Pakistan Taliban ends ceasefire with gov’t, threatens new attacks

The armed group calls off a truce agreed with the government in June and orders fighters to ‘carry out attacks in the entire country’.

Pakistan army
Pakistani troops observe the area from a hilltop post in Khyber district [File: Anjum Naveed/AP]

Islamabad, Pakistan – The armed group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also known as the Pakistani Taliban, has announced the end of an indefinite ceasefire agreed with the government in June and issued orders to its fighters to carry out attacks across the country.

“As military operations are ongoing against mujahideen in different areas, … so it is imperative for you to carry out attacks wherever you can in the entire country,” the group said in a statement on Monday.

The group, which is ideologically aligned with the Afghan Taliban, said it is facing a rising number of attacks by the Pakistani military, particularly in the Lakki Marwat district of Pakistan’s northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

“We submit to the people of Pakistan that we have repeatedly warned you and continued to be patient so that the negotiation process is not sabotaged at least by us, but the army and intelligence agencies do not stop and continue the attacks, so now our retaliatory attacks will also start across the country,” the statement said.

Al Jazeera reached out to the Pakistani military for comment but did not receive a response.

The TTP has been waging a rebellion against the state of Pakistan for more than a decade. The group demands the imposition of hardline Islamic law law, release of key members arrested by the government and a reversal of the merger of Pakistan’s tribal areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

On November 16, the TTP claimed responsibility for an attack on a police patrol in Lakki Marwat, about 200km (125 miles) southwest of the provincial capital, Peshawar. Six policemen were killed.

After the attack, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said “terrorism” continues to be one of Pakistan’s foremost problems.

The TTP made its declaration hours after the government said the state minister for foreign affairs, Hina Rabbani Khar, will visit Afghanistan on Tuesday.

According to the foreign ministry, Khar will hold talks on regional security with the Taliban government in Kabul.

Security specialist Asfandyar Mir of the United States Institute of Peace told Al Jazeera that while the TTP has been escalating its violence recently, it has also exercised restraint by not carrying out attacks outside tribal areas.

“I have inferred the targeting as a function of Afghan Taliban pressure on the TTP to calibrate their escalation,” he saId. “Now if the TTP follows through in its declaration of countrywide attacks, the key question is how will the Taliban respond.”

The government and the TTP have held multiple rounds of talks facilitated by the Afghan Taliban, the last of which took place in June. The talks began weeks after the Taliban took control of Kabul last year.

Despite the ceasefire, the TTP continued its attacks this year, saying they were defensive in nature and only in retaliation for operations carried out by Pakistan’s military.

According to data compiled by the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies, an Islamabad-based research organisation, at least 65 such attacks took place in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa through the end of October. They killed at least 98 people and wounded 75, it said.

Source: Al Jazeera