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SOURCE: SUNDAY GUARDIAN LIVE

The Pakistan army is using its long-standing ties with Sirajuddin Haqqani of the Haqqani network to secure a working relationship with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Sources, who are aware of these developments, said that deliberations over the modalities of this new relationship involving the Pakistan army on the one hand, and the Haqqanis and the TPP on the other, have been taking place for the last few months.

Security analysts in India said that once this agreement is in place, the Pakistan army will be using the TTP to carry out attacks in Afghanistan and India.

Among others, former TTP leader Ehsanullah Ehsan, who has escaped from a Pakistan army safe house earlier in January this year, too, has confirmed that the Pakistan army’s talks with the TTP leadership, in which the Haqqanis are mediating, have been going on for the last few months and a “deal” is likely to be finalised soon.

In the past, among other terror attacks, the TTP had claimed the massacre of 144 school children studying at the Army High School, Peshawar. The same TTP—with which the Pakistan army is requesting a “truce” and a new working arrangement by using another high-profile terror group (Haqqanis) as the mediator—was recently accused by the Pakistan security advisor of working on the directions of Indian agencies.

As per Washington-based security watchers, the Haqqani network is the strongest of all the terror groups operating in the region and it is seen, in the books of US agencies, as an extended arm of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the Inter Service Intelligence (ISI).

As per multiple dossiers prepared by US agencies, the ISI uses the influence of Haqqani network and its close ties with Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and TTP, among others, to achieve its own objectives and carry out destabilising activities in Afghanistan and India. In return, the Haqqanis are allowed a safe passage when it comes to delivery of arms and proceeds from drugs, the two things that make the Haqqanis the most potent group. It is because of this protection offered by the ISI and the Pakistan military to the Haqqanis, that despite its best efforts, the US counter-terrorism set-up has not been able to have any impact when it comes to tackling the Haqqani network.

According to sources, the Pakistan army has offered to withdraw troops from the areas dominated by the TTP and allow the TTP cadre to operate peacefully. Another offer that has been given by the Pakistan army and has been accepted by the TTP leadership includes settlement of the TTP cadre in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region, bordering Afghanistan.

The Pakistan army has also offered to fall back to positions where it was pre-August 2007 when a similar truce was in effect, but was broken after the Pakistan army moved into territories controlled by TTP. The Pakistan army mediators have also accepted the proposal of TTP to allow a Shariah system in their area of dominance.

It is pertinent to mention here that earlier this year, the TTP had merged with two similar organisations, the Jamat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) and Hizb-ul-Ahrar (HuA) to strengthen themselves.