Followed by several deadly terrorist attacks during the last two months, the suicide bombing in Shabqadar should be enough to disabuse anyone of the notion that the terrorists’ backbone has been broken. Shabqadar borders Mohmand Agency where terrorist attacks have increased due to the Agency’s proximity to Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province sheltering the TTTP and its affiliates. In February this year, there were several IED attacks in Mohmand followed by raids by the TTP which caused numerous casualties among the security personnel as well as the terrorists. Finally, the government had to impose curfew in the Agency which continued for several days.
Last week Afghan ambassador in Islamabad told media that the TTP chief Mullah Fazlullah is hiding in a region where his government has no control over. After the withdrawal of the bulk of US and foreign troops from Afghanistan, Kabul is already finding it hard to deal with the offensive launched by the Afghan Taliban in Helmand and elsewhere. Under the conditions it would be too much to expect that the Afghan security forces would simultaneously take on the TTP terrorists also. The inability on the part of Kabul to assert its sovereignty over its border areas would therefore continue to hurt Pakistan. The hope to eliminate terrorism from Pakistan by the end of this year would remain a dream as long as Afghanistan is insecure and unstable.
What is required under the circumstances is close cooperation between the two countries. Pakistan needs to pressurise the Afghan Taliban to enter into talks with the Afghan government without delay. Taliban leaders who fail to cooperate should be handed over to Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Afghan troops and whatever ISAF forces are left should stand ready to eliminate terrorists escaping Pakistan’s military offensive in Shawal. With sufficient goodwill created on both sides as a result of these two actions, it should be possible to conduct jointly planned operations against the common enemy on both sides of the Pak-Afghan border thus ensuring peace and security in the region.