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Occupying Pakistani Forces Would Continue To Face Violent Resistance In Balochistan

The anger and mistrust of the Baloch people towards Pakistani SFs are unlikely to subside.



On May 19, 2020, six Frontier Corps (FC) soldiers were killed when unidentified militants targeted their vehicle using improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the Mach District of Balochistan on May 19, 2020. No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack.

TOn May 8, 2020, five FC soldiers and one officer were killed when their vehicle was targeted with an IED at Kallag, near the Pakistan-Iran border, in the Tigran area of Kech District. In a tweet, the ISPR said the security personnel were returning from patrolling in Buleda – 14 kilometres from the Pakistan-Iran border – to “check possible routes used by terrorists in the mountainous terrain of Makran”. The Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility of the attack saying:

“The Pakistani military has advanced operations in Tigran and other areas of Turbat over the past several days, targeting Baloch civilians, including harassing women and children.”

The BLA statement accused the Army officer killed in the attack to be “directly involved in the formation and leading of so-called death squads of criminal gangs operated by the army” in the Kech region. The statement also accused the army officer of helping drug dealers and arming them to take on the rebels.

On February 20, 2020, five Security Force (SF) personnel were killed and three were injured after militants attacked a check post in the Turbat District of Balochistan. Three militants were also killed in the subsequent exchange of fire between the SF personnel and militants.

There was no claim of responsibility, but the attack took place in an area where Baloch separatists frequently target Pakistani security convoys and checkpoints.

On February 19, 2020, at least 16 Army personnel were killed in an attack by Balochistan Liberation Tigers (BLT) at an Army post in the Singsila area of the Dera Bugti district of Balochistan. BLT militants also seized all weapons and ammunition kept at the post and subsequently set the post on fire. This attack was the worst on SFs by a Baloch group.

The previous worst attack by a Baloch group targeting SFs was recorded on February 1, 2012, when at least 15 FC personnel were killed and 12 were injured in an attack on four FC check posts near the Margat Coalmines in Mach District.

Mirak Baloch, who introduced himself as the BLA spokesperson, claiming the attack declaring, “It is a reaction to the January 31, 2012, killings of granddaughter and great-grand-daughter of Nawab Akbar Bugti in Karachi.”

During the first five months and seven days of the current year, 2020, Balochistan has accounted for 41 SF fatalities. During the corresponding period of 2019 also, Balochistan recorded 41 fatalities in the SF category. Through 2019, there was a total of 54 SF fatalities.

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), since March 6, 2000, when SATP started compiling data on the conflict in Pakistan, Balochistan has accounted for a total of 1,529 SF fatalities. A maximum of 178 fatalities was registered in 2012.

A North-South breakup of SF fatalities over the last 20 years indicate that SF fatalities in North Balochistan are consistently higher than South Balochistan. Since, March 6, 2000, out of the total of 1,529 SF fatalities in the Province, 1,134 were recorded in the North while 395 in the South.

In 2020, out of the 41 SF personnel killed in the Province so far (data till June 7, 2020), 26 were killed in North Balochistan, while 15 were killed in South Balochistan.

As has been noted on several occasions in the past, the North is afflicted by Islamist extremist groups such as the Tehreek-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). Baloch nationalist insurgent groups operate in the South. The major Baloch insurgent groups include the Baloch Republican Army (BRA), BLA, BLT and United Baloch Army (UBA).

Though SFs are significantly targeted by Islamist terrorist formations such as TTP and LeJ in North Balochistan, the principal focus of their attention is on Baloch insurgent groups and minority or sectarian groupings. Significantly, out of 1,392 terrorists killed in Balochistan since the formation of the TTP in December 2007, the group identity of 310 has been confirmed, so far. More than 63 per cent of these (197 in total) are from five Baloch insurgent groups – BLA (110), Baloch Liberation Front (BLF, 44), BRA (31), UBA (10) and Lashkar-e-Balochistan (2).

Moreover, a systematic campaign of extermination of ethnic Baloch people through enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings in the South remains unabated. According to partial data compiled by SATP, of the 4,476 civilian fatalities recorded in Balochistan since March 6, 2000 (data till June 7, 2020), at least 1,399 have been attributable to one or another terrorist/insurgent outfit.

Of these, 436 civilian killings (263 in the South and 173 in the North) have been claimed by Baloch separatist formations, while Islamist and sectarian extremist formations – primarily Islamic State, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), TTP and Ahrar-ul-Hind (Liberators of India) – claimed responsibility for another 963 civilian killings, 880 in the North (mostly in and around Quetta) and 83 in the South. The remaining 3,077 civilian fatalities – 1,712 in the South and 1,365 in the North – remain ‘unattributed’.

