Afghan Taliban turn blind eye to Pakistani militants

Each year on Jan 17, Shahana bakes a cake and invites friends to her home in Peshawar. They sing happy birthday for her son, even light a candle. But it’s a birthday without the birthday boy.

Her son, Asfand Khan, was 15 in December 2014 when gunmen rampaged through his military-run Army Public School in Peshawar killing 150 people, most of them students, some as young as five. Asfand was shot three times in the head at close range.

The attackers were Pakistani Taliban, representing the proscribed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), who seven years later have once again ramped up their attacks, seemingly emboldened by the return of Afghanistan’s Taliban to power in Kabul.

In the last week of December, they martyred six Pakistani army personnel over two attacks, all in the country’s northwest.

The TTP is regrouping and reorganising, with its leadership headquartered in neighbouring Afghanistan, according to a UN report from July. These developments are raising alarm among Pakistanis like Shahana of a return of the horrific violence the group once inflicted.

While the Afghan Taliban have said their soil won't be used to attack other countries and also rejected TTP's claim of being a "branch of IEA", they have shown no definitive signs of expelling TTP leaders, even as Pakistan leads an effort to get a reluctant world to engage with Afghanistan’s new rulers and salvage the country from economic collapse.