From Expeling Afghan Refugees To Attack On Mianwali Air Base, Why Pakistan Is Facing Its Worst Crisis This Year

Swarajya Staff

Nov 06, 2023, 04:08 PM | Updated 04:08 PM IST

Pakistan Flag.
Pakistan Flag.

In the midst of expelling Afghan refugees from its territory to a series of high-profile attacks on military installations, Pakistan is currently facing one of its most severe crises.

Just last week, the Pakistani military suffered two terror attacks — an assault on an army convoy in Gwadar resulting in the loss of 14 soldiers' lives and a terror strike on the Pakistan Air Force's Mianwali training air base that caused damage to operational military assets.

These events symbolise the challenging year that the army has had to contend with.

Adding to the challenges is the ongoing deportation of 1.7 million Afghan refugees who sought shelter after escaping decades of war-torn Afghanistan. They are now swarming to the borders.

In just two days, since the deadline for voluntary departure from Pakistan expired on 1 November, Pakistani border authorities have deported more than 20,000 Afghan refugees.

What magnifies the significance of this year's losses is the notable contrast with 2014.

Back then, the Pakistani Army had launched an extensive operation — Zarb-e-Azb — against Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

However, in 2023, no such large-scale action has been taken.

Furthermore, the Pakistani Army has found itself facing the ire of political protesters who have targeted several installations following the arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, even going so far as to burn down the house of the Lahore Corps Commander.

Experts attribute some of the recent violence to the presence of the Taliban in Afghanistan and their tacit support for militant groups operating along the border.

According to a report by the Economic Times, TTP has been empowered by support from a resurgent Afghan Taliban. It is receiving support, possibly even arms, from the Kandahar faction of the Taliban, which is perhaps looking to create a long-term military buffer against the Haqqani faction.

Notably, the Haqqani faction, led by Sirajuddin Haqqani, has maintained close contact with Pakistan throughout successive Afghan wars, starting from the Soviet era to the withdrawal of the United States, in 2021.

The current cycle of violence against security forces in Pakistan is a reflection of this dynamic," noted Kabir Taneja of the Observer Research Foundation.

Other analysts believe that TTP has managed to regain the strength it lost following the 2014 operations.

"This escalation can be attributed to the resurgence of Noor Wali Mehsud, leading more than 30 local factions from Swat and Waziristan to pledge allegiance to him. This has seen TTP slowly regain the strength it once enjoyed during the pre-Zarb-e-Azb era," explained Lt Gen Abhay Krishna (retd), who has commanded the South Western, Eastern, and Central Commands of the Indian Army.

The situation is further complicated by the dilemma the Taliban in Afghanistan faces.

Any action against TTP could potentially lead the group to ally with ISIS and other factions. However, a lack of action could prompt a military operation by Pakistan targeting border areas.

As Lt Gen Abhay Krishna (retd) pointed out, "Pakistan military finds itself stretched thin, as it must simultaneously address insurgency in Balochistan, confront TTP, and maintain its role as a center of political power during times of political turmoil in Pakistan."

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