It is widely believed that Security Agencies engage in “kill and dump” operations, particularly in the Southern region, targeting local Baloch dissidents, a reality that Pakistan’s Supreme Court has clearly recognized.

A large proportion of the ‘unattributed’ fatalities, particularly in the Southern region, are believed to be the result of enforced disappearances carried out by state agencies, or by their proxies, prominently including the Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Aman Balochistan (TNAB, Movement for the Restoration of Peace, Balochistan). TNAB is a militia formation operating in the province of Balochistan, especially in Khuzdar, since 2012. The TNAB leader is Shafique Mengal, also known as Mullah Shafique. The group’s main target is Baloch nationalists.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission of Balochistan (HRCB), in a report released on May 8, 2020, disclosed that Balochistan witnessed a surge in military raids with 16 killed and 45 abducted in April, amid the COVID-19 lockdown.

As many as 73 people had been picked up by the Pakistani forces, including students, women, children, and infants, though 28 were later released. The whereabouts of the remaining 45 are unknown. Settlements were burned down in weeks-long military actions in the Kech, Panjgur, and Awaran Districts which left people homeless, including those returning from the state’s torture cells.

Pakistan’s establishment expectedly took action against HRCB for defying media censorship. On May 12, the Government imposed an indefinite ban on HRCB’s official website (also known as Hakkpaan). Over the past years, HRCB has been actively working in Balochistan to collect information about ongoing human rights abuses and to report them to the international media and organizations. Its website remains accessible outside Pakistan.

Subsequent to the blocking of its website in Pakistan, HRCB expressed the fear that Pakistani authorities might target their “volunteers and office-bearers who are living in the country.”  Their apprehension is not unfounded, as state agencies have had little compunction in targeting journalists and human rights workers in the past.

Baloch journalist Sajid Hussain, who was living in exile in Sweden and had been missing since March 2, 2020, from Uppsala, was found dead on April 23, 2020, in the Fyris River, outside Uppsala.

According to one of Hussain’s close friends, who is based in Sweden as well, Hussain was last seen boarding a train from Stockholm to Uppsala to collect keys to his new apartment and to leave his personal belongings there. Hussain, hailing from Balochistan, was working as a part-time professor in Uppsala, about 60 kilometres north of Stockholm. He was also the chief editor of Balochistan Times, an online magazine he had set up, in which he wrote about drug trafficking, forced disappearances and a long-running insurgency. Balochistan Times on May 2, wrote:

“His work often got him into trouble as the authorities did not like his reporting of Balochistan’s forbidden stories, the reason he had to leave and live in exile.”

Hussain left Pakistan in 2012 following a Police raid on his house and subsequent threats on his life. He first moved to Oman, then to UAE, then Uganda, before moving to Sweden in 2017.

Further, on May 2, 2020, two Baloch student activists Shahdad Baloch and Ehsan Baloch, both graduates from Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, were killed by SFs in Kalat District. Both the graduates were critical of the Pakistani establishment for the exploitation of the natural resources and gross human rights violations in Balochistan.

Some of the other prominent killings/disappearances of Baloch journalist/activists overt the past five years include:

  • February 2, 2019: Muhammad Ibrahim Arman Luni, a Baloch rights activist, died in hospital after reportedly being beaten by the Police in the Loralai District of Balochistan for his peaceful sit-in protest. Luni had repeatedly protested alleged targeted killings by the state and had criticized the state for marginalizing Pashtuns. He had also raised awareness for those affected by militancy and Army operations in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.
  • July 30, 2018: A local journalist Jamil Ahmed, a sub-editor at a daily, Azadi, was shot at and critically injured in the Kirani road area on the outskirts of Quetta. Ahmed was going home after completing his shift late at night when armed men shot him several times in the Kirani road area.
  • January 12, 2017: Unidentified assailants shot dead a journalist, Muhammad Jan (37), in Kalat town in Balochistan. Muhammad Jan, who worked for local Urdu language daily newspaper, Qudrat, was shot dead while he was on his way home on a motorcycle.
  • April 24, 2015: Baloch activist and journalist Sabeen Mahmud was shot dead by unidentified assailants in the Phase-II area of the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) in Karachi, the provincial capital of Sindh. Sabeen, accompanied by her mother, was just returning home after organizing a discussion on ‘Unsilencing Balochistan’ at ‘The Second Floor’ (T2F), a café that had been developed as a forum for open debates, of which she was Director. The panellists in the discussion included ‘Mama’ Abdul Qadeer Baloch, the President of VBMP, who had led a ‘long march’ to protest forcible disappearances in Balochistan; Baloch activists Farzana Baloch and Mir Muhammad Ali Talpur; and journalists Malik Siraj Akbar and Wusut Ullah Khan.

