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Afghan refugees deported from Pakistan: How Taliban, once propped up by Islamabad, has come back to bite it

An estimated 1.7 million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan are forced to leave their decades-old home after Islamabad begun a nationwide crackdown on foreign nationals it says are in the country illegally.

Pakistan is deporting nearly 2 million Afghan refugees, many of whom have been residing in the country for over 30 years. Many of these Afghan migrants arrived in Pakistan after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, then in the late 1990s when the Taliban first came to power and more recently in 2021, when the Taliban assumed control of the country.

Besides citing economic concerns, the ISI-controlled Pakistan establishment has accused Afghan refugees of terrorist attacks, street crimes and organised crime like drug trafficking.

What’s chilling is the fact that Pakistan is sending Afghan refugees – who escaped the Taliban rule, back to Afghanistan when it has been involved in the creation of the radical Islamist group. The Taliban has now come back to haunt Pakistan even as Afghan refugees pay the price.

How was Pakistan involved in building the Taliban?

The word Taliban translates to “students” in Pashto language. The group came into existence in the early 1990s in northern Pakistan after the Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan. Several Afghans who joined the Taliban were known to have received madrassa education in Pakistan.

The head of the new Taliban government formed in 2021 in Afghanistan, Mohammad Hasan Akhund, who is also on the UN sanctions list, had studied at a seminary in Pakistan.

Pakistan is known to be the Taliban’s principal benefactor and one of the only three countries that recognised the Taliban when they first took power in Afghanistan. The other two countries were Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Pakistan was also the last country to break diplomatic ties with the Taliban after the US invaded Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks.

Pakistan had not only trained armed mujahideen to fight the invading Soviet forces in Afghanistan but also helped facilitate the transition of a ragtag militia group into the Taliban, which later went on to lay control of the country from 1996 to 2001.

Taliban became Pakistan’s link to terrorist outfits in central Asia like Al Qaeda. In return, the Taliban received cash incentives, arms and ammunition, and an unfettered passage through the porous borders between the two countries. Pakistan became a hideout for Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorists who were being chased by US-led NATO forces.

Pakistan also threw open Military hospitals to treat the Taliban terrorists who got wounded in their guerrilla war in Afghanistan or while crossing the border. Al Qaeda terrorist Osama Bin Laden’s refuge in the Pakistani backwater town of Abbottabad was a testimony to Islamabad’s resolute support of terrorism and its willingness to provide sanctuary to UN-designated terrorists and terror groups.

Even as the Western forces were busy routing the Taliban from Afghanistan, Islamabad, on the other hand, was occupied in the rehabilitation of the group. They provided assistance to sustain the Taliban, even as the terror outfit lost thousands of foot soldiers against the NATO forces.

Several US intelligence agencies and defence experts have been cautioning the USA against Pakistan, warning them that Islamabad’s interests were in conflict with the United States and that it was playing a dangerous double game, falsely claiming to help the United States in its war on terror while clandestinely extending moral, emotional and tactical support to the Taliban.

How Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan came into being

While Pakistan was falsely claiming to cooperate with the US and the NATO forces in combating the Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorist groups, it was faced with a homegrown demon, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Like the Taliban, the TTP too, was nurtured by Pakistan when it could no more aid the Taliban directly owing to US operations in Afghanistan.

The TTP was Pakistan’s medium of assistance to the Afghan Taliban from its own soil until it came to bite Pakistan back.

The TTP came into being after 9/11 but became fully active after the Lal Masjid siege in Islamabad in July 2007. 13 radical and extremist terrorist groups within Pakistan united to form the TTP in an undisclosed place in South Waziristan Agency of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

The group’s objective was to fight the NATO forces in Afghanistan and wage a “defensive jihad” against Pakistani forces. It aimed to eradicate Islamabad’s influence in FATA and neighbouring Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province in Pakistan, implementation of a strict Sharia in Pakistan and the expulsion of the coalition troops from Afghanistan.

On 23rd November 2008, the then TTP spokesman, Mullah Omer, had reportedly said, “The Taliban are present in Karachi and have links with the LeJ, Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) and other banned religious organisations.” The TTP is also known to have links with Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), HuM and Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami (HuJI).

