The rise of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), better known as Pakistani Taliban, enabled by the Afghan Taliban's steadfast support, will expand the threat of terrorist attacks in Pakistan, including against civilian targets, a Netherlands-based think tank said.
Since its founding in 2007, the TTP has emerged as the most influential and violent anti-Pakistan terrorist outfit in South Asia. Unlike its Afghan namesake, the TTP does not enjoy favourable relations with Islamabad.
The fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban in August last year has introduced a new era of uncertainty for regional security in South Asia.
Despite the organization's pledges to the contrary, international observers have expressed concerns that the Taliban could once again transform Afghanistan into a safe haven for international terrorist organizations, as had been the case prior to the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
A research paper published in the Amsterdam-based think tank said the Taliban's conduct after Kabul take over has also rung alarm bells in Pakistan. "This deterioration is primarily linked to the Taliban's support for the Pakistani offshoot of the Taliban, known as TTP, which the Taliban has claimed to have 'very good relations'' with," said the European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS), an independent think tank and policy research institute on South Asia.
Although the TTP has committed itself to restraining its activities towards the targeting of security personnel and security infrastructure, attacks and growing volatility will inevitably also produce civilian casualties.
"What implications does the TTP's resurgence ultimately have for Pakistan? The immediate answer is not a positive one: the TTP's renewed rise, enabled by the Taliban's steadfast support, will expand the threat of terrorist attacks in Pakistan, including against civilian targets," said EFSAS.
According to the think tank, this trajectory is the direct outcome of Pakistan's distinction between 'good' Taliban (the Afghan Taliban) and 'bad' Taliban (the TTP) and the unwillingness of large parts of the establishment to halt its support for Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism in any meaningful way.
"The distinction between 'good' and 'bad' Taliban has ignored the fact that the TTP's activities are inexorably linked to that of the Taliban and are in fact directly enabled by the Taliban. The continued presence of ISKP in Afghanistan, which factors into the Taliban's struggle to assert and consolidate political control in Afghanistan, also makes the Taliban less likely to rein in the TTP to avoid renewed defections to ISKP. In short, exerting pressure on the Taliban to contain the cross-border activities of the TTP is unlikely to produce satisfactory results," EFSAS said.
The think tank goes on to argue that the TTP operating out of Afghanistan also restricts Islamabad's strategic options vis-a-vis the TTP. "Unless Pakistan is willing to severely infringe on Afghanistan's sovereignty, for instance by conducting cross-border air raids, Pakistan's practical options of combatting the TTP are fairly limited if the Taliban remains unwilling to contain the TTP."
The research paper further states that Pakistan's policy options are ultimately limited in effectively containing the TTP. "Restricting the TTP will, ironically, require some form of political settlement and although the State is unlikely to make major political concessions that would undermine its long-term standing, it could make piecemeal concessions in return for a more sustainable ceasefire."
"For Pakistan, the Taliban takeover of Kabul, initially hailed as a major win, has turned out to be a pyrrhic victory that leaves Islamabad with few good policy options," EFSAS concludes.