The Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Security (APAPPS) came into formal effect this week. Hailed as a new framework of engagement, it has at its core a seven-point agenda, including: reciprocal flushing out of militant safe-havens on either side of the border that pose threats to the other. Yet its ‘inauguration’ was overshadowed by clouds of darkness.
For militants appear to be making a comeback to North Waziristan. And groups such as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its breakaway faction Jamaat-ul-Ahrar reportedly operate from bases in Afghanistan to launch attacks here. Over the weekend, the TTP claimed responsibility for targeting the Pakistan Army; leaving seven soldiers dead. According to security officials, this was a cross-border incursion.
Thus the time has come for both Kabul and Washington to take Pakistan’s long-held security concerns seriously. This is something that the residents of North Waziristan have taken up with local security forces by way of a two-day sit-in to protest renewed violence that has left up to eight dead in a month. Militants also struck two girls’ schools, while cautioning parents against educating daughters. This has prompted Human Rights Watch to appeal to the Pakistani leadership to ensure the protection of all students. The COAS has, for his part, said that the FATA-Khyber Pakhtunkhwa merger holds the key to consolidating gains made from military operations that have been undertaken in the tribal agency since 2014. That may well be the case but the point remains that the people of North Waziristan have had enough.
And rightly so. What they and the rest of the country now need are answers. After all, security force offensives left around one million displaced and disarmed. Yet as locals made their way back to North Waziristan towards the end of last year, they may not have been the only ones. Indeed, they suggest that some militants have been allowed back, too, as part of a deal outlined by Gen Bajwa back in March; whereby he promised to “forgive” the latter as long they downed arms and pledged not to challenge the state’s writ. Thus the sticking point for the local population is that the combatants have failed to uphold their end of the accord.
The civil-military leadership must address these and other questions. So, too must Kabul and Washington. Particularly when it comes to answering the thorny issue of how Pakistani militants are able to launch cross-border attacks under the watchful eye of US and NATO forces.