December 11th, 2021
By Arshad Mohmand & Hamid Riaz
A head constable of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) police was martyred when a polio team being escorted by security personnel was attacked by militants in the Chadar area of Tank. Even though District Police Officer (DPO) Tank, Sajjad Sahibzada, has called the militants ‘unknown’ the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has formally accepted responsibility for the attack both through a wire message sent to local journalists and through a press release pinned to their official website.
“A polio team was (apparently) called to a Basic Health Unit (BHU) in the vicinity of the Chadar area of Tank district. While the team, being escorted by security personnel, was on its way to the BHU via the Wana Road it was subjected to a firing raid by assailants on a motorcycle. A head constable of the KP police suffered a fatal head injury when he fell of his bike as a result of the assault and died on the spot. While a Sepoy of the Frontier Corp (FC) was injured in the fire raid and has been shifted to the hospital,” says DPO Sajjad Sahibzada, while talking to VoicePk.net.
When asked about the claim of responsibility made the TTP, Sajjad Sahibzada refused to confirm or deny it’s involvement. “As you are very well aware, investigations of such matters is the preview of the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) not the local police. So for me the assailants remain unknown,” responds Sahibzada in a lighter tone.
On the other hand, the TTP put out a media release claiming that their “Militants have killed (martyred) two police personnel in a fire-raid in Tank,” making no mention of the polio team.
A little over a month ago on November 8th 2021 the Federal Minister for information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry had announced a “complete ceasefire” between the government and the TTP while updating the media on the ongoing negotiations with the TTP. “It is gratifying that these areas of Pakistan are moving towards absolute peace after a long time,” he claimed.
Even before the announcement Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan and President Arif Alvi had made public remarks about willingness to negotiate and even give “general amnesty” to TTP militants who would lay down their arms and submit to the constitution of Pakistan.
The TTP also announced that the first out of a series of meeting aimed at attaining a peaceful settlement took place on October 25th 2021. The negotiations were being mediated by the Afghan Taliban regime, as a neutral third party.
The move was largely criticized by the political opposition, civil society activists and families of the victims of terrorist attacks, including the parents of the Army Public School (APS) martyrs.
Breakdown in negotiations
As recently as last week the federal government released several dozen ‘low level’ militants as part of a deal with the TTP. But this campaign of placation brought the government nothing. On December 9th the TTP put out a press release lambasting the state of Pakistan for repeated treaty violations since 2007 and declaring that an extension to the cease fire, which ended on November 30th was “impossible”.
“We had agreed with the government of Pakistan on a ceasefire from November 1st to November 30th. In return the government was supposed to release 102 of our prisoners which has not materialized. Moreover, the Pakistani side had assured us that after the date of the ceasefire ends both the stakeholders will meet again for further deliberations. We formed a team promptly and completely in accordance with the agreement but the Pakistani side failed to do so,” declared the Taliban while announcing an end to the ceasefire. The group also condemned targeted operations against its members during the ceasefire.
Observers and local sources have both confirmed that today’s attack is the first attack formally owned up to by the TTP after this release, marking a practical end to the ceasefire between the state of Pakistan and the Islamist militant movement.