Pakistan’s relationship with Taliban on ‘verge of abyss’

As Pakistan tries to bridge the broadening gap between Islamabad and the Taliban, political analysts have said the Taliban is unlikely to hand over Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leaders or even to fight the group on behalf of Pakistan.

Speaking after a high-ranking delegation’s trip to Kabul this week, analysts have said Pakistan’s relationship with the Taliban is “currently on the verge of an abyss”.

Mohammad Hashim Danish, an international relations analyst, told Amu TV that when the Taliban came into power in August 2021, it did not take the issue of border crossings and relations with Islamabad seriously. But after a few months, there was a resurgence in the TTP and fingers started being pointed at Kabul by Pakistan.

Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Pakistan’s foreign minister, was one of the first to publicly accuse the Taliban of harboring the Pakistani Taliban.

Danish emphasized that Pakistan is currently dealing with a challenging situation and that the Taliban has clearly not given Islamabad assurances that it will cut ties with the TTP.

Akhtar Rasikh, another international relations analyst, told Amu TV that senior army officials and intelligence chiefs from Pakistan warned the Taliban during their trip to Kabul this week that Afghanistan could face a civil war in the upcoming spring if they do not cut ties with the TTP.

“[if] the Taliban do not cut off their relations with the TTP, civil wars will start in Afghanistan the upcoming spring. They approached Mullah Baradar, Sirajuddin Haqqani, and Mullah Yaqoob because they know that there were two groups of Taliban and one is seeking good relations with the world. But Haibatullah’s [Akhundzada, the supreme leader] faction supports the TTP and he will not hand over the TTP leaders to Pakistan under any circumstances,” Rasikh said.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan has said in a statement that the Pakistani delegation has met with Abdul Ghani Baradar, Yaqoob Mujahid, Sirajuddin Haqqani, and Amir Khan Muttaqi.

“Matters relating to the growing threat of terrorism in the region, particularly by TTP and ISKP (Daesh) came under discussion. The two sides agreed to collaborate to effectively address the threat of terrorism by various entities and organizations,” the statement added.

However, the office of Mullah Baradar, the deputy chief minister of the Taliban, has said that the two sides discussed economic cooperation, regional relations, trade, and Pakistan’s relations with the Taliban.

The statement did not provide details about the tensions between Islamabad and the Taliban, however, but did state that “political and security concerns should not have a negative impact on commercial or economic issues”.

Pakistani media outlets have also reported that the Taliban caretaker government has told the Pakistani authorities that their focus is on suppressing Daesh, not the Pakistani Tehreek-e-Taliban, and asked the Pakistani authorities to agree on a ceasefire with the TTP.