Fear, calm prevail at Pakistan-Afghan Torkham border
Torkham, September 6, 2021
The ousting of the Ashraf Ghani government in Afghanistan and the fast-paced takeover by the Taliban has certainly pushed the global powers into a state of shock. The Taliban took control of Afghanistan in an offensive that took less than 20 days to not only force foreign forces out of the country, but also stormed into Kabul with the Ghani government and its security forces either fleeing or surrendering to the insurgents without any notable resistance.
The Taliban, after taking over control in Afghanistan, freed all Taliban prisoners, including many senior leaders of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
This has allowed or at least has given the opportunity to the Pakistani Taliban militants to re-activate their sleeper cells and re-emerge in different parts of Pakistan, majority of which are along the border with Afghanistan.
In the Torkham border, which has served as a major trade route for NATO supplies for decades, local residents of the area are fearful of the coming days, which may see a re-emergence of the Taliban, bringing back haunting memories of the past.
Wali Khan, a local resident of a small town, located at the edge of the Torkham border, says he fears for his and his family's well-being as movement of TTP militants is visibly increasing in the area.
"We have seen TTP militants in the past. However, they vanished or went underground for some time. But, now with Taliban government taking control across the border, I see new faces moving around in the area again," he said.
"We know they are Taliban. They move in the local vicinity unarmed for the moment. But I know and everyone else knows that they are the Taliban. Maybe they are just waiting for a green signal from across the border. But they are very much here," he added.
"Since the time Taliban have taken over, our lives have already started to come under stress", said Jan Muhammad, another local resident of LandiKotal, the last main city on the Pakistan side.
"Me and my children used to cross over the border for work. We used to work in a warehouse there. But now that the border is closed for movement, we are left jobless," he added.
One resident said that the Pakistani Taliban have always been there in the bordering areas and have been moving back and forth in an out of Afghanistan.
"The Taliban have always been here. Be it Afghans or Pashtuns, they have been living among the localities. But now, we can see them regrouping themselves. This is scary as we have seen them and their activities in the past," said Sharbat Khan, a shop owner in Landikotal.
The TTP re-emergence certainly is becoming a major challenge for the Pakistani security forces.
With the Afghan Taliban eyeing at a permanent government formation in Kabul, the Pakistani Taliban regrouping and re-emergence may just trigger a new wave of terror in the country.