Galvanised by the return to power of their Afghan counterparts in Kabul and their growing popularity in their own centres of support, the Pakistani Talibans branch – Tehrik-i-Taliban – has become more ambitious. It now plans to organise a series of large demonstrations in this early part of the year against the Imran Kahn government in Pakistan. It is also determined to resist the efforts of the Pakistani intelligence services, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB), to confine their activities in future to the area along the border with Afghanistan.
Nadeem Anjum and Aftab Sultan, who respectively head the ISI and IB, thought they could soften the TTP’s stance thanks to the truce they concluded with the help of the Afghan Talibans in November . That truce was broken on 9 December, however, by TTP militants who showed little inclination to quietly take their place in the Pakistani political landscape. Not content with reviving hostilities, moreover, the TTP took advantage of the situation to demand the liberation of several hundred militants held in Pakistani prisons. The Joint Intelligence Bureau (JIB) and the Joint Intelligence North (JIN), two ISI departments that follow the activities of the TTP closely, were reluctant to agree to the TTP’s demands, however, allowing only a few dozen individuals to leave prison.
Concerned by the growing strength of the Pakistani Talibans, the authorities now intend to contain their expansion by closing off the Durand Line, which forms Pakistan’s 2,600km border with Afghanistan. Unfortunately for them, however, the Afghan Talibans, who still have ISI support, are against the plan to fence off the border and set up technical installations that will cut them off from their Pakistani opposite numbers. There has been an increasing number of clashes in recent weeks, which led to the deaths of four Pakistani soldiers near Peshawar at the end of December. On 4 January, the new masters of Kabul even broke their silence. Maulvi Sanaullah Sangin, the commander of Taliban forces in eastern Afghanistan warned, “We will not allow the fencing anytime, in any form.”