On August 17, two disgruntled splinter factions – the Jamat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) and the Hizb-ul-Ahrar (HuA) re-joined the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The Pakistani Taliban’s main spokesperson, Mohammad Khurasani, said in a statement that JuA head Umar Khalid Khurasani and HuA head Umar Khurasani pledged allegiance to TTP supremo Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud. The meeting took place at an undisclosed location. The reunification of these militant groups with TTP could pose some serious threats to the state’s security landscape as well as the Chinese funded projects under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province.
One of the breakaway militant factions, the JuA came into being in 2014 in Mohmand tribal district of the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) by Umar Khalid Khurasani, when it split up from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. On other hand, the Hizb-ul-Ahrar was an offshoot of JuA that cut off its ties with the former in November 2017, when Commander Mukarram Khan gave birth to HuA in the Afghan province of Nangarhar.
The unification of TTP could jeopardise the Chinese-funded projects under CPEC in the KP province of Pakistan.
Since the killing of the former TTP Chief Mullah Fazlullah in a drone strike by the United States (US) in 2018, the organisation has experienced a substantial decline in its capabilities due to internal factionalism and leadership crisis. Noor Wali Mehsud, who took charge of the group after the assassination of Fazlullah, intended to strengthen the organisation by bringing several militant groups back into its fold. His prolonged endeavours made it possible to amalgamate several factions for the organisational strength. Besides JuA-HuA’s integration into TTP, some other pro-Taliban groups also re-united with TTP. For instance, Maulvi Khush Muhammad Sindhi, led by Lashkar-e Jhangvi (of the Saifullah Kurd faction), the Amjad Farooqi-led Punjabi Taliban, and Sayyid Ahmad Shaheed faction.
The unification of TTP could jeopardise the Chinese-funded projects under CPEC in the KP province of Pakistan. Several Chinese companies are working on various energy and infrastructure projects in KP including the Karakoram Highway, Suki Kinari Hydropower Station and Havelian Dry Port. The reunification will cause increased safety and security concerns regarding Chinese nationals and their distinct on-going projects as mentioned above.
If TTP succeeds in bringing all its splintered factions back under its umbrella, its strength can reach up to 10,000.
The strength of TTP has increased after the reunification which could seriously impact the security landscape of Pakistan. In a recent report issued by the United Nation’s (UN) Analytical and Sanctions Monitoring Team, more than 6,000 of the Pakistani Taliban are present in Afghanistan. If TTP succeeds in bringing all its splintered factions back under its umbrella, its strength can reach up to 10,000.
The reunification of TTP has come amidst operational alliance between Balochi Raji Ajoi Sangar (BRAS) – a conglomerate of four Baloch ethno-nationalist militant groups, and Sindhudesh Revolutionary Army– a Sindhi ethno-nationalist militant group.
By taking efficient counter-terrorism measures, the menace of terrorism can be weakened and terminated, and its negative consequences can be mitigated.
To curb the consequences of these unifications among the militant groups, state authorities need to revisit and renovate the concept of counter-terrorism and related strategies whether they are tactical, operational or strategic. Following measures are required to tackle the threats emerging from terrorist unifications.
- The government needs to protect youth (which is overwhelmingly vulnerable to the indoctrination of terror groups) from violent extremism, radicalisation and further recruitment in terrorist organisations. This can be done through awareness campaigns in schools, colleges and universities, along with organising national seminars and conferences on counter-terrorism.
- There is a need for an effective counter-extremism policy to counter the heinous ideology promoting killing.
- National task force on counter-terror financing ought to play an indispensable role to counter the terror financing very effectively because it is the central nerve of counter-terrorism.
- Strengthened cooperation among civil-military intelligence and law enforcement agencies is vital to thwart the planning and actions of numerous terrorist groups against the state.
- The government also needs to collaborate with the public-private sector organisations like think tanks to carry out research on topics pertinent to terrorism, extremism and radicalisation. Such research is required to prepare documents for national, regional and international coordination for combating terrorism and extremism.
- There is also an urgent need to monitor and regulate outside support to both terrorist and insurgent groups. Such support may be political, moral, technical, military and economic.
- There is a need to chalk out a comprehensive master plan to counter the attacks by any terror group at an infancy time. Why it is important? Because once any terrorist or insurgent organisation gets outside support earlier on, then it becomes burdensome to counter it later.
- The national counter-terrorism and counter-extremism laws need to be reviewed on periodical basis because terrorists’ strategies and tactics are altering over the period of time.
It is undeniable that terrorism cannot be defeated as a whole as it always morphs and metastasises into new forms. But by taking efficient counter-terrorism measures, the menace of terrorism can be weakened and failed, and its negative consequences can be mitigated.