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TTP extortion rackets return to Swat valley after a decade

ghazi52

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TTP extortion rackets return to Swat valley after a decade

AFP
November 26, 2022

MINGORA: A lawmaker was sipping tea with voters when his phone chirped to life — the Taliban were calling with a demand for “donations”.

“We hope you won’t disappoint,” read the chilling text from a shady go-between of the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Then, a second message pinged on-screen: “Refusal to provide financial support will make you a problem,” it warned.

“We believe a wise man will understand what we mean by that.”

After the Taliban takeover in neighbouring Afghanistan and emboldened by its sister movement’s success, TTP racketeering has infested areas along the border with Pakistan, locals say.

‘Threatening calls’ from Afghan cell numbers ask influentials for ‘donations’; ominous messages warn of impending ‘days of cruelty’

Since July, the provincial lawmaker — who asked to remain anonymous —has been cowed into sending the TTP sums totalling Rs1.2 million rupees.

“Those who don’t pay have to face the consequences. Sometimes they throw a grenade at their door. Sometimes they shoot,” he said.

“Most of the elites pay the extortion money. Some pay more, some pay less. But nobody talks about it. Everyone is scared for their life.”

Open shelter

The TTP share lineage with the Afghan Taliban, but were most potent from 2007 to 2009, when they overran Swat.
The military came down hard on them in 2014, after a brazen attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar, which killed nearly 150 people, mostly pupils.

The TTP were largely routed, their fighters fleeing to Afghanistan where they were hunted by US-led forces.

But with Afghanistan back under Taliban rule, it has become an “open shelter” for the TTP, according to Imtiaz Gul, an analyst with Islamabad’s Center for Research and Security Studies.

“They now have freedom of action while living in Afghanistan,” he said, adding: “that’s a simple explanation for why the TTP attacks rose”.

In the year since the Taliban’s return, militant activity in Pakistan has spiked, according to the Pak Institute for Peace Studies, with around 433 people killed.

‘The same old game’

“They started the same old game: target killings, bomb blasts, kidnappings — and making calls for extortion,” Swat community activist Ahmad Shah said.

The blackmail network bankrolls the TTP, but also sows a crisis of confidence in local government the militants seek to usurp in favour of Islamist rule.

Provincial lawmaker Nisar Mohmand estimates 80 to 95 per cent of well-off residents in surrounding districts are now blackmail victims.

Fellow legislators have been targeted for refusing to pay out, and some are too fearful to visit their precincts.

“They have their own system of reward and punishment,” said Mohmand. “They have established an alternate government, so how are people supposed to resist?”

The Afghan Taliban have long-standing differences with their Pakistani counterparts, and since capturing Kabul have pledged not to allow their soil to be used for militant activities.

But the first telltale sign of a TTP blackmail attempt is the phone number — starting with the +93 international code indicating an Afghan SIM card.

Then comes a suggestive text, or voice message in Pashto — spoken with a Pakistani lilt.

AFP heard one message threatening an “action squad” would be despatched to a landlord if he declined to pay.
“The days of cruelty are near. Don’t think we are a spent force,” it warns.

The sum “owed” is then hashed out, generally through an intermediary, before it is sent to the ragged bands of TTP fighters whose silhouettes haunt the mountain steeps.

Victims expect to be “tapped up” up to five times a year, the anonymous MP said.

Since the 2014 APS massacre, which horrified Pakistanis even marginally sympathetic to their cause, the TTP has pledged to avoid civilian targets, and claims extortion is done by criminals borrowing their brand.

But a civilian intelligence official in the area insisted they were “the root cause of the menace”.

‘Life at a standstill’

Swat — a snow-capped mountain valley split by turquoise running waters — is one of Pakistan’s most famed beauty spots, but its reputation has a dark side.

In 2012 then 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the TTP while campaigning for girls’ education, a campaign that later earned her the Nobel Peace Prize.

This summer things seemed to have slipped irredeemably back towards those dark days.

After a decade-long hiatus, the anonymous lawmaker started receiving blackmail texts once again.

“The situation was so bad that many people were thinking of migration,” said Shah. “Life was at a standstill.” But there has been pushback, and several protests against the TTP have been held since the group’s high-profile kidnapping of three officials in August.

Businesses shut and thousands spilled into the streets in rallies up and down the valley.

Pakistan’s military has claimed that reports of a strong TTP presence in the area were “grossly exaggerated and misleading”.

Still, in Pakistan’s borderlands, attacks and extortion continue unchecked — despite a professed negotiation truce between the TTP and Islamabad.

“We have to search a solution which is acceptable to both sides. A lasting settlement will have to be found,” said government negotiator Barrister Muhammad Ali Saif.

Published in Dawn, November 26th, 2022


 

ghazi52

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Irfan Baloch

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disgraceful news.
my former class fellow who studied in Quetta with me during the 80s and later on went back to Sawat was one of the first who shared videos of TTP scumbags returning to Sawat few months ago but that was dismissed as misinformation

while the criticism on Pakistan army and its leadership is valid but the blame lies with PTI's government of KPK as well which has never hidden its opposition towards operations against TTP and at one point used to call them as angry brothers.
 

