ISLAMABAD: After several failed efforts to conclude a long-term peace deal with Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Pakistan army is mulling a tougher stance against the outlawed group as militancy continues in the country.
The shift in the Pakistan army's approach comes amid the three-month ceasefire, as TTP fighters return to Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa and Balochistan, the Dawn newspaper reported.
"Directed formations to maintain operational readiness and efforts to counter terrorism, particularly in KP and Balochistan must continue," said Pakistan Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa during the 250th Corps Commanders' Conference, as quoted by Dawn.
TTP, popularly known as Pakistan Taliban, recently set alarm bells ringing in Islamabad after the outlawed group reappeared in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Swat valley.
Taliban militants reportedly had occupied hilltops of Swat district's Matta subdivision a few months ago which created panic in a number of neighbouring districts, The News International newspaper reported.
The Taliban's unexpected appearance led to anger among the people and caused damage to tourism as the day Taliban were reported to have arrived in the valley, the report added.
Initially, both the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Shehbaz Sharif governments kept quiet on the issue. After the issue came to the limelight, Pakistan Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said that they were in touch with the Afghan government about the Taliban's appearance in Swat.
"The Taliban accepted requests of the local elders and agreed to leave Swat peacefully. By Saturday afternoon, the Taliban started leaving Swat via Dir," a Pakistan senior government official told The News on condition of anonymity. The Pakistani newspaper said the government had moved additional troops to Swat and deployed them in different places for a likely offensive against the Taliban.
"Luckily, the situation returned to normal and there was no incident of violence in the valley. The role played by the people of Swat for peace is remarkable," he added.
Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, Pakistan has increasingly complained of attacks across the border from Afghanistan, an issue that has become a source of diplomatic tension.
Talks between the two sides began in October 2021 to seek a political solution to the issue. The talks that were held at the request of the Afghan Taliban led to a one-month ceasefire in November. However, the truce could not last long as differences emerged soon.
The ongoing peace talks between the TTP and Pakistan government reached a stalemate as the outlawed group refused to give in on its demand for the reversal of the merger of the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
Despite a series of meetings between the two sides in recent weeks to break the impasse, there has also been a stalemate over the issue of TTP laying down arms in case of a peace deal.