On May 25, 2020, amid the COVID-19 outbreak in the region and rest of the world, a Paris-based NGO, the Baloch Voice Association, organised a virtual conference “Prevent genocide in Balochistan and end eliminations with impunity”.

The speakers included prominent human rights activists from Balochistan and western analysts who accused the Pakistan Army of being responsible for enforced disappearances, torture and killing of intellectuals, students and political activists in the Province.

A similar concern was raised by Allah Nizar Baloch, the leader of BLF, on March 28, 2020. He asserted:

“We believe that the Pakistan Army would use the COVID-19 outbreak to expand its occupation and stranglehold over Balochistan while continuing its atrocities and genocide of the Baloch.”

Amid the swelling attacks on SF personnel in the Province, Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa, visited Quetta on May 13, 2020, and tried to woo the Baloch people. He stated that Balochistan was the future of Pakistan and it was the Army’s duty to fully assist its government and the people towards a peaceful and prosperous future. Bajwa directed all commanders to reach out to the people in far-flung areas of Balochistan to help mitigate challenges faced by the masses due to COVID-19.

The grim reality, however, is that the anger and mistrust of the Baloch people towards Pakistani SFs, generated by a long history of atrocities, as well as against the administration as a result of persistent neglect, is unlikely to subside.

As long as the people of Balochistan continue to suffer at the hands of the SFs and an exploitative, iniquitous administration, the restive region will continue to see a targeted attack against the SFs.

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the author. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.

Published with permission from South Asia Intelligence Review of the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

Tushar Ranjan Mohanty

Tushar Ranjan Mohanty joined the Institute in August 2008. Currently, he is involved in research and documentation of Conflicts in Pakistan. He has also written on conflicts in North East India. He is pursuing M. Phil. from the Department of African Studies, Faculty of Social Science, Delhi University, New Delhi, on "Angola's Energy Potential: Prospect For India".

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Whither Afghanistan

The ‘peace process’ has little possibility of success unless it transfers power to the Taliban in Kabul.



On June 17, 2020, at least 10 Police personnel were killed when Taliban militants aggressively attacked their checkpoints in the Shurabak District of Kandahar Province.

On June 17, 2020, seven Police personnel were killed in a Taliban attack in Pul-e-Khumri, capital of the Baghlan Province. Another five Police personnel were wounded in the attack.

On June 16, 2020, six Afghan soldiers were killed when Taliban militants attacked an Army post in the Bala Hisar area of Aqcha District in Jowzjan Province. Another three soldiers were injured in the incident.

On June 5, 2020, 15 Police personnel were killed in an ambush by the Taliban on the Zabul-Kandahar highway near the city of Qalat in Zabul Province.

On May 28, 2020, 14 members of the Afghan Border Force were killed in an attack by the Taliban in the Dand-e-Patan District of Paktia Province. Three members of the Border Force were also wounded in the attack.

On May 27, 2020, 10 Afghan forces’ personnel were killed and one was wounded after the Taliban attacked a security checkpoint in the Seyagerd District of Parwan Province.

According to partial data collated by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), after the three-day [May 24, 25, and 26] ceasefire announced by the Taliban, at least 93 Security Force (SF) personnel and five civilians have been killed across the country in attacks initiated by the Taliban (data till June 21, 2020).

In an unexpected move on May 23, 2020, the Taliban announced a three-day ceasefire with the Afghan Government on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr. A statement issued by the group’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid on Twitter confirmed that the Taliban would not stage any attack on ‘enemy’ forces, but would maintain the right to defend itself against potential threats.

In response, President Ashraf Ghani tweeted on May 24, 2020,

“I welcome the ceasefire announcement by the Taliban. The Afghan government extends the offer of peace. As Commander in Chief, I have instructed ANDSF [Afghan National Defence Security Forces] to comply with the three-day truce and to defend only if attacked. Further details will be given in my speech tomorrow morning… As a responsible government, we want to take one further step besides declaring a ceasefire; we will expedite the release process of the Taliban prisoners.”

Later in the day, Sediq Sediqqi, the spokesperson for the President, tweeted:

“Pres. Ghani today initiated a process to release up to 2000 Taliban prisoners as a goodwill gesture in response to the Taliban’s announcement of a ceasefire during Eid. The AFG [Afghanistan] Gov is extending the offer of peace and is taking further steps to ensure the success of the peace process.”

Since then Afghanistan has released 1,700 Taliban prisoners and a total of 3,000 since the signing of the US-Taliban agreement on February 29, 2020, in Doha, Qatar. The release of prisoners is part of the agreement. Under the US-Taliban agreement, 5,000 Taliban prisoners will be released from the Afghan Government’s jails and Taliban will release 1,000 Government prisoners. Taliban has so far released 571 prisoners.

