Tough road for Pakistan army chief

Published on Nov 29, 2022 08:17 PM IST

The TTP calling off ceasefire is worrying. How Gen Asim Munir responds to this will be telling

General Munir will now have to decide whether the TTP can still be counted among the “good militants”. (AP) PREMIUM
General Munir will now have to decide whether the TTP can still be counted among the “good militants”. (AP)
ByHT Editorial

The first major security challenge facing Pakistan’s new army chief, General Asim Munir, is a resurgent Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which has called off a fragile six-month-old ceasefire and threatened a wave of attacks across the country. The TTP’s warning came on the eve of General Munir taking over as army chief on Tuesday and marked the latest turn in the Pakistan government’s troubled efforts to strike a deal with the group with the help of the Afghan Taliban. The TTP contended it had ended the truce, which was brokered with the intervention of the Afghan Taliban, because of “non-stop attacks” by Pakistan’s military. The TTP also blamed Pakistan’s army and intelligence agencies for the breakdown of the peace process. Many of Pakistan’s problems in dealing with the extremist grouping are an outcome of the military establishment’s fundamentally flawed policy of classifying terrorist groups as “good” and “bad”.

Most of the factions within the TTP were encouraged and tolerated till they launched a wave of suicide attacks in 2007 and virtually took over the Swat Valley and areas located within 100 kilometres of Islamabad. After being driven into Afghanistan by repeated military operations, these factions continued fighting alongside the Afghan Taliban till they were able to return to the Pakistani side after the fall of Kabul last year. Their main demands include the revocation of the Pakistan government’s decision to merge the erstwhile tribal districts bordering Afghanistan into the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province and the release of detained group members, but these have not been met. The tensions have been reflected in brutal attacks that have resulted in the death of dozens of security personnel, and the breakdown in talks last year and this year. Perhaps, it was this background that prompted Pakistan’s foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to say this month that the government ought to revisit its strategy for dealing with the TTP.

General Munir will now have to decide whether the TTP can still be counted among the “good militants”. This instability will not come as good news for an already besieged government and a nation trying to brace itself in the face of an impending showdown between the military and former Prime Minister Imran Khan. Any increase in the influence of the TTP or its affiliates will not bode well for India, as it will embolden other terror groups, sparking instability across South Asia. Pakistani army’s next moves will be closely watched.

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