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Pakistani Taliban Denies Attack on Karakoram Highway

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Pakistani Taliban Denies Attack on Karakoram Highway

But Pakistan is skeptical. It believes the TTP is using allied groups to carry out attacks to avoid drawing Chinese ire to itself.

Pakistani Taliban Denies Attack on Karakoram Highway

A stretch of the Karakoram Highway, which links Pakistan with China, as seen on May 16, 2016.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Meeran nabi khan

The recent attack on a bus on the Karakoram Highway has raised concerns about the security of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) routes. The attack resulted in the tragic loss of at least nine people, prompting Pakistan to label it as an “act of terrorism.”

Pakistan’s interim Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar denounced the incident and vowed to keep up the fight “against terrorists,” adding that “anti-state elements would not be allowed to sabotage the peace of Gilgit Baltistan.”

The incident has ignited fears regarding the safety and security of CPEC projects, which are vital for the economic development of both Pakistan and China.

The CPEC initiative aims to enhance trade and connectivity between China and Pakistan, bringing numerous benefits to both nations. However, any threats or disruptions along these routes pose significant challenges to its successful implementation.

While no militant group has claimed responsibility for this attack, there have been reports suggesting that Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)-allied groups may be planning to disrupt China’s access to Pakistan by targeting CPEC routes. Particularly alarming is the focus on the northern region, which serves as a crucial connection between China and Pakistan.

A recent report published in The Telegraph claimed that the Pakistani Taliban have threatened to attack Chinese Belt and Road development projects unless Pakistan pays them a 5 percent tax on construction. Pakistan does face challenges with a resurgent TTP, but it is crucial to note that the group has not made any official statements about attacking CPEC projects, nor has it held territory inside Pakistan for several years now. In fact, following an attack on the Karakoram Highway, TTP explicitly denied their involvement.

Moreover, the budding relationship between China and the Afghan Taliban adds another layer of complexity to the situation. The fact that the Afghan Taliban hosts the leadership of TTP raises concerns for Kabul’s rulers, as any attacks by TTP on Beijing’s interests in the region could strain their relationship with China.

It’s interesting to note that TTP denied involvement in the Karakoram Highway attack almost immediately after it took place. This suggests that TTP may not want to be associated with security issues related to the CPEC, which is a crucial aspect of China’s strategic interests in the region.

The recent announcement made by the Afghan Taliban regarding arresting members of TTP showcases an intriguing development. It indicates a potential move towards maintaining ties with Pakistan and its ally, China. Taking action against TTP militants not only helps the Afghan Taliban evade international pressure regarding sanctuaries for militant groups but also keeps relations with China and Pakistan intact.

While the Afghan Taliban claims to be taking action against the TTP, there is skepticism regarding their true intentions. Pakistan remains unconvinced and believes that TTP is utilizing other splinter groups as a means to maintain deniability for their actions.

Recent events have highlighted this uncertainty. Last week, a relatively unknown militant group carried out an attack that resulted in the death of 23 Pakistani soldiers. Although TTP denied any involvement in the attack, Pakistan attributed this attack to the TTP and demanded extradition of the group’s commanders from Afghanistan.

It is important to note that despite these challenges, there are currently no indications of the TTP or its affiliates gaining significant ground or influence to the extent that they can demand ransom from China or Pakistan. However, such attacks can undoubtedly create fear among potential investors and impact economic stability.

Addressing this complex security landscape requires a comprehensive approach that involves intelligence gathering, cooperation between regional stakeholders, and targeted efforts to dismantle all extremist elements operating within and around Pakistan’s borders. By doing so, Pakistan can work towards creating a more secure environment for its citizens and potential investors alike.