Bleek

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disgraceful news.
my former class fellow who studied in Quetta with me during the 80s and later on went back to Sawat was one of the first who shared videos of TTP scumbags returning to Sawat few months ago but that was dismissed as misinformation

while the criticism on Pakistan army and its leadership is valid but the blame lies with PTI's government of KPK as well which has never hidden its opposition towards operations against TTP and at one point used to call them as angry brothers.
"Taliban Khan" for a reason. He's way too pacifist and sometimes doesn't understand the depth of a situation. They should show him some videos of TTP brutalising soldiers and APS
 

ARMalik

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Na, these are just more dramas by Pakistan Army Generals. In fact, TTP is a creation of Army Generals - it has always been. People have been fooled for many decades by these corrupt leeches.
 

ghazi52

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Peace talks ‘emboldened’ TTP militants in Swat:


Nadir Guramani
December 8, 2022

The National Counter-Terrorism Authority (Nacta) has said that the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had “gained considerable ground” and “increased its footprint and magnitude of activities” in Pakistan during the peace talks process.

Nacta made these revelations in a document presented on Thursday to the participants of a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Interior. During the session, Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan Senator Mushtaq Ahmed raised concerns over the rising terror incidents in the country.

It is pertinent to mention that the TTP last month called off the ceasefire agreement with the government and ordered its militants to stage attacks across the country.

In a statement, the militant group had said it had repeatedly warned the people of Pakistan and “continued to be patient so that the negotiation process is not sabotaged at least by us.”

“But the army and intelligence agencies did not stop and continued the attacks […] now our retaliatory attacks will also start across the country,” the TTP had claimed.

Talks between Pakistani officials and the militant outfit broke down in August due to a deadlock on the revocation of the merger of erstwhile tribal areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

In a document presented before the committee on Thursday, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, the security body said: “Peace talks emboldened the militants and their presence in Swat can be attributed to their efforts to gain the pulse of locals and response by the state.”

It pointed out that the US withdrawal from Afghanistan last year “gave impetus” to TTP activities with its base intact in the neighbouring country.

“Overall rise in the terrorism index is being witnessed,” Nacta said while listing four recent terror incidents in Pakistan that the banned outfit claimed responsibility for.

These included:

  • In August 2022, TTP militants held LEAs hostage in Swat’s district Matta and released them after 12 hours.
  • In September 2022, militants fired on police in Swat.
  • TTP also claimed responsibility for IED attack on a vehicle in which a member of the Peace Committee and two policemen were killed.
  • Abduction of seven cellular company staff members and demand of Rs10 million ransom.
Briefing on the prevailing environment, the letter stated that the Malakand Division was vulnerable due to its central location and access to settled areas.

“Strong protests by masses/all segments of the society in Swat is a good development. The locals, especially the political leadership active against the militants, need to be supported and protected through institutional management.”

It called for the monitoring of “morphing in the local population in adjoining areas” and collective efforts of the security apparatus to counter the presence of militants in the area.

“Owning to winters and lack of support structure/logistics, militants are likely to move from mountainous regions,” the letter added.

Peace talks​

Talks between Pakistani officials and the militant outfit first started in October last year but broke down in December.

These later resumed in May this year. The process, however, broke down once again due to a deadlock on the revocation of the merger of erstwhile tribal areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Subsequently, attacks by the TTP have been on the rise since September after the group’s ceasefire with the army ended. Most of the attacks have happened in and around Dera Ismail Khan, Tank, South Waziristan, and North Waziristan districts in KP.

In October, the Ministry of Interior had warned that more than year-long peace negotiations between the TTP and the government of Pakistan “had come to a standstill”, which had led to unease within the TTP’s ranks.

It had noted that the TTP accuses the Pakistani government of failing to fulfill its main demand — the reversal of the merger of former Fata with KP — as well as continuing to detain TTP members while a truce was still being negotiated.

The ministry had also highlighted the risk of TTP sub-groups defecting to the militant Islamic State (ISKP) or joining hands with the Hafiz Gul Bahadur group to resume terrorist activities.

Earlier this month, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah had said the government had not reached a settlement with the banned outfit, nor had it initiated any sort of formal dialogue with the banned group in the past.

He had said that the military leadership had been authorised to hold dialogue with the TTP under the Constitution, but only with those who were ready to lay down arms and peacefully become a part of society. Sanaullah, however, added there were several factions within the TTP, some of whom wanted reconciliation while some still wanted to fight the Pakistani state.

He had also said that the doors will remain open for those interested in peace and dialogue and at the same time terrorism will be crushed with full force.
 

hydrabadi_arab

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Extornists return? As if extornists came with taliban. KP and especially ex-FATA was hub of all illegal activities, crimes, kidnapping, smuggling under the guise of Jinnah promise of autonomy to crimnal tribes. Taliban is relatively recent phenomena.

If anything Afghan taliban are better then these crimnals from ex-FATA who use religion and name of taliban to justify all sort of crimes.
 

ghazi52

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NATIONAL COUNTER TERRORISM AUTHORITY
GOVERNMENT OF PAKISTAN

NACTA in a report to the National Assembly and Senate has said that the TTP has recently “gained considerable ground and increased its footprint and magnitude of activities” in Pakistan during the recent peace talks...
 

Catalystic

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Didn’t know we have nacta…..anothet useless organisation who wrote a report that everyone already knows.

What an easy job that must be.
 

PakAlp

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The powerful will never destroy the root of the terrorism problem but will just destroy leaves here and there because it benefits them. When have they seriously sanctioned terrorists? Arrested and jailed them, stop their foreign fundings, banned the extremist foreign books they read? Or took action against those who give fatwas? I never seen any serious action.
 

newb3e

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Na, these are just more dramas by Pakistan Army Generals. In fact, TTP is a creation of Army Generals - it has always been. People have been fooled for many decades by these corrupt leeches.
even though you are being sarcastic but you stated a fact!

Army is cancer and protector of corrupts and groups like ttp,mqm,bla etc are their tools!
 

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