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Pakistan to appeal to Taliban leader over police mosque bombing

Islamabad will ask the secretive supreme leader of Afghanistan’s Taliban to rein in militants in Pakistan after a suicide bombing.

Police officers and residents of Karachi pay tribute to the victims of Monday's suicide bombing at a mosque in Peshawar
Police officers and residents of Karachi pay tribute to the victims of Monday's suicide bombing at a mosque in Peshawar - Copyright AFP Asif HASSAN
Police officers and residents of Karachi pay tribute to the victims of Monday's suicide bombing at a mosque in Peshawar - Copyright AFP Asif HASSAN

Islamabad will ask the secretive supreme leader of Afghanistan’s Taliban to rein in militants in Pakistan after a suicide bombing killed scores of police in a mosque, officials said Saturday.

Since the Taliban returned to power in Kabul, Pakistan has witnessed a dramatic uptick in attacks in regions bordering Afghanistan, where militants use rugged terrain to stage assaults and escape detection.

Detectives have blamed an affiliate of the Pakistani Taliban — the most notorious militant outfit in the area — for the Monday blast in Peshawar which killed 84 people inside a fortified police headquarters.

The Pakistani Taliban share common lineage and ideals with the Afghan Taliban, led by Hibatullah Akhundzada who issues edicts from his hideaway in the southern city of Kandahar.

Special assistant to Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Faisal Karim Kundi, said delegations would be sent to Tehran and Kabul to “ask them to ensure that their soil is not used by terrorists against Pakistan”.

A senior Pakistani police official in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province where Monday’s blast took place told AFP the Kabul delegation would hold “talks with the top brass”.

“When we say top brass, it means… Afghan Taliban chief Hibatullah Akhundzada,” he said on condition of anonymity.

Afghan officials did not immediately respond to AFP’s request for comment.

But on Wednesday Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi warned Pakistan should “not pass the blame to others”.

“They should see the problems in their own house,” he said. “Afghanistan should not be blamed.”

During the 20-year US-led intervention in Afghanistan, Islamabad was accused of giving covert support to the Afghan Taliban even as the country proclaimed a military alliance with the United States.

But since the ultra-conservatives seized Kabul in 2021, relations with Pakistan have soured, in part over the resurgence of the Pakistani Taliban, also known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

The TTP — formed in 2007 by Pakistani militants who splintered off from the Afghan Taliban — once held sway over swathes of northwest Pakistan but were routed by an army offensive after 2014.

But over the first year of Taliban rule, Pakistan witnessed a 50 percent uptick in militant attacks, concentrated in the border regions with Afghanistan and Iran, according to the Pak Institute for Peace Studies.

The TTP, notorious for shooting schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, has “arguably benefitted the most of all the foreign extremist groups in Afghanistan from the Taliban takeover”, a UN Security Council report said in May 2022.

Last year Kabul brokered peace talks between Islamabad and the TTP but the shaky truce collapsed.

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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