South Asia

TTP threatens top political leadership including Pakistan’s prime minister

Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has warned Islamabad, including Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, of “concrete action” for “declaring war” against the group.

In a statement sent to al Jazeera via What’s App, the TTP’s spokesman Muhammad Khorasani said: “For a long time, TTP has not taken any action against political parties.

“[But] if these two parties remain firm on their position … then action will be taken against the leaders of these parties. People should avoid going near them,” the statement said.

In a video posted on Twitter, one TTP member is seen in front of Pakistan’s Parliament House in Islamabad and shared a printed note with the message, “We are coming”.

Sharif is the president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) which along with Bhutto Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) are the main coalition partners in the government.

According to the TTP’s statement, the group’s “target is Pakistan’s security forces who are acting against the country’s interest upon wishes of the West.”

The TTP statement also included a note of caution for Pakistan’s religion-based political parties, urging them not to be a part of any action against the group. “The TTP policy does not include targeting your parties but we request you to avoid being part of any activity against us,” the statement read.

The threat comes just two days after Pakistan’s National Security Committee (NSC) met to discuss the uptick of attacks in the country and to cement a “zero tolerance for terrorism” stance in the country. The NSC also “reaffirmed its determination to take on any and all entities that resort to violence”.

After the meeting, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah was quoted in the media as having delivered a veiled threat to Afghanistan over the TTP issue.

However, he said Thursday he did not threaten Afghanistan with an attack, but maintained that his country had the right to take action against militants planning to launch an attack against Pakistan.

Last week he said however that Pakistan could target Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) hideouts in Afghanistan if the Islamic Emirate failed to take action against the group.

Islamabad says TTP leaders have found sanctuary in Afghanistan and plan their attacks on Pakistan from the country.
The IEA has however denied these claims and have repeatedly said the TTP is not being given sanctuary in Afghanistan.
The IEA also said no country has the right to attack another nation and that Afghanistan wants “peaceful relations” with neighboring states.

Sanaullah rejects the claims that he made the statement and said: “In my comment, I never said that we wanted to attack Afghanistan or anyone living there.”

“I said — and I stand by my words — that if we learn about a terrorist taking a position anywhere to launch an attack against us, Pakistan will and must engage [him] under international law.”
He added Pakistan’s national security committee (NSC) had decided in its last meeting on Monday that the country would directly talk to the Afghan government to resolve the issue, instead of taking it up with anyone else.

Sanaullah also said the Pakistan government was thinking of creating a national counterterrorism department.

The TTP says it is fighting for the imposition of its hardline interpretation of Islamic law and a reversal of the merger of Pakistan’s tribal areas with the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

‘Working for the West’

In its statement on Wednesday, the TTP accused Pakistan’s ruling coalition of taking orders from the United States. It said Sharif “tried to please America by declaring a war” against the TTP.

“Unfortunately, it is not clear how the current government fell under the spell of the United States of America,” the statement read.

The TTP’s statement was meanwhile issued just a day after the US expressed its support for Pakistan’s zero tolerance stance and said it “has a right to defend itself from terrorism”.

During a news briefing on Tuesday, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said the Taliban in Afghanistan must uphold the commitment made to not allow the use of Afghan soil as a launchpad for international attacks. “These are among the very commitments that the Taliban have been unable or unwilling to fulfill to date,” he said.

However, the Afghan Taliban has consistently rejected the charges and in a statement on Tuesday, its spokesman said “the territory of Afghanistan is not used against Pakistan or any other country”, and called the charges “baseless and provocative”.