As You Sow, So Shall You Reap: Pakistan Now Has To Deal With Self-Created Demon Taliban

(MENAFN- Colombo Gazette)

BY Ajeyo Basu

New Delhi: Since its creation in 1947, Pakistan has based the very purpose of its existance on establishing Muslim rule over 'Hindu' India.

However, the setbacks in the wars of 1965 and 1971 made the Pakistan Army – the actual rulers of the impoverished country – realise the futility of direct military confrontation with India.

The invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union in 1979 and the subsequent four decades of conflict presented Pakistan with an opportunity to extend its influence across its western border and attempt to turn Afghan territory into 'strategic depth' in case of a future war with India.

After the Soviet Union limped out of Afghanistan in 1989, the Pakistan Army organised the Pashtun tribes of southern Afghanistan and northwest Pakistan into a formidable fighting force. With thousands of students from madrassas across Pakistan joining its ranks, this army of 'mujahideen' came to be known as the Taliban, which means students in Pashto.

Emerging in the mid 1990s, the Taliban defeated the tribes of northen Afghanistan – then backed by India and Russia – and swept into Kabul in 1996. Afghanistan thus turned into a safe haven for Pakistani terrorist groups for the next few years. This helped Pakistan to fuel it proxy war against India in Kashmir.

However, the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 following the 9/11 terrorist attacks turned the tables. Pakistan, which had created the Islamic terrorist groups in Afghanistan and in its own territory with active help from the US, now positioned itself as a frontline ally in the 'War on Terror' by the West.

This policy of running with the hares and hunting with the hounds cost the Pakistan Army dearly as the Pashtun tribes of north west Pakistan gradually turned against the country's military establishment. These tribes gradually broke away from their brethren across the Durand Line to form the the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) – also known as the Pakistan Taliban.

From circa 2006-07 to 2014-15, the TTP engaged in a brutal guerilla war with the Pakistan Army and virtually ruled over vast swaths of territory along the country's western border with Afghanistan.

The conflict began after the Pakistan Army's search for al-Qaeda fighters in the country's mountainous Waziristan area prompted armed resistance by the local Pashtun tribes aliied with Central Asian militant groups and Arab fighters. This subsequently established the TTP and other militant organizations such as the Lashkar-e-Islam.

The conflict in northwest Pakistan greatly depleted the country's resource and had a huge detrimental effect on its economy and manpower, even greater than that witnessed after the dismemberment of the country after the war with India in 1971.

However, the attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar that killed 150 people, of whom at least 134 were students – most of them children of military officers – prompted the Pakistan Army to launch a massive counter-assault involving air strikes that coniserably weakened the TTP.

However, after the US and its NATO allies decided to leave Afghanistan and the Afghan Taliban recaptured Kabul after two decades, the TTP gradually regrouped. This was faciliated by the Afghan Taliban, which regards the Pashtun dominated regions of Pakistan as part of a greater Afghanistan that had been snatched away by the erstwhile British East India Company during the Anglo-Afghan wars in the early 19th century.

Heavily armed with vast stores of American weapons left behind by the retreating US forces, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has carried out over 250 attacks against Pakistani security forces since August 2021.

With the TTP declaring an end to the truce with the government on Monday (November 28) and resumption of nationwide militant attacks, Pakistan is now staring into an abyss of its own making.

Facing what is perhaps the biggest economic crisis of its rather short history of seven decades – that has been compounded by devastating floods that affected around a third of the country – Pakistan is ill-equipped to fight yet another round of bloody conflict with guerrilla groups in the formidable mountains of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

With inflation rising by 26.6% in October and foreign exchange reserves at a record low, Pakistan may face a grim battle for its very existance if another bloody conflict breaks out in the tribal areas.

The Pashtun population is spread across Pakistan. From its largest city and economic centre Karachi – which has more Afghans than Kabul – to cities and town across Pakistan heartland of Punjab, the Pashtun have a presence all over Pakistan.

This has enabled the TTP to carry out attacks all over Pakistan as witnessed by several strikes in Karachi and Punjab, the most notable being the suicide attack that killed a general of the Pakistan Army bang in front of the army headquarters in Rawalpindi.

Will Pakistan survive the coming storm? Or will it suffer yet another dismemberment similar to the breaking away of erstwhile East Pakistan in 1971? Only time will tell.


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