07/04/2023, 11.21
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Kabul and Islamabad want to move Pakistani Taliban north: ethnic tensions feared

The Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has been operating for years along the Durand Line with the goal of creating a new Islamic Emirate. But tens of thousands of refugees, mostly ethnic Pashtuns, also live on the border. In 2022 there was an increase in attack casualties of nearly 15 percent in Pakistan.

Kabul (AsiaNews) - The Pakistani government has struck a deal with the Taliban for Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP or Pakistani Taliban) militants operating along the border to be relocated to northern Afghan provinces along with their families. 

Some residents of Takhar province have expressed concern over the decision, fearing new ethnic tensions in a country already ravaged by decades of warfare, which ended only with the Taliban recapture in mid-August 2021 in conjunction with the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

In addition to locals, a spokesman for the National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan party also said the situation is likely to get out of hand. "We believe that tensions will increase especially between different ethnic groups if this continues," said Ihsan Nairo, specifying that the issue has also been raised at the United Nations to find a solution. 

The TTP are a separate extremist group but ideologically and ethnically close to the Taliban of Afghanistan, who are also Pashtuns. They were formed in 2007 and gather under their umbrella groups with different denominations, whose goal is to create an Islamic Emirate in Pakistan. That is why their attacks are perpetrated against government targets or Pakistani security forces, which, in 2022 alone, lost 282 members. In the same year, the country recorded 376 terrorist attacks, according to data from the Center for Research and Security Studies, an increase in casualties of nearly 15 percent over 2021.

For some time the government in Islamabad had been trying to strike a deal with the TTP through mediation by Kabul, and before now, despite the announcement of several ceasefires, all attempts had failed. 

Then in the middle of last month, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid declared-without mentioning the TTPs or the Pakistani government-that people currently residing in the Afghan provinces of Khost, Kunar, and other border areas along the Durand Line (a very porous border not recognized by Pashtun leaders, whether Afghan or Pakistani) would be relocated to the north of the country. Some experts believe that Islamabad has directly approached the Taliban in Kabul by granting money in exchange for reducing the number of attacks, but the details of the arrangement are not known.

There are an estimated 4,000 TTP members living in those regions, but also tens of thousands of refugees: according to a report published in 2019 by the Norwegian Refugee Council, at least 72,000 Pakistani refugees who fled the volatile region of Waziristan reside in a makeshift camp on the border between the two countries. 

According to Afghan News Agency reports, the families being relocated will receive land from Kabul, while Islamabad will provide financial assistance to purchase agricultural tools and other equipment needed for resettlement.

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