Pakistan lodges protest with Afghanistan over deadly Dera Ismail Khan attack

Jailed former PM Imran Khan and his government sowed seeds of increased violence by holding talks with Pakistani Taliban, analysts say

A soldier at the site of the suicide bombing that killed at least 26 security personnel in Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan.
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Pakistan has lodged a protest with Afghanistan's authorities over Tuesday’s terrorist assault in Dera Ismail Khan district, in which suicide attackers killed at least 26 soldiers and wounded more than 30.

An affiliate of the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack, one of the deadliest in the country. The TTP has strong links to the Afghan Taliban, who rule Afghanistan, and the attack occurred in a region near the two countries' border.

Islamabad has demanded that the Afghan Taliban take action to eliminate militant hideouts in Afghanistan's territory and hand over TTP leaders wanted for terrorist attacks.

But analysts say the previous government in Pakistan made a mistake when it held peace talks with the TTP, as the discussions gave the militants a chance to reorganise themselves.

Jailed former prime minister Imran Khan's Tehreek-e-Insaf party was seen as seeking closer ties with the TTP.

“Several key commanders of the TTP were released and numerous of its militants returned to their native areas in Pakistan as a result of those talks,” political analyst Dr Khadim Hussain told The National.

Dr Hussain is the former managing director of the Bacha Khan Trust Education Foundation research organisation.

“The parliament had very limited role in those peace talks. And when the talks failed, we witnessed its harmful consequences," he said.

The attacks come as Pakistan prepares to hold its general elections in February.

Dr Hussain said it would be an injustice if voting is delayed because of the unrest.

He said in the year 2008, the security situation was also very fragile, but elections were still held.

“If decisive action is not taken against the militants, such attacks would continue even after the elections,” he warned.

Dr Sarfraz Khan, a former director of Area Study Centre at Peshawar University, said the chances of an election could be affected by a surge in violence.

“I won’t link the Dera Ismail Khan blast to the coming elections but such incidents are a result of our country’s wrong policies. However, if bad incidents continue, then the coming elections may also be affected,” he said.

“The Taliban government in Afghanistan has also emboldened the militants fighting against Pakistani security forces. Terrorist incidents have increased since the Taliban formed a government in Kabul.”

Gun-and-bomb attack

Zeeshan Khan, chief of the police station in Daraban, told The National that the attackers comprised two suicide bombers and four others, all of them using sophisticated weapons.

“First they rammed the explosive-laden vehicle into the boundary wall of the army base, causing a huge blast that not only damaged the army base but also affected our police station," he said.

"After the vehicle blast, two bombers also detonated explosives around their bodies. The remaining terrorists entered the premises and started firing.”

The army base had been established in a school building, adjacent to the police station.

“Most of the casualties happened due to the blasts and firing by the militants. According to estimates of the area’s bomb disposal squad, about 100kg explosives were used in the attack,” he said.

Khalid Jan, a resident of the area, said the blasts have caused fears among the residents and also damaged nearby buildings.

“The window panes of houses were broken as a result of the blasts. One family living close the attack scene left the home as their house building developed cracks,” he said.

The attack was claimed by the Tehreek-e-Jihad-e-Pakistan (TJP).

TJP spokesman Mullah Mohammad Qasim said a group of its suicide bombers stormed the military compound at around 3am. It named one of the attackers as Maulvi Hassan Gandapur.

A security official who asked not to be named told The National that analysis would show the Tehreek-e-Jihad-e-Pakistan is part of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, carrying a different name.

“They use the name of TTP whenever they like so, and sometimes they claim an incident by the name of TJP when it suits them,” he said.

He said the name of TJP was created because the Afghan Taliban face criticism whenever the TTP stages attack in Pakistan, since its militants mostly hide in Afghan border areas.

Updated: December 13, 2023, 1:49 PM