The three-day ceasefire observed by both the Afghan Government and the Taliban for Eid-ul-Fitr came to an end at midnight of May 26, 2020, with neither the Government in Kabul nor the Taliban announcing an extension. Neither side officially made a statement to end the ceasefire as well, but developments on the ground have made it quite clear that the truce was over.

That the Taliban was not interested in extending the ceasefire is obvious from the fact the Government did make several overtures. Javid Faisal, spokesman for the Afghan National Security Advisor (NSA), on May 26, 2020, the last day of the ceasefire, had appealed,

It is important to extend the ceasefire and, to avoid bloodshed; the Afghan government is ready to extend it.

Later on, May 28, 2020, he asserted:

“The ceasefire is not over yet; there have been violations because it is a complicated technical process that requires good coordination between both sides.”

This was the second-ever ceasefire between the Government and the Taliban sides since 2001 when the latest round of war began in Afghanistan. Earlier, in June 2018, in response to President Ashraf Ghani’s unilateral announcement of a ceasefire with the Taliban on June 7, 2018, the Taliban had directed all its fighters, on June 9, 2018, to cease all offensive operations against the domestic opposition forces during the first, second and third day of Eid [June 15, 16, 17].

However, that ceasefire was also short-lived as Taliban declared its end on June 17, 2018, despite the Ghani Government’s announcement, on June 16, 2018, of a 10-day extension of the ceasefire, i.e. till June 29, 2018.

Despite the end of the ceasefire, Abdullah Abdullah, head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, who assumed office on May 17, 2020, asserted on May 30, that he remained hopeful about the current opportunity for peace, which he said had been created due to the ceasefire.

Similarly, Najia Anwari, a spokeswoman for the State Ministry on Peace Affairs on June 6, 2020, stated,

“The Government is trying to coordinate on the venue for the talks so that these talks are started in the near future.” Presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi reiterated, on June 7, 2020, “The Afghan Government has taken important steps in this process. The negotiation team of the Afghan Government is ready to enter the talks and we have a strong national consensus for the peace process.”

However, Sirajuddin Haqqani, Deputy Chief of the Taliban, in a message to mark the completion of training of a group of Taliban suicide bombers at an unknown location, on June 3, 2020, declared that, despite the group’s belief in the peace negotiations as one of the core components of the solution to the conflict in Afghanistan, the Taliban would still continue on the path of jihad (holy war) and strengthen its military power. In his message to the Taliban fighters Haqqani asserted:

“We believe that the talks are the solution, the politics of sharia (Islamic) law is one of the paths of our jihad and struggle, but no one should miscalculate our politics and willingness for talks – they shouldn’t expect (the Taliban) to abandon jihad and their military capabilities.”

According to the Afghan National Security Council (NSC), after the US-Taliban agreement, the Taliban has carried out an average of 55 attacks a day since March 1, 2020, a spike that has doubled casualties among Afghan security forces in some parts of the country.

After the Eid-ul-Fitr ceasefire, sources within the Afghan Government disclosed, on June 4, 2020, that the Taliban initiated on average 30 attacks on the Afghan security forces each day. The Taliban is also dominating wider areas than it did earlier. According to the last official data available from the of Resolute Support Mission (RSM), as on October 22, 2018, at least 50 Districts were under Taliban control or influence.

RSM has stopped publishing data since. According to the Long War Journal, however, the Taliban is now in control of 75 Districts out of a total of 398 in the country.

There is clear evidence that the Taliban is making all efforts to gain more control on the ground, to increase its bargaining power.

Meanwhile, a quarterly report by the US Department of Defence to US Congress, issued on May 19, 2020, noted,

Pakistan continues to harbour the Taliban and associated militant groups in Pakistan, such as the Haqqani Network, which maintains the ability to conduct attacks against Afghan interests. Pakistan likely views increased Taliban influence in Afghanistan as supporting its overall objectives and will seek to influence intra-Afghan peace talks in a direction favourable to Pakistan.

Separately, the eleventh report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team of the United Nations(UN) released on May 27, 2020, stated that the Taliban had failed to fulfil one of the core parts of the US-Taliban agreement, namely that it would break ties with Al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda has 400 to 600 operatives active in 12 Afghan Provinces and is running training camps in the east of the country, according to the report.

There are also reports of a new breakaway Afghan Taliban faction, Hezb-e-Walayat-e-Islami (Party of Islamic Guardianship), that has close ties to neighbouring Iran and opposes efforts aimed at ending the war in Afghanistan has emerged.

It is believed to have split from the mainstream Taliban soon after the US-Taliban agreement in February 2020. The formation of the splinter group underlines the possibility of multiple divisions within the Taliban.

There are several Taliban leaders, fronts, and commanders who oppose peace and are linked to Iran. Among them, is Sirajuddin Haqqani, the deputy leader of the Taliban and the head of the Haqqani network.

