beyond a month in November last year, after Islamabad refused to agree to several of its demands.

The alleged support extended to the TTP by the Afghan Taliban is a thorny issue in otherwise cordial bilateral ties between Kabul and Islamabad.

Pakistan’s National Security Adviser (NSA) Moeed Yusuf was on a visit to Kabul last month, with security-related issues as well as the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan constituting major points of discussion between the two sides.

Deputy Prime Minister Mowlawi Salam Hanafi reiterated the Taliban’s commitment to not allow Afghan soil to be used by any foreign terrorist group during his meeting with Yusuf, a pledge in line with the Doha Agreement of February 2020.

The Doha Agreement was signed between the Taliban and the United States. As part of the deal between the two sides to end the two-decade-long American military presence in Afghanistan, the Taliban, among other things, provided a guarantee that it would not let Afghan soil be “used against the security” of Washington and its allies.

However, the Inter-Service Public Relations (ISPR), the Pakistani military’s media wing, claimed for the first time on Sunday that five soldiers were killed in a cross-border terrorist attack, which has been claimed by the TTP.

Also, a recent report by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), released on Monday, claims that “terrorist groups enjoy greater freedom there (Afghanistan) than at any point in history”. The report has been rejected by the Taliban’s Foreign Ministry.

The TTP militant who spoke to Sputnik admitted that the Taliban still remains “sympathetic” to the group’s cause.

Pakistan Suspects Foreign Hand Behind Balochistan Attacks

The BLA on 2 February claimed two separate assaults on Pakistani Frontier Corps (FC) bases in the Naushki and Panjgur districts of the resource-rich province.

A Pakistani military statement said that nine soldiers “embraced martyrdom” in the attacks, with 20 terrorists also getting killed during the deadly strikes.

Another deadly strike in Balochistan’s Kech district last month left 10 Pakistani troops dead. The attack was claimed by lesser-known armed secessionist group the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF).

The Pakistani military and political leadership have alleged that the attacks have a foreign connection.

“As per initial investigation, intelligence agencies have intercepted communications between terrorists and their handlers in Afghanistan and India”, the Pakistani military said in a statement last week.

“We know that the terrorists movement in Balochistan is not indigenous but is instead backed by those who want to see Pakistan broken. But our enemies would have to face defeat”, Prime Minister Khan said during a visit to Balochistan on Tuesday.

*The Taliban is under UN sanctions for terrorist activities.