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By Ghani Kakar
QUETTA, Pakistan – The arrest of the Afghan Taliban’s No. 2 man, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, and at least four Taliban shadow governors in Karachi proves that Afghan Taliban members are hiding in Pakistan.
After the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001, it was theorised that most members of the Taliban government in Kabul crossed into Pakistan’s northwestern city of Peshawar. Now they are said to be infiltrating other areas.
“There may be some Afghan Taliban leaders and fighters hiding in Quetta and some in other parts of Pakistan, but it is not said precisely that the Taliban Shura is present in Quetta”, said security analyst Dr. Hasan Askari-Rizvi. “I think the Taliban have no proper communication system from which they could run (operations) in Afghanistan from Pakistan”.
Askari-Rizvi said the Afghan Taliban likely considered Pakistan the safest place for them because of sympathisers “to unite strident nationalism with militancy and to emphasise that Pakistan’s troubles are caused by its foreign adversaries”.
A Pakistani intelligence officer, who asked not to be named, told Central Asia Online that military operations in Waziristan “are pushing an increasing number of Taliban fighters into areas northeast of Quetta and other parts of Balochistan, adjacent to the Noshki district that links with the Afghan border area Shorawak”.
The main Taliban factions, such as those led by Jalaluddin Haqqani and Mullah Omar, get support on the Pakistani side of the border.
Some diplomatic sources told Central Asia Online, “The Taliban resistance movement has apparently chosen Zabul, Spin Boldak, Kandahar and Helmand as the areas where it has to re-establish its authority”. These areas are well suited to crossing the Durand Line, which separates Pakistan from Afghanistan, because of unprotected trails that are impossible to patrol, sources added.
“In the past, it was experienced that some Afghan Taliban were in Pakistan, but now they have changed their strategy as Pakistan is exposed and it could not play a double game any more”, said senior military and defence analyst Gen. (ret.) Talat Masood.
Masood added that while strikes against the Afghan Taliban were aimed at pressuring the militants to join peace negotiations, the process would be constrained and “even now there would be limits as to what Pakistan can do to persuade the Afghan Taliban to agree to reconciliation in Afghanistan”.
The recent strike against the Taliban in Helmand province drove out many Afghan nationals. They became easily visible in Pakistan.
“After the recent arrest of Afghan Taliban leaders in Karachi and Faisalabad, Pakistan has widened its hunt for the leaders of the Afghan Taliban in the non-tribal areas of the country, including Quetta, Kuchlaak, Pishin, Chaman, Jungle Peer-Alizai, Surkhab, Noshki, and particularly in Karachi”, intelligence sources told Central Asia Online.
Pakistani security agencies are hunting senior Afghan Taliban leadership thought to be hiding in the country. Meanwhile, government forces have detained a number of Taliban leaders. These leaders include Mullah Obaidullah Akhundzada, Mullah Abdul Nabi, Molvi Abdul Nasim Naeemi, Noor Mohammad Saqib,Sakhidad Mujahid, Mullah Abdul Ghani Bradar, Ameer Muaaviya, Akhunzada Popalzai, Mula Hamza Akhwand, Mullah Abdul Salaam Mullah Mohammad and Molvi Karim Dad.
Sources said Pakistani security agencies have tried to set up informant networks in the tribal areas, but militants have exposed and executed many of those informants.
The Pakistani army is heavily engaged against militants in Bajaur, Swat, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and other areas that are major supply lines for the Afghan Taliban in the provinces of Kunar and Nuristan.
Moulvi Noor Muhammad, a leader of the Tehreek-e-Nifaze and a Taliban supporter, said “The claim that the Afghan Taliban are operating from Pakistan’s soil is creating a dilemma for the Pakistani government.
“Despite the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan way back in October 2001, the … Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan have gained strength and are getting stronger with every passing day after regrouping and reorganising their resistance movement in ... Afghanistan”, he said.
Pakistani security agencies in the past couple of years have arrested more than 300 Afghan Taliban members. Many of those arrests were made in hospitals.
According to several hospital sources, Taliban fighters in Afghanistan bring their comrades across the border into Pakistan for treatment after being wounded in battle. The injured fighters receive medical care by pretending to be locals. Pakistani officials denied claims from the Afghan government that their military intelligence is providing support and safe havens for the Taliban.
Maulana Asmatullah, head of Jamiat Ulama-e Islam (Ideological) and a member of the Pakistani National Assembly, told Central Asia Online, “These are all baseless rumours that the Afghan Taliban’s Shura, or ruling council, had moved to Quetta. This is Western propaganda against Pakistan”.
“The only true Taliban Shura is the one led by Taliban Chief Mullah Muhammad Omar. It has 28 members and, according to some reports, it is spread around Afghanistan. Some of the members are even holding key government posts. Their identities are known only among the Shura members”, he said.
According to some media reports, “to stop the Afghan Taliban and other militants from illegally entering Pakistan, the government has stationed 80,000 troops and set up more then 1,000 checkpoints along the long Pak-Afghan border “.