Photo: Pakistan Today

Taliban Mediates, Again, Between TTP and Islamabad Amid Souring Relations

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – The Taliban in Afghanistan once again tries to broker a truce between the Tahreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Pakistani government. Sources say that the group has asked its ideological protege to enter into peace deal with Islamabad, aiming at de-escalating tensions. 

Pakistani media outlet, The Express Tribune, reports that Islamabad has once again leveraged the influence of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Sami (JUI-S), a political party formed by the late Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, to persuade the TTP to engage in negotiations.

According to the report, Maulana Hamidul Haq, the son of Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, recently visited Kabul and held meetings with Taliban officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Mawlawi Abdul Kabir and Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani.

Many of these officials had previously studied at Jamia Dar al-Ulum Haqqania, a religious seminary in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan considered to be the ideological center of Taliban thinking.

The news outlet quoted a JUI-S authority as saying, “With their personal independent decisions, we have initiated the dialogue, and we are optimistic that, with the green light from Sirajuddin Haqqani and the support of the Kandahari Taliban, we will achieve positive outcomes.”

The Taliban and TTP share ideological, operational, and personal alignment. A report by the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) shows that the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021 has significantly strengthened and emboldened the TTP, as the group continues to target Pakistani security forces and civilians across the country.

Although the militant group agreed to a ceasefire with the Pakistani government in June 2022, mediated by the Taliban in Afghanistan, it ended the ceasefire in November of the same year, asserting that it had been attacked by Pakistani security forces.

Following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, Pakistan has been actively seeking various approaches to engage in dialogue with the TTP, including involving religious scholars, tribal leader, and the regime in Kabul. 

Pakistan claims that the Taliban is providing shelter for TTP members in Afghanistan and offering the militant group and its affiliates military training and advanced weapons to destabilize the region. The country has consistently demanded the regime in Kabul to take decisive actions against those responsible for the security incidents and surrender them to Islamabad.

However, the Taliban insists that they do not provide support to TTP’s operations in Pakistan from inside Afghanistan and have no ties to recent security events in Pakistan. Its chief spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, once said that they are not responsible for Pakistan’s internal security issues.

The latest development comes months after Maulana Fazlur Rehman, leader of Pakistan’s   Jamiate Ulema Islam, an extremist political party known for supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan, visited Kabul. He reportedly met with the unseen supreme leader of the Taliban, Hibatullah Akhundzada, based in Kandahar, along with others.

However, Pakistan’s efforts to persuade the TTP have thus far been unsuccessful; the militant outfit has not only intensified attacks on security forces but also appears to have expanded its organizational structure across the country.

Meanwhile, over the past year, relations between Islamabad and the Taliban have only deteriorated. It remains uncertain how the new government of Pakistan will address this issue widely regarded as one of the main challenges for the country’s newly sworn-in administration.