Other Iran-linked Taliban leaders who oppose peace efforts include Mullah Qayum Zakir, a powerful battlefield commander and the former military chief of the Taliban until 2014. Mullah Zakir has the backing of hard-line field commanders.

The ongoing efforts to end the bloodshed in Afghanistan through the peace-processes and the latest US-Taliban agreement have little possibility of success unless they engineer the transfer of power to the Taliban in Kabul. It is unlikely that any other solution would be acceptable to the Taliban.

Lasting peace in Afghanistan remains a distant prospect.

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the author. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.

Published with permission from South Asia Intelligence Review of the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

S. Binodkumar Singh

Dr S. Binodkumar is a Research Associate at the Institute for Conflict Management. He has done his PhD on "Indo-Bangladesh Relations: Their Impact on the Security of the North East" from the Department of Defence and National Security Studies at Punjab University, Chandigarh.

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Red Flag: Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Is Rising Again

TTP’s rise has serious potential repercussions on the US’ fight against the Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.



On July 28, 2020, an alert was received by intelligence agencies about a possible attack on Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s (KP) Inspector General of Police (IGP), Sanaullah Abbasi. The threat alert stated: “A reliable source has revealed that terrorists belonging to TTP [Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP)]/Jamaat-ul-Ahrar have planned to attack the IG KP in the Central Police Office; vigilance is indicated.”

The United Nations (UN) on July 16, 2020, designated TTP leader, Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud aka Abu Mansoor Asim, as a global terrorist. Mufti Mehsud was listed pursuant to paragraphs 2 and 4 of resolution 2368 (2017) for “participating in the financing, planning, facilitating or perpetrating of acts or activities by, in conjunction with, under the name of, on behalf of, or in support of” entities associated with Al-Qaeda.

The United States Security Council (UNSC) 1267 Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee added Mehsud to its ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions List.

Later, on July 23, 2020, the UK Government placed Mufti Mehsud on its ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) and Al-Qaeda terrorist financial sanction list, froze his assets and imposed a travel ban.

Mehsud was earlier listed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) by the United States (US) Department of State on September 10, 2019. Mehsud was named the leader of TTP in June 2018, following the death of former TTP leader Mullah Fazlullah, who was killed on June 14, 2018.

TTP was formed on December 11, 2007, under the leadership of Baitullah Mehsud. 13 groups met in an undisclosed location in South Waziristan, in the tribal belt of Pakistan, and formed the TTP. The sole objective of the meeting was to unite the small militant factions under the leadership of TTP against NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) forces in Afghanistan and to wage a defensive jihad (Holy War) against Pakistani forces.

Since its formation the outfit has lost three of its ‘chiefs’, in drone strikes: Baitullah Mehsud, killed on August 5, 2009; Hakimullah Mehsud, killed on November 1, 2013; and Mullah Fazlullah on June 14, 2018.

According to partial data collated by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), TTP has been involved in at least 1,261 incidents of killing since its inception in 2007, in which 2,216 civilians, 1,161 Security Force (SF) personnel and 5,120 terrorists, including its own cadres, have been killed. Further, a total of 3,263 TTP terrorists have been arrested, so far.

The worst attack by TTP occurred when a seven-member suicide squad killed at least 133 schoolchildren and nine staff members, including the Principal, in an attack at the Army Public School (APS), Peshawar (capital of KP) on December 16, 2014. Earlier, on June 8, 2014, TTP had attacked the Jinnah International Airport, Karachi, killing 36 people.

A week after the attack on the Airport, Operation Zarb-e-Azb (‘Sword of the Prophet’, also ‘sharp and cutting’) was launched on June 15, 2014. However, following the APS attack, the National Action Plan (NAP) was formulated in January 2015, to root out terrorist elements from the country. NAP gave a boost to Operation Zarb-e-Azb and amplified counter-terrorism efforts. The operation inflicted a severe blow on TTP’s terror bases in the Tochi and Shawal Valleys, both in the North Waziristan district of KP.

Moreover, the ongoing Radd-ul-Fasaad (Elimination of Discord) Operation, initiated on February 22, 2017, aimed at eliminating terrorist sleeper cells across Pakistan. Since the start of the Operation, reported violent incidents and fatalities involving TTP have declined sharply. According to partial data collated by SATP, after February 22, the year 2017 recorded 37 incidents of killing involving TTP, in which 149 persons, including 34 civilians, 40 SF personnel, and 75 terrorists were killed. Through 2018, 20 such incidents were reported, in which 76 persons (33 civilians, 20 SF personnel, and 23 terrorists) were killed; 2019 recorded 18 such incidents, in which 64 persons (26 civilians, 23 SFs and 15 militants) were killed; and 2020 (till, August 2) reported just two incidents, in which three persons, including two civilians and one terrorist, were killed.

