“Emboldened” Pakistan Taliban raises fears for Christians near Afghan border
The Pakistan Taliban (the Tehrik-e-Taliban or TTP) has increased its activity in the areas bordering Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover of Pakistan’s neighbour.
The TTP is separate from the Afghan Taliban, though the two organisations are allied and share a common extreme Islamist ideology.
The increase in activity – including attacks on military personnel as well as extorting money from local people and businesses, and killing those who refuse – raises fears for Christians living in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and other border areas.
“The Afghan Taliban’s stunning success in defeating the American superpower has emboldened the Pakistani Taliban,” said Brian Glyn Williams, a professor of Islamic history at the University of Massachusetts.
He added, “They now seem to believe they too can wage a successful jihad against the Pakistani ‘infidel’ state and have returned to insurgency mode.”
The aim of a TTP insurgence would be to replace the present government of Pakistan with one more fully based on sharia (Islamic law), as the Taliban have announced they will do in Afghanistan. A poll surveying a sample of 2,170 Pakistanis found that 55% of respondents would favour such an “Islamic government”.
As a first step the TTP aims to take control of the tribal regions near the Durand Line – the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan which was formalised in 1893 and which split tribal groups such as the Pashtuns. These are the areas of Pakistan where the Taliban are strongest.
TTP leader Noor Wali Mehsud described the Taliban victory in Afghanistan as a “victory for the entire Muslim people”, adding, “We are hoping to take control of Pakistan's border tribal regions and make them independent.”
Both the government and army of Pakistan are in a much stronger positon to repel a Taliban insurgency than were their Afghan counterparts.
Nevertheless, the spectre of TTP control of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa or northern Balochistan raises fears for Christians living in those areas that they, like believers in Afghanistan, will be subject to strict sharia law or even attacked and killed for their Christian faith.