Pakistani Taliban strengthened after Afghan Taliban victory

The rise of the Taliban continues to change the shape of the Middle East and the power struggles between radical groups
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AP/MUHAMMAD SAJJAD  -   A Pakistani paramilitary soldier, right, and Taliban fighters stand guard on their respective sides at a border post between Pakistan and Afghanistan, in Torkham, Khyber district, Pakistan

Barely three months after the Taliban's takeover of Kabul, Afghanistan has become an insecure and uncertain landscape. Terrorist attacks by ISIS-K, Daesh's terrorist affiliate in Afghanistan, have continued unabated, demonstrating that the Taliban do not have the country under their control, as well as plunging the population into a regime that systematically violates fundamental rights, especially those of women and girls.

However, the Taliban's victory has strengthened the Taliban in neighbouring Pakistan. There, in the rugged regions inhabited by different tribes, there has been an awakening of the Tehrik-e-Taliban or TTP, the Pakistani Taliban, a separate organisation from the Afghan Taliban that shares the same strict ideological line. 

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PHOTO/AP - Taliban fighters patrol inside the city of Kandahar province, southwestern Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021.

Founded by Baitullah Mehsud in the early 2000s, the TTP comprises an insurgent movement that took shape as a form of protest against the Pakistani government. After its emergence, the radicals vowed to overthrow the Islamabad government and take control through violence. However, their threats were drowned out after being severely repressed by the army over the last decade.

Now, with the Taliban's new phase, the TTP has re-emerged after intensifying its attacks in recent months. Since January this year, more than 300 Pakistanis have been killed in terrorist attacks, including 144 military personnel, according to the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies. 

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AP/RAHMAT GUL - Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid

Alongside this, the current Afghan scenario has inspired and strengthened dozens of religious groups that cluster in Pakistan. These congregations openly reject Shiite Muslims, whom they consider heretics, and maintain strong measures to try to defend their radical interpretation of Islam.

Already battered by a strong religious presence, Pakistani society risks becoming similar to that of Afghanistan. A Gallup Pakistan poll found that 55 per cent of Afghans would support an "Islamic government" like the one in Afghanistan, according to AP. However, this poll polled only 2,170 Pakistanis out of a population of more than 220 million, so it is not representative, but it does give an indication of what the country's population would be willing to support. 

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In this regard, Pakistan has avoided recognising "all-Taliban rule" in Afghanistan but has pressed for international powers to engage with the new Afghan government. Pakistan has thus urged the US to provide funds and resources to the Taliban while asking the Taliban to recognise and accept religious minorities, thus playing a mediating role.

As is well known, Pakistan's relations with Afghanistan are nothing new. Pakistan's ties with the Afghan Taliban began in the 1980s when Pakistan staged the struggle between the United States and the Soviet forces in Afghanistan. Specifically, the Haqqani group, considered a terrorist group by Washington and accused of being behind the most violent attacks in Afghanistan, has a long history with Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI. In this context, Pakistan's Arif Alvi-led government has turned to the new Afghan interior minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani, for help in initiating talks with the TTP, US Institute of Peace expert Asfandyar Mir told AP. According to the same source, ranks belonging to the TTP in North Waziristan are ready to negotiate. However, he notes that the more violent factions under Noor Wali Mehsud would have no intention of engaging in talks.

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PHOTO/  JORIS FIORITI - Dozens of women from the Kalash minority dance to celebrate the arrival of spring.

In the context of a possible rapprochement of certain TTP factions with Islamabad, the Taliban are demanding to control parts of the tribal regions and to rule them by imposing their strict interpretation of the Koran and the right to keep their weapons. In the case of Afghanistan, one of the tribes most affected by their measures would be the Kalash, the animist tribe that has managed to maintain its unique customs for more than 2,300 years in a country where the Muslim population makes up 96.8% of the total population.

The Taliban's victory means the return of a mandate governed by strict laws that severely restrict the social and human rights of the Afghan population. With the seizure of Kabul and the departure of Asraf Ghani from the country, the Taliban took control of the country and reinstated a restrictive and radical political system. However, the insurgents have been keen for the international community not to associate them with the same mandate they carried out during the 1990s. They have therefore sought to maintain diplomatic relations with the major international powers in order, on the one hand, to continue gaining power and, on the other, to try to gain some international validation. However, Afghanistan is going through a dark period in its history, a period in which violence is the order of the day and insecurity has forced more than half a million people to move within the country, while thousands are still trying to flee their homeland to try to build a life away from terror.