Apart from the impact of military operations, TTP also lost its prominence due to internal rifts. The appointment of a leader from outside the Mehsud tribe, following the death of Hakimullah Mehsud (i.e., Fazlullah in November 2013) created numerous fissures in the organisation and resulted in the emergence of splinter groups.

In February 2014, Ahrar-ul-Hind was formed under the leadership of Maulana Umar Qasmi. The group claimed that its goal was the establishment of sharia, or Islamic law, and acknowledged that the movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, TTP, were still “our brothers” despite separation from the group. The faction split from TTP due TTP’s engagement in talks with the Pakistani government.

In May 2014, another split emerged in TTP, after the Mehsud faction walked out, saying the group leaders’ tactics were “un-Islamic”. The faction comprising militants from the Mehsud tribe formed its own separate group called Tehrik Taliban South Waziristan.

As reported on May 28, 2014, the ‘spokesman’ for the new group, Azam Tariq Mehsud, stated, “We consider the bombing of public places, extortion and kidnappings un-Islamic, and since the TTP leaders continued with these practices, we decided we should not share the responsibility…”

Further, in August 2014, a new group, known as Jamaat-e-Ahrar, was formed, combining with disaffected Taliban factions along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, and controlled by Omar Khalid Khorasani, an ambitious ‘commander’ with strong ties to Al Qaeda.

As reported on August 26, 2014, in a lengthy video statement explaining the decision to break away, Khorasani argued that the Taliban had become undisciplined and suffered from factional infighting. “This was devastating for our movement,” he said.

However, TTP gradually resurfaced after having largely faded away. Conceivably, the most threatening sign of TTP’s growing power came on July 31, 2019, when the group issued a written warning to locals in Miranshah in North Waziristan, demanding a ban on music and women going out without a male family member.

The one-page message in Urdu cautioned the locals,

“We remind you [residents] that similar statements issued by Taliban several times in the past had fallen on deaf ears, but this time we are going to take to task those who violate the Taliban order. There will be no use of DJs, neither inside the house nor in open fields and those ignoring the warning will be responsible for consequences…Women shouldn’t go out of their homes alone as it is harmful to our society. There is one informer of Mujahideen in every three people and it was a misconception on the part of the people to think we will not get information about non-compliance of our order. Follow the order or be ready to face the worst consequences.”

In a video released in April 2020, TTP renewed the focus on its extensive ties to jihadist groups in the wider Afghanistan-Pakistan region, including the Afghan Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and the Haqqani Network.

Indeed, the 26th report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team of UNSC noted, “the total number of Pakistani foreign terrorist fighters in Afghanistan, posing a threat to both countries, is estimated at between 6,000 and 6,500, most of them with TTP.”

The report further disclosed that TTP was led by Noor Wali Mehsud, supported by his ‘deputy’ Qari Amjad and ‘spokesperson’ Mohammad Khorasani.

Meanwhile, the state of affairs in Pakistan vis-à-vis TTP can very well be assessed with the ‘escape’ of Ehsanullah Ehsan, along with his wife and children on January 11, 2020.

Ehsan, the former ‘spokesperson’ of TTP had ‘surrendered’ before the Pakistan Army in 2017, but ‘escaped’ from the safe house where he was being kept for two-and-a-half years.

In an audio clip, following this incident, Ehsan audaciously stated:

“I am Ehsanullah Ehsan. I am the former spokesman of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and Jamaatul Ahrar. I had surrendered to the Pakistani security authorities on February 5, 2017, under an agreement. I honoured this agreement for three years, but the Pakistani authorities violated it and kept me in a prison along with my children. On January 11, 2020, with the help of Allah, I succeeded in escaping from custody…”

Since his escape, a Twitter account, with the handle, @Ehsanofficial32, reportedly used by him has been fairly active, propagating TTP’s murderous ideology.

Also, on June 17, the Peshawar High Court (PHC) ordered the release of 200 convicts, including 196 TTP militants, convicted by the military courts on terrorism charges. The Supreme Court (SC), however, on July 21, 2020, suspended the PHC order. The next hearing in the SC is awaited.

While there is no doubt that the TTP is again trying to make inroads in Pakistan and to carve out an area of influence for itself, the Government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan also appears to be seeking support from the hardline Islamist lobby.

Moreover, TTP’s attempts to restore its former operational capacity has serious potential repercussions on the US’s fight against Al-Qaeda, given the TTP’s close relation to the global terrorist formation.

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the author. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.

