TTP and Their Dreams

I never thought that my posts for this blog would be anything other than strategic in the context of doctrinal assessments and analysis. But at a time when given the current internal security dynamics, my country faces the biggest challenge ever posed by internal elements, discussing anything else seems trivial.

Pakistan is a unique country. It possesses nuclear weapons and sophisticated delivery systems. It has a population of 190 million and counting, a literacy rate of 55%, a vibrant society and a culture with liberal shades. Why would anybody want to kill the civilians and take on the armed forces of Pakistan? Do they want our nuclear weapons? Do they want control of the state? Who are they? For an interactive militant landscape of Pakistan please see this report.

The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) feeds off the ideology of Al-Qaeda (AQ). Pakistan provides an excellent breeding ground for recruiting militants because the state itself has been exploiting the jihadi mindset off and on to meet its own regional objectives. But it now has to make the ultimate choice. There are no good and bad jihadis. There is no right or wrong usage of jihadis. TTP’s concept of jihad is twisted. They are growing in numbers in Pakistan because they are not wanted anywhere else. They are fighting for every bit of land they can hold on to because they know they have nowhere else to go. For TTP, the fight is existential in nature and it is embraced and understood to be so by each and every element of that organization. For Pakistan, it is becoming existential but the embrace and understanding is yet to arrive. I don’t know how many soldiers and civilians will have to die before it is understood. I don’t know what else needs to happen in Pakistan for this fact to be accepted that we will lose territorial control if we do not establish the writ of the state and send strong signals to TTP and Al-Qaeda in general that we will not tolerate their transgressions and that we do NOT want them. Pakistan as a state needs to issue a fatwa against them.

At the time of Karachi Airport Attack, there were speculations about the safety and security of Pakistan’s nukes and at a State Department briefing the U.S. reaffirmed its confidence in GOP’s efforts to ensure security of its nuclear assets.   So, does TTP want Pakistani nukes? There is only one thing I can say with conviction: TTP and AQ do not want Pakistan’s nuclear weapons (not that they can have them even if they had dreams about nuclearizing their suicide vests).  Like any other terrorist organization, they want an audience. They want to institute terror. They want as their immediate goal to convert Pakistan into an Islamic Caliphate with Sharia, as understood by them, being the law of the land. Gaining control of nuclear weapons does not serve their ideology. These weapons without their command and control systems and delivery mechanisms are useless for terrorists. I don’t want to get into this hypothetical for the simple reason that it defies logic. For me what is at stake here is not the loss of nuclear weapons but possible loss of Pakistan’s northern territory if steps are not taken to regain control. For me what is at stake is the growing number of deaths of Pakistani civilians and soldiers who speak the same Kalima these terrorists are claiming to introduce into this country.

Where will TTP and the AQ terrorists run to when Pakistan Army shows up in full force? Into Afghanistan? Iran? India? Saudi Arabia? back to Uzbekistan? Why are they not in these countries to begin with? What are their funding sources?  Please do not turn around and preach a Cold War lesson. Please do not sit in the comfort of your study and say ISI deserves it or Pakistan deserves it. Nobody deserves this. Nobody.

We are survivors. We will outlive the TTP, AQ or any other terrorist acronym under the sun. But there is a need for intense introspection with lots of courage and honesty by every Pakistani in order to understand why we are where we are and what will happen to us if we don’t do anything about it NOW.


Image: A Majeed-AFP, Getty

Posted in , Militancy, Nuclear, Nuclear Weapons, Pakistan, Security, Terrorism

Rabia Akhtar

Rabia Akhtar is Director, Centre for Security, Strategy and Policy Research and heads the School of Integrated Social Sciences at the University of Lahore, Pakistan. She is a member of the Prime Minister’s Advisory Council on Foreign Affairs. She is also a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council South Asia Center. Dr. Akhtar holds a PhD in Security Studies from Kansas State University. She has written extensively on South Asian nuclear security and deterrence dynamics. She is the author of the book ‘The Blind Eye: U.S. Non-proliferation Policy Towards Pakistan from Ford to Clinton’. Dr. Akhtar is also the Editor of Pakistan Politico, Pakistan’s first strategic and foreign affairs magazine. She received her Masters in International Relations from Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad and her Masters in Political Science from Eastern Illinois University, USA. She is also a Fulbright alumna (2010-2015).

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2 thoughts on “TTP and Their Dreams

  1. Rabs,
    Great post.
    My sense is that the TTP & ‘guest militants’ who have found a home in Pakistan will move back and forth across the border with Afghanistan. I hope that the US and Pakistani militaries will collaborate in dealing with this threat to Pakistan, and the the Pakistani govt will feel confident enough to acknowledge this publicly. Existential threats don’t lend themselves to subterfuge.

  2. As always a treat to read your post, and i totally agree with you on all points. two things to add to this is that most importantly there is a need to follow up with a political phase and the post military operation scenario which is far tougher than step one, purging occupied/ hijacked spaces from militants. can’t help but think of the support and back thumps, Sri lankan government received for a year or so after anti- LTTE operations, and since then it has been a very different situation. so its a very fine thin line for any govt to walk, specially with political actors such as PTI or JUI etc not really being on board in the true sense. anything goes wrong or there is a low phase in this military operation, these political actors and media would be the first to start raising voices.

    secondly, and most importantly the military operation has to be necessarily followed up by not only political consensus as much as there can be, but complimentary actions and measures in other areas, political ownership (which doesn’t buckle under pressure and threats), necessary judicial backup, broad based civilian ownership and support and of course as you mentioned external actors support, with Afghanistan and US as important pillars in this equation. and for Pakistan the window of a well-synchronized military action is very limited, given US withdrawal scenario.

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