Pakistan: The banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on Monday called off an indefinite ceasefire agreed with the government in June and ordered its militants to carry out attacks across the country. "As military operations are ongoing against mujahideen (militants) in different areas... so it is imperative for you to carry out attacks wherever you can in the entire country," the militant group said in a statement.
The statement was issued a day after the English cricket team landed in Pakistan after 17 years to play the first test-series, and day before the new army chief was set to assume his office. The TTP, also known as the Pakistan Taliban, was set up as an umbrella group of several militant outfits in 2007. Its main aim is to impose its strict brand of Islam across Pakistan.
The banned group said that the decision to end the truce was taken after “a series of non-stop attacks were launched by the military organisations” in Bannu and Lakki Marwat areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. It also said it had repeatedly warned the people about violation of the ceasefire but showed patience so that the negotiation process was not “sabotaged at least by us”.
"But the army and intelligence agencies did not stop and continued the attacks. Now our retaliatory attacks will also start across the country,” it read.
There was no immediate reaction from the government and intelligence agencies. The TTP announced a ceasefire with the government in June but the attacks on the security forces never stopped. The group never claimed responsibility and instead blamed splinter groups for those attacks.
Pakistan last year launched talks with the TTP with the facilitation of the interim Afghan government but no headway has been made. The two sides resumed talks again in May this year and it was followed with a ceasefire in June, but no headway was made as the government refused to revoke the merger of the tribal region into the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The timing of TTP statement is crucial as last year the New Zealand cricket team cancelled its tour of Pakistan after arriving in the country following a terrorist threat. It is not clear how the English team would respond to the announcement by the TTP to end the ceasefire.
However, it highlights the challenges facing the new Army chief General Asim Munir who will take charge of his new assignment Tuesday at a ceremony in Rawalpindi. In October, the Ministry of Interior had issued a nationwide alert to authorities to maintain "extreme vigilance" amid a heightened risk of terrorist attacks by the TTP after peace talks with the group stalled.
The letter urged all authorities in four provinces to heighten security and exercise enhanced vigilance to avoid any untoward incident. It noted that the TTP accuses the Pakistani government of failing to fulfil its main demand - the reversal of the merger of former Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa - as well as continuing to detain TTP members while a truce was still being negotiated. The ministry had also highlighted the risk of TTP sub-groups defecting to the Islamic State or joining hands with other groups to resume terror attacks.
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari earlier this month called for the government to revisit its strategy to deal with the militant outfit.
"It is time to review decisions we took or we were made to take with regards to internal security and terrorism,” he had said. Bilawal had also maintained that there was nothing wrong in admitting that “we were wrong about a few things and right about some other things and re-examine our approach”.
The group, which is believed to be close to al-Qaeda, has been blamed for several deadly attacks across Pakistan, including an attack on army headquarters in 2009, assaults on military bases and the 2008 bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad. In 2012, Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai was attacked by TTP. She suffered bullet injuries and was admitted to the Military Hospital (CMH) Peshawar and then taken to London for further treatment. The TTP claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that Yousafzai was a "Western-minded girl." In 2014, the Pakistani Taliban stormed the Army Public School (APS) in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing at least 150 people, including 131 students. The attack sent shockwaves across the world, and was widely condemned.