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NSC blames "soft corner" for TTP for recent wave of terrorism in Pakistan

The NSC stated that contrary to public expectations and desires, terrorists were allowed to enter without any scrutiny, while dangerous terrorists were released from prisons in the name of "confidence building."
by TNN Editor - 09 Apr, 2023 1615
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Riffaqatullah Rajjarwal

The National Security Committee (NSC) on Friday attributed the recent wave of terrorism in the country to the "soft corner" for the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The NSC stated that contrary to public expectations and desires, terrorists were allowed to enter without any scrutiny, while dangerous terrorists were released from prisons in the name of "confidence building."

Security experts believe that the NSC meeting made it clear that security forces would continue to engage in operations against terrorism. Consequently, there would be a solid justification for the security forces' inability to perform their duty during the election.

A statement issued by the Prime Minister's House announced that the 41st meeting of the National Security Committee was held at the Prime Minister's House on Friday, with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in the chair. The security situation was discussed in detail during the meeting, which was attended by top military officials and civilian officials, including DGISI, DGIB, DGMI, DGMO, the committee members, and the four chief ministers. All participants agreed that the country's peace and stability have been disturbed due to the "soft corner" for the outlawed TTP, and a large number of sacrifices have been made.

In the NSC meeting, no further details were given regarding the "Soft Corner" towards TTP and the return of terrorists. However, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and other ministers categorically accused former Prime Minister Imran Khan of 'flawed' policies that have once again made terrorism a norm in the country. According to a statement issued after the meeting, terrorists were allowed to enter the country without any hindrance, and dangerous terrorists were released from jails in the name of confidence-building, compromising peace and stability in the country.

In the meeting, it was approved to launch a comprehensive operation with the support of the nation and government, including political, diplomatic, economic, and social fronts. A high-powered committee was formed to make recommendations on the implementation and limitations of the operation within two weeks. The NSC also condemned communal hatred, divisive efforts, and foreign-sponsored propaganda against the state's institutions and leadership.

This meeting contradicts the statement made by Tehreek-e-Insaf that the meeting had a political agenda or aimed to pit the armed forces not against the judiciary, but the nation.

A day before the meeting, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan tweeted that it was now clear that the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) wanted to avoid participating in the elections by any means necessary. He accused the PDM of passing an unconstitutional law related to the Supreme Court and a National Assembly resolution against the judiciary. Khan also suggested that the upcoming National Security Committee meeting was an attempt to use security as a pretext to postpone the elections, and warned that this move would turn the armed forces against not only the judiciary but the nation as a whole.

In the meeting, efforts were discussed to combat terrorism and hatred. However, analysts were surprised at the lack of resolution to hold accountable those who had shown leniency towards terrorists in the recent past. They added that until the process of accountability, coupled with operations, is not ensured, the problems will persist.

Peshawar-based journalist and analyst Riffat Orakzai stated that the NSC was correct in stating that a soft corner for terrorists existed in the past, which led to the loss of many precious lives. However, the meeting failed to discuss any punishment for those policymakers whose flawed policies caused such losses. Orakzai pointed out that during the previous government, more than 100 non-state elements were released from jails, which boosted the morale of militants. This was similar to the Doha agreement regarding Afghanistan, which led to the release of 5,000 Taliban and eventually the fall of Kabul.

Regarding the possibility of conducting elections during the operation, Orakzai said that if an operation is initiated, the security forces will remain engaged, making it impossible for the armed forces to provide security for the election. Political parties are holding rallies and processions in the southern districts, including Tank, South and North Waziristan, Lakki Marwat, and Dera Ismail Khan, where people are living normally. However, most of these parties are being threatened by the TTP, which makes it difficult to conduct elections under such circumstances.

Negotiations with Proscribed TTP

In an interview in October 2021, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman and former Prime Minister Imran Khan stated that discussions were being held with different groups within the TTP for reconciliation. Replying to a relevant question, he also mentioned that Pakistan would ask the Taliban to disarm, and they would become normal citizens again and would be pardoned. Later, a delegation was sent to Kabul for negotiations with the Taliban, but no significant results were achieved, and the TTP ended the ceasefire in November, starting attacks once again.

The problem of terrorism in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has persisted for the past two decades, with operations and negotiations conducted under different names during different periods, but terrorism has not been eliminated yet. Brigadier (retd) Syed Nazir Momand, an expert in defense affairs, believes that the complete elimination of terrorism in a country like Pakistan is difficult, as the source of the problem is unknown. In the past, the state's attitude towards the terrorists was soft, and the state appeared weak during negotiations. Furthermore, thousands were released from jails, which caused considerable damage.

Regarding the possible mode of operation, he stated that it would not be just a war, but there would be targeted operations with the use of diplomatic and political channels. Diplomatic pressure would be increased on neighboring countries, and political sanctions would be imposed by Pakistan on countries harboring terrorists. He believes that during this operation, people will not be displaced, but mostly intelligence-based operations will be carried out.

He also believes that public and political support for the operation will be gained, unlike in the previous government's talks with the Taliban, which did not receive public support, and there were protests against the unrest in Swat, tribal districts, and the entire province.

In conclusion, the meeting of the Security Committee drew two conclusions: first, the operation would affect the elections decided by the Supreme Court, and second, it would create an impression that the security forces are fully prepared to fight against terrorism.