Pakistan Taliban order nationwide attacks after ending ceasefire

The hardline group reached a truce with the government in June

Pakistani Taliban fighters in mountainous Tarran, in the north-western Swat valley. AFP
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Pakistan's Taliban militants said on Monday they had called off a shaky ceasefire agreed with the government and ordered fighters to begin attacks across the country.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a separate entity from the Taliban in Afghanistan but sharing a similar hardline ideology, have been responsible for hundreds of attacks and thousands of deaths since 2007.

They agreed to a truce this year after Afghanistan's new Taliban rulers took a prominent role in brokering peace talks, but negotiations made little progress and there were frequent breaches.

“We have shown our continued patience so that the negotiation process is not sabotaged,” the TTP said in a statement.

“But the army and intelligence agencies do not stop and continue the attacks, so now our retaliatory attacks will also start across the country.”

Fewer than two weeks ago, the TTP claimed responsibility for an ambush that killed six policemen in north-west Pakistan who, they said, were plotting a raid on their base in the area.

The military has been patrolling the area since Friday in an attempt to root out militants, with helicopter gunships shelling their hideouts.

The TTP was founded in 2007 by Pakistanis who fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan in the 1990s before opposing Islamabad's support for American intervention there after the September 11 attacks.

For a time they held vast tracts of Pakistan's rugged tribal belt, imposing a harsh interpretation of Sharia and patrolling territory 140 kilometres from Pakistan's capital, Islamabad.

The Pakistani military launched an offensive against the group after 2014 when militants raided a school for children of army personnel and killed nearly 150 people, most of them pupils.

Its fighters were largely routed into neighbouring Afghanistan, but Islamabad claims the Taliban in Kabul are now giving the TTP a foothold to stage assaults across the border.

In the year since the Taliban took over Afghanistan, Pakistan has suffered a 50 per cent surge in militant attacks, according to the Pak Institute for Peace Studies.

Politicians and business owners in north-west Pakistan said cases of TTP blackmail in the area have increased.

The presence of militants in the area is a deeply sensitive topic for Islamabad, which has long struggled to establish a writ there.

Analyst Saad Khan, a Peshawar-based retired brigadier, played down the significance of the TTP statement, saying the ceasefire was barely observed.

“The Afghan Taliban have assured the whole world that they will not allow their territory to be used against any other country,” he said.

“It is important to initiate serious negotiations with the Afghan Taliban on this issue and make them aware of the seriousness of the matter.”

Updated: November 28, 2022, 6:32 PM