Published with permission from South Asia Intelligence Review of the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

Dr. Sanchita Bhattacharya

Dr Sanchita is a Research Fellow at Institute for Conflict Management, New Delhi. Assistant Editor: Faultlines Area of Interest: Political Islam in South Asia, Pakistan, Terrorism Education: PhD from JNU, Delhi M.A. in International Relations from Jadavpur University, Kolkata.

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Pakistan’s Afghan Policy Now Has A Greater Role For ISIS-KP

Pakistan’s ISI is preparing for an additional terror instrument to, what it distrusts, the Taliban in Afghanistan.



On June 12, 2020, at least four civilians, were killed in an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attack that occurred at Sher Shah Suri Mosque in the Kart-e-Char area of Kabul city in Kabul Province. The blast took place when people were offering Friday prayers, killing four worshippers, including the prayer leader Imam Maulavi Azizullah Mufleh.

Though no group has claimed responsibility for the attack so far, the Taliban has, in fact, condemned the attack. It is widely believed that the Islamic State-Khorasan Province (IS-KP) was behind the attack. Significantly, a similar attack on the Wazir Akber Khan Mosque in Kabul took place on June 2, 2020.

Two persons, including prayer leader, Mullah Mohammad Ayaz Niazi, were killed and two others were injured in the blast, which took place when worshippers had gathered for evening prayers. Claiming responsibility for the attack, IS-KP described the targeted prayer leader as “an apostate and evil, propagating loyalty to the apostate Afghan government.”

On May 30, 2020, two employees of Khurshid TV, a private TV channel, were killed in an explosion in Kabul City. Those killed included a reporter and a technical worker of the television channel. Six others, including one of the employees of the TV channel, were injured. IS-KP claimed responsibility for the attack.

Meanwhile, two of the worst attacks in the recent past were attributed to/ claimed by IS-KP:

  • May 12, 2020: Unidentified terrorists attacked a maternity ward run by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, Doctors Without Borders) killing 16 civilians, including two newborn infants, in Dasht-e Barchi area, a Hazara Shia dominated neighbourhood of Kabul city. Security Forces killed four terrorists at the site. The civilian death toll later increased to 24.
  • May 12, 2020: A suicide attack targeting the funeral ceremony of Shaikh Akram, a former ‘commander’ of the Public Uprising Forces, killed at least 24 civilians in Shewa District of Nangarhar Province. Abdullah Malikzai, a member of the Nangarhar Provincial Council, also lost his life in the attack. Later, the civilian death toll increased to 32.

The Taliban issued a statement asserting that the group was not behind either of these attacks. IS-KP claimed the funeral attack. Though it did not make any statement on the hospital attack, the United States (US) Special Envoy for Afghan Peace, Zalmay Khalilzad, on May 14, 2020, asserted:

“The USG [United States Government] has assessed IS-K [IS-KP] conducted the horrific attacks on a maternity ward and a funeral earlier this week in Afghanistan. IS-K [IS-KP] has demonstrated a pattern for favouring these types of heinous attacks against civilians and is a threat to the Afghan people and to the world.”

According to a United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) report released on April 27, 2020, a total of 1,293 civilian casualties (533 killed and 760 injured) took place in Afghanistan during the first three months of 2020. UNAMA attributed 55 per cent of the total casualties to Anti-Government Elements (AGEs): 39 per cent to the Taliban, 13.38 per cent to IS-KP, i.e. 173 civilian casualties (63 killed and 110 injured)], and the remainder to unspecified AGEs.

According to the report,

“Two of the most egregious incidents were mass shootings claimed by ISIL-KP [IS-KP] in March: an attack on 6 March at a commemoration for a Hazara leader in Kabul, which killed 34 civilians and injured 78 more, and an attack on 25 March on worshippers at a Sikh-Hindu temple in Kabul, which killed 26 civilians and injured 11 more.”

IS-KP continues to wreak havoc, despite suffering severe losses over a long period. According to a Combating Terrorism Centre Report released in March 2020, between 2015 and 2018:

“In Afghanistan, ISK’s [IS-KP’s] losses amounted to a total of 11,668 deaths, 696 individuals captured, and 375 individuals surrendered, which were primarily concentrated in Nangarhar.”

Further, a United Nations report on the threat posed by ISIL (Da’esh) to international peace and security released  on February 4, 2020, noted:

“Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan [IS-KP] came under severe military pressure from the security forces of Afghanistan and Taliban fighters towards the end of 2019, leading to its virtual expulsion from what had been its Afghan headquarters in Nangarhar Province. The authorities of Afghanistan took custody of more than 1,400 people, including fighters of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan [IS-KP] and their dependents. The impact on the number and geographic distribution of the group’s fighters is assessed as significant.”

Not surprisingly, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani on November 19, 2019, buoyantly declared, “No one believed one year ago that we would stand up and remain in Nangarhar, and thank God that today we have obliterated Daesh [IS-KP].”