Media reports on 5th January 2011, indicated that five terrorist groups had joined the TTP and were working under its umbrella TTP namely LeJ, SSP, JeM, HuM and Harkat-ul-Ansar (HuA). TTP spokesman Azam Tariq declared, “We have not forced anyone to join TTP, and the leaders and activists of the banned religious organisations have united themselves under the umbrella of the TTP on their own choice.”

Pakistan Taliban is responsible for some of the deadliest terrorist attacks in Pakistan, which the latter uses to victimise itself when it is responsible, directly or indirectly, for its creation.

Despite being backed by the Afghan Taliban, Pakistan, which decries TTP terror attacks on its soil, celebrated and even played a role in the return of the Taliban. After the Taliban’s return in August 2021, the TTP, equipped with more arms and ammunition, has perpetrated back-to-back terrorist attacks in Pakistan.

31st August 2023: 9 Pakistani soldiers killed in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

At least nine soldiers were killed and 20 others were critically injured in a terror attack in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region. The incident took place in the Bannu district when a suicide bomber exploded himself. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), according to the military, was responsible for the terror strike.

30th January 2023: Blast in Peshawar Police Lines mosque kills 28

A blast took place inside the Peshawar Police Lines mosque resulting in the death of at least 28 people. Around 150 were reportedly injured in the blast. Shortly after the attack, the Islamist terror outfit Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the bombing.

December 2022: 6 Pakistani security personnel killed in attacks in Balochistan

TTP reportedly claimed responsibility for killing six Pakistani security personnel and injuring others in several attacks in the Balochistan province. It must be mentioned that ISIS-Khorasan owes its existence to the TTP. ISIS-K was formed by disaffected TTP terrorists, thanks to Pakistan.

Yet, Pakistan continued cheerleading for Taliban 2.0

No matter what Pakistan says, it cannot hide its true face and run away from its true identity, that of a terrorist state. Despite the TTP’s dance of death, Pakistan celebrated the return of the Taliban in Afghanistan even as the TTP had announced in 2020 that Pakistan was its agenda.

In 2021, the TTP had warned Islamabad to brace itself for an attack by come Taliban in Afghanistan. But the then Pakistan PM Imran Khan was heard praising the Taliban and called on the US for dialogue with the terrorist group. “Taliban are the best bet to take on Daesh,” the former Pakistani cricketer had said.

In August 2021, After the Taliban called Pakistan their “second home”, then-Pakistani Minister Sheikh Rashid confessed on a TV show that the Imran Khan-led government has indeed been the custodian of Talibani leaders.

“We are the custodians of Taliban leaders. We have taken care of them for long. They got shelter, education and a home in Pakistan. We have done everything for them,” declared Rashid

Foolishly counting on the Taliban to help combat the TTP threat, Pakistan had also decided to help the Afghan Taliban organise their army. A top-level Pakistan official revealed that the Pakistanis decided to send security and intelligence officials, including the head of the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, to Afghanistan to help the Taliban reorganise their military.

When the Taliban was being challenged by the National Resistance Forces in Panjshir Valley of Afghanistan, the Pakistani Air Force was providing the radical group with drones to bomb the Amrullah Saleh forces.

US Defence Analyst Sarah Chayes in an interview with CNN on September 1, 2021, attributed the Taliban’s resurrection to the emotional and military support it received from Pakistan’s notorious intelligence agency ISI.

Chayes said that Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI used its resources cleverly to help topple the US-backed Ashraf Ghani government in Afghanistan.

Pakistan getting the taste of its own medicine

As mentioned above, the TTP has only been strengthened with the resurgence of the Afghan Taliban much to Pakistan’s distress. Pakistan has no one but itself to hold responsible what with planting the seeds of terrorism in its own soil and across the borders too.

Despite Pakistan’s repeated plea to the Taliban government for assistance in combating the TTP, the Taliban has washed its hands off saying that Pakistan’s security problems are its own. But given the terrorist-backing state’s fundamental nature, it has chosen to target Afghan refugees for its variety of issues, most of which emanate from homegrown Islamic radicalism.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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Pragya Bakshi Sharma
Pragya Bakshi Sharma
Journalist with a journey from print to TV to digital news. Multi-tasker. Unstoppable Type 1 Diabetic running on insulin.

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