Pakistan

Govt mulls ‘military offensive’ against TTP

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Amid an upsurge in terrorist attacks, the country’s civil and military leadership is undertaking a major policy review in order to stem the tide of banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), officials familiar with the development told The Express Tribune.

The rise in the TTP-sponsored attacks has pushed the authorities concerned to revisit the strategy pursued by the previous government.

Official sources say closed door discussions are ongoing and major decisions are expected in the next couple of weeks. A meeting of the National Security Committee is likely to be convened to debate and take the crucial measures against the renewed threat from the TTP.

“The situation in certain areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, particularly in the tribal districts, has deteriorated to the extent that a major military offensive is not ruled out,” an official while speaking on condition of anonymity admitted.

“The talks with the TTP are no longer taking place and the return of militants as part of an earlier understanding will have to be reversed,” the official added.

Officials conceded that the policy of talking with the TTP has backfired and the terror outfit had used the talks to regroup. “It was a big mistake and has to be rectified,” said another official.

There has been a 51 per cent increase in terrorist attacks since the Afghan Taliban takeover in Afghanistan. The suicide attack in Islamabad on Friday was first after several years highlighting the renewed threat posed by TTP.

“Indications are and the situation is such that Pakistan can launch a military offensive against the TTP,” commented Dr Asfand Yar Mir, counter-terrorism expert associated with the US Institute of Peace in Washington.

"Apart from the military offensive, Pakistan may also consider the option of cross-border operations against the TTP," Mir said, adding that the TTP leadership was operating out of Afghanistan with impunity.

Pakistan hoped that the return of the Afghan Taliban would help eradicate the TTP threat. But contrary to those expectations, there has been a spike in the TTP-sponsored attacks.

Since the Taliban takeover, around 420 terrorist attacks were recorded in Pakistan. In three months alone, the banned TTP claimed responsibility for 141 attacks. This despite the fact that in June, the TTP announced an indefinite ceasefire. The TTP ended the truce on November 28, accusing Pakistan for violating the terms of engagements.

Observers believe that Pakistan took the TTP threat lightly and seeking a peace deal with the dreaded group was a major mistake. As part of the confidence-building measure, Pakistani authorities allowed hundreds of TTP militants to return home. The terror outfit like the past used talks and ceasefire to regroup.

Official circles are concerned over the deteriorating law and order situation in K-P districts and all options are on the table to deal with the situation.

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