Adding to the optimism, Nangarhar Governor Shah Mahmoud Miakhel asserted, “It’s not possible that they once again equip themselves in other areas of Afghanistan and threaten other parts of the country.”

However, the recent attacks demonstrate that the jubilation was premature.

Indeed, the US was more cautious in its assessment. An unnamed US official stated on November 21, 2019, that, according to the US assessment “IS-KP still maintains a presence [in Kunar], as well as the northern provinces of Afghanistan”.

The US at that time estimated that the IS-KP had between 4,000 and 5,000 fighters across Afghanistan, and the outfit was far from finished.

The United Nations report on the threat posed by ISIL (Da’esh) released on February 4, 2020, noted:

“The presence of ISIL in Afghanistan is still of great concern to the Member States… Nevertheless, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan [IS-KP] remains active, ambitious and threatening… Some 2,100 fighters are now in Kunar Province, which has effectively become the group’s new Afghan core area, whereas the number of fighters elsewhere in Afghanistan may now be as low as 400, giving a total estimate of 2,500 for the whole country.”

Formed in January 2015, IS-KP had a large number of cadres of Pakistani origin from the beginning. However, it has gradually found increasing support from Pakistan’s external intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and much of the replenishment of losses come from Pakistan.

Antonio Giustozzi, in his 2018 book “The Islamic State in Khorasan: Afghanistan, Pakistan and the New Central Asian Jihad” that chronicles the formation of the group and related activities states:

“The patient work of the ISI towards gaining influence within IS-K [IS-KP] seemed to be paying off in May 2017, when a former commander of LeT [Lashkar-e-Toiba] associated with the agency was (controversially) chosen as the new governor of Wilayat Khorasan.”

The book further notes that spate of eliminations of IS-KP leaders by US and Afghan forces had forced the group to seek Pakistani help:

“An IS-K [IS-KP] source indicated that the choice was the result of contacts with the Pakistani ISI, which hinted to IS-K [IS-KP] the possibility of a trade-off: the appointment of a leader linked to the ISI and the cessation of attacks against Pakistani government targets, in return for access to safe havens in Pakistan.”

The Combating Terrorism Centre Report of March 2020 also noted that unlike in Afghanistan:

“In Pakistan, the majority of ISK’s [IS-KP] losses have been incurred in the form of individuals captured (440) instead of killed (104). The data also shows that police raids have dominated the Pakistani state’s strategy in tackling ISK [IS-KP] across all four years, although there were some limited ground operations and airstrikes.”

Conspicuously, these covert Pakistani machinations are now being exposed with Afghan Security Establishment bringing the truth out in the open.

Afghan Security Forces on April 4, 2020, arrested the emir of IS-KP Mawlawi Abdullah aka Aslam Farooqui, on charges of orchestrating the attack on the Kabul Gurdwara on March 25. Mawlawi Abdullah, a Pakistani national (from the Orakzai agency), who became the emir of IS-KP in April 2019, was earlier associated with the LeT. 19 others, including IS-KP leaders Ali Mohammed from Islamabad and Salman from Karachi, were also arrested. An unnamed senior Afghan counter-terror official stated:

“The ISKP [IS-KP] is just a demon child of Pakistan’s ISI, which is designed to hit at targets for larger tactical purposes of Rawalpindi GHQ. Among those arrested include terrorists (sic) from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Nangarhar, Quetta, Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, Karachi and Kunar Province. This is the biggest achievement of Afghan security forces to date.”

The ISI has progressively imposed a Pakistani leadership on IS-KP, culled from ‘loyal’ Pakistani terrorist formations such as LeT. IS-KP cadres are also increasingly dominated by Pakistani nationals from such ‘reliable’ formation, including LeT and JeM, creating a decisive secondary influence in Afghanistan.

Slowly and steadily the Taliban is moving towards capturing political power in Kabul. The ISI needs another instrumentality on Afghan soil, as they do not trust the Taliban if it is restored to power in Kabul. IS-KP also provides an instrument to maintain pressure on the US as a bargaining tool. IS-KP is the new weapon in the ISI armoury.

The ISI will continue to nurture it and seek to transform it into a formidable force in the foreseeable future unless the international community led by the US takes some drastic counter-measures; a prospect, in their current state of panic and flight, that is highly unlikely.

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the author. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.

Published with permission from South Asia Intelligence Review of the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

Ajit Kumar Singh

Dr Ajit Kumar Singh is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Conflict Management and is involved in research on conflicts in South Asia. After completing his M.Phil. on "Emergence of Afghanistan as Buffer between Tsarist Russia and British Indian Empire (19th Century)", from JNU, New Delhi, he was awarded Ph.D. on "The Ethnic Conflict and State Structure in Afghanistan: 1989-2001".

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