Pakistan has been reeling from a deadly suicide bombing at a mosque inside a high-security police compound in the northwestern city of Peshawar, amid an uptick in attacks over the past few months.
At least 100 people were killed and more than 200 injured in the worst attack in a decade. A Pakistani Taliban commander, also known by the acronym TTP, has claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack in which almost all the victims were police officers.
Shortly after, however, TTP spokesperson Mohammad Khurasani steered the group away from the bombing, saying it was not TTP policy to target mosques and other religious sites.
Pakistan’s Taliban have been accused of more than 100 attacks since ending a ceasefire with the Pakistani government last November.
Let’s take a look at Pakistan’s Taliban, which has been waging an armed rebellion in the country for 15 years.
Why are the Pakistani Taliban fighting?
Angered by Pakistan’s cooperation with the United States in the “war on terror”, the TTP was formally formed in Pakistan in 2007. At this time, various illegal groups joined forces against the government and agreed to help the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan who were fighting the United States and her NATO forces. .
“As the so-called War on Terror began, thousands of people were killed in tribal belts by state action and American drones. [it] As a result, many people have decided to take up arms,” said Abdul Said, a Sweden-based researcher on armed groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Pakistan decided to cooperate with the United States when it invaded Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks. For decades, the US military has targeted armed groups, including her TTP, along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
Relations between Washington and Islamabad have remained frosty since the 2011 killing of al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden by US forces in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad. The United States has accused Pakistan of protecting Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders.
Relations soured further after the Taliban took over Afghanistan in 2021, but relations appear to have warmed since the dismissal of Imran Khan as Pakistan’s prime minister last April. opposed the U.S. drone strikes on
Among its many demands, the Pakistani Taliban has demanded stricter enforcement of Islamic law, the release of its members in government custody, and a ban on Pakistan in parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a province bordering Afghanistan. Calls for a reduction in military presence.
One of their main demands is to overturn the 2018 merger of Pakistan’s tribal districts from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
For the past two years, the TTP has claimed to act only as a defensive measure. But it has stepped up attacks on Pakistani soldiers and police since November, when it unilaterally ended a ceasefire with the government.The months-long ceasefire was brokered by the Afghan Taliban.
Pakistan’s Taliban have repeatedly warned police not to participate in operations against militants in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa border area.
Said says the region was already ripe for armed conflict due to colonial-era laws, which were considered to be contrary to tribal customs and, in some cases, discriminatory.
The tribal area of more than 7 million inhabitants that was merged into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2018 was governed by the Frontier Crime Control (FCR) Act. Enacted by the British colonial rulers in 1901, the FCR allowed tribal-wide punishment for crimes committed by its members.
Riccardo Valle, a Venice-based researcher at The Khorasan Diary, a non-partisan platform run by journalists, says that armed groups have taken advantage of lack of socioeconomic opportunities to thrive, and taken advantage of the lack of opportunities. It is clear that there are
“Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which includes the tribal district, has been ignored by the central government for years, while its people have suffered the brunt of the war on terrorism and the backlash of riots in Afghanistan.” told Al Jazeera.
Valle said that since the TTP’s new chief, Noor Wali Mehsud, took office, the TTP has changed the tone and intent of its propaganda, emphasizing people’s basic needs, especially water, gas and electricity.
“The new chief emphasized the lack of services and opportunities for people in the area,” he said.
“As the country’s economic situation worsens, the TTP is increasingly taking advantage of these grievances,” he told Al Jazeera.
Mohsin Dawar, a Pakistani MP from North Waziristan, one of the seven tribal districts, said the people’s vulnerabilities were exploited by armed groups.
“Armed groups are using people’s misery due to lack of facilities and infrastructure to persuade them to join,” Dawal told Al Jazeera.
“The merger of tribal areas into the mainstream is not seen as the main cause of the increase in armed groups, as it has been there for 20 years and continues across the board. We are using people’s misery due to them to convince them to join us,” said Dawar.
What is the relationship between the Taliban and the Taliban in Pakistan?
Pakistan’s Taliban is a separate entity from Afghanistan’s Taliban, but they are close allies. With the Taliban back in power, his TTP, which shares its ideology, seemed to gain momentum.
Pakistani Taliban fighters hid in the tribal northwest of the country and had sanctuaries in Afghanistan, but mostly lived as fugitives.
However, Pakistani authorities have accused the Taliban of protecting TTP fighters and releasing leaders arrested by the previous government in Kabul.
The Taliban have repeatedly stated that they will not allow anyone, including the TTP, to use Afghan soil for attacks against any country, including Pakistan. Pakistani officials, however, say there is a disconnect between the Taliban’s words and actions, which could have stopped the TTP from launching attacks in Pakistan but did not.
Pakistani Taliban operations are primarily aimed at targeting Pakistani forces, similar to the Taliban’s aim to drive foreign forces out of the country. US-led forces will leave Afghanistan in August 2021.
Why has there been an increase in violence recently?
Security analysts fear a surge in violence in the coming months as Pakistan faces an unprecedented economic crisis amid political unrest.
Pakistan has seen countless violent attacks over the past two decades, but attacks have increased since November, when the TTP ended a months-long ceasefire.
The Pakistani Taliban regularly carry out shootings and bombings, especially in the rugged and remote northwestern part of Pakistan, which used to be a stronghold of the TTP.
The violence has heightened public fears about possible military operations in the former tribal areas of North Waziristan and South Waziristan, now two districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Hours after Monday’s mosque bombing, Interior Minister Rana Sanaura Khan told the independent Geo News channel that Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers would not allow anyone to use their land for attacks on other countries. He said we must uphold our commitment to the international community not to allow it.
“They should keep their promises,” he said.
But on Wednesday, Afghan Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaki said Pakistani authorities should avoid “sowing the seeds of animosity” between the two countries.
“We advise them to conduct a thorough investigation into the Peshawar bombings,” Mutaki said.
Additional report by Al Jazeera’s Abid Hussein in Islamabad, Pakistan