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Gandhara Briefing: TTP Peace Deal, Afghan YouTuber's 'Confession,' Forced Evictions


The extremist TTP group has been conducting an insurgency campaign in Pakistan for 14 years. (file photo)

Welcome to Gandhara's weekly newsletter. This briefing brings you the best of our reporting from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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Pakistanis Oppose Taliban Deal

I write about many Pakistanis questioning the concessions Islamabad is offering the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) extremist group during peace talks aimed at ending its 14-year insurgency.

The militants have been blamed for killing tens of thousands of civilians and soldiers. Many critics believe the Islamist group, which is allied with the Afghan Taliban, is irreconcilable.

“This is like rubbing salt into our wounds,” said Fazal Khan, whose son was among 140 schoolchildren killed by TTP militants in Peshawar in 2014. “This is like laughing at the sacrifices and martyrdom of innocent victims [of terrorist] attacks.”

Former lawmaker Afrasiab Khattak said that, after allegedly supporting the Afghan Taliban, which returned to