A middle-aged attorney, Nia Beg, is anxious right after a large incursion by Islamist militants rattled his homeland in northwestern Pakistan this month.
Beg is Kalash, and he follows the ancient pagan religion practiced in Bumburet and other remote valleys collectively termed Kalash in the northwestern district of Chitral, which borders eastern Afghanistan.
He says that attacks by scores of Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on several villages in Kalash pose really hard queries about the stability of Chitral, which had hardly ever noticed Taliban violence and is a single of Pakistan’s prime vacationer locations since of its unique lifestyle and all-natural natural beauty.
“My kids question me, ‘How will we now go to college or walk freely in our village?'” he informed RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal right after the Taliban incursion into Chitral that began on September 6.
Pakistan claimed to have repulsed the assault and compelled the TTP militants to retreat into Afghanistan.
On September 6, the military services stated four troopers and 12 militants were killed in clashes. In a indication that all was not effectively in Chitral, the authorities imposed a three-working day curfew in the mountainous region.
On September 10, the army mentioned it killed 7 a lot more militants in ongoing “sanitization” operations. Gunship helicopters have been also employed, which suggests some of the TTP militants have been well entrenched.
“Citizens of Kalash are really frightened due to the fact the Taliban are religious extremists,” Abdul Majeed Qureshi, a community Muslim chief, instructed Radio Mashaal.
“We want the Taliban assaults to conclusion completely,” he added.
The after-tranquil Chitral region now seems to be in the crosshairs of the TTP, whose insurgency has developed remarkably just after its ideological and organizational ally, the Afghan Taliban, returned to ability in Afghanistan two a long time back.
Industry experts say the surprise incursion into Chitral showcases the TTP’s attempt to reestablish a territorial foothold in Pakistan.
Following its emergence in 2007, the TTP managed substantial regions in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. But by 2014, Islamabad’s armed forces operations had pressured it to flee into neighboring Afghanistan, which shares a far more than 2,600-kilometer border with Pakistan.
“Chitral’s complex terrain and geographical great importance created it a major selection for the TTP to obstacle the state’s territorial management,” explained Abdul Sayed, a Sweden-based researcher who tracks the TTP.
“The TTP’s attack on Chitral is element of its ambition to create a stronghold on the Pakistani facet of the border,” he included.
Chitral, now divided into Upper and Reduced Chitral districts, consists of substantial-altitude valleys in the Hindu Kush Mountains. It borders the eastern Afghan provinces of Kunar, Nuristan, and Badakhshan. A slim strip of Afghan territory separates it from China and Tajikistan, which presents the area wonderful strategic importance.
“The TTP wants to carve out a new risk-free haven that could serve its goals,” mentioned Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud, director of news at Khorasan Diary, a web site monitoring militant teams in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Mehsud argues that the TTP’s incursion into Chitral “is extremely hazardous” due to the fact the team may possibly want to carve out other sanctuaries in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces, which variety Pakistan’s western border with Afghanistan.
Right after its emergence in 2007 as an umbrella alliance of Pakistani Taliban groups, the TTP quickly prolonged its command more than huge parts of the South Waziristan, North Waziristan, Mohmand, Bajaur, and Swat districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Yrs of TTP assaults and the Pakistani Army’s counterinsurgency killed far more than 80,000 Pakistanis, predominantly ethnic Pashtuns. The violence also displaced far more than 6 million Pashtuns.
“The TTP is trying to get to restore some of the territorial control it after enjoyed in areas these as Swat and Waziristan,” Mehsud stated.
TTP violence has risen substantially given that the Taliban seized energy in Afghanistan in August 2021. The Taliban-led federal government brokered negotiations among Islamabad and the TTP, but these finished in November right after the TTP formally declared that its stop-hearth with Islamabad was above.
In accordance to the Pakistani Institute for Conflict and Stability Experiments, a assume tank in Islamabad, this August was the most violent thirty day period since November 2014.
The TTP claimed some 147 attacks that thirty day period. For the duration of the to start with eight months of the year, 227 Pakistanis were killed and 497 have been wounded in 22 suicide attacks, primarily claimed by the Pakistani Taliban.
The Pakistani military and legislation enforcement have endured mounting losses. At minimum 120 troopers and armed service officers ended up killed in militant attacks in the 1st 6 months of this yr. The law enforcement, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, have had equivalent losses.
Rising TTP violence has sharply deteriorated relations among longtime allies Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban.
Islamabad quickly closed its primary border crossing with Afghanistan in Torkham, which is some 400 kilometers to the south. It has also introduced a crackdown on an estimated 3 million Afghan refugees and migrants in the country.
“We hope the Afghan interim authorities…to be certain that Afghan territory is not made use of as a launching pad for terrorist assaults towards Pakistan,” claimed the Overseas Ministry in Islamabad on September 11 in response to a Taliban statement demanding the reopening of Torkham.
The border crossing was reopened on September 15.
Sayed reported the mountainous border in between Chitral and the japanese Afghan province of Nuristan comprises deserted areas acknowledged as No-Man’s Land.
“This could give the Afghan Taliban the pretext that the TTP has not attacked from areas beneath their control,” he mentioned.
Mehsud reported the TTP attack was also encouraged by the fairly compact presence of safety forces in Chitral. It is also the only location wherever the Pakistani border fencing with Afghanistan is incomplete.
“Matters are achieving a boiling position between the two countries,” Mehsud noted. “Pakistan could possibly start surgical assaults or kinetic actions within Afghanistan to concentrate on the TTP leaders and their bases.”
On September 10, an improvised explosive gadget focused a senior TTP commander, Badshah Khan, in the southeastern Afghan province of Paktika.
In Chitral, civilians remain anxious in the aftermath of the TTP assault.
“People today are fearful that if the Taliban proceeds to assault, vacationers will prevent coming,” said Ihkamuddin, a nearby politician in Bumburet.