Pakistan mulls operation against local Taliban as security situation worsens
By Amjad Ali
Islamabad, Feb 1 (EFE).- The Pakistani government is evaluating the possibility of launching a large-scale operation against the local Taliban offshoot in response to the brutal bombing at a mosque in Peshawar which killed at least 100 people – most of them police officers – as part of a steady deteriorating security landscape in the country with terrorism on the rise.
Most of the recent attacks have been carried out by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, the main Taliban offshot in the country, although it has denied responsibility for the Monday mosque bombing in Peshawar, in which 157 people were wounded.
The group refuted an earlier statement by one of its commanders claiming the attack.
However, on Wednesday Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif expressed his government’s determination to eliminate the terror threat in the country and said that the unrest was a national concern.
A day earlier, Defense Minister Khawaja Asif had urged all parties in the National Assembly to unite against terrorism and launch an operation against the Taliban similar to a 2014 offensive.
“There is a need to create a consensus like that of Zarb-e-Azb when we launched an operation against the terrorists and wiped them out,” Asif urged lawmakers, referring to an operation by the security forces that began in the northwestern tribal areas and later extended nationwide, managing to significantly weaken the TTP.
The minister compared the Peshawar mosque bombing to a massacre in a military school in 2014 in which 150 people – mostly children – were killed. The attack had triggered the anti-terrorism offensive.
TTP attacks have increased after the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021, especially after November, when the rebels resumed fighting after a series of failed negotiations.
The peace talks had continued for years and allowed the TTP to establish itself in the country according to Asif, who blamed the government of ex-prime minister Imran Khan – ousted in April 2022 – for the debacle.
Between Aug. 14, 2021 and Aug. 15, 2022, Pakistan witnessed 250 terror attacks, in which 433 people were killed and 719 injured, according to the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies.
The data reflects a 51 percent rise in attacks year-on-year, reversing a trend of reduced terrorism that the country had witnessed after the 2014 military operation.
The unrest peaked in January, when the TTP claimed 46 attacks in 15 districts of Pakistan, killing 49 people and wounding 58.
The defense minister said that even though the attacks had not been limited to a particularly sect or segment of the society, the security forces had borne the brunt, losing 282 members in 376 attacks during 2022, according to a report by the Center for Research and Security Studies.
Pakistan’s National Counter-Terrorism Authority said in December that the TTP had “gained considerable ground” and “increased its footprint and magnitude of activities” during the peace talks process.
The rise in terrorism triggered massive protests across the country, especially in provinces bordering Afghanistan such as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, which have been the worst-hit as the security situation has deteriorated.
Since its inception, the TTP has carried out a brutal campaign of terrorist attacks across the country and killed thousands of people, including an assassination attempt in 2012 against activist Malala Yousafzai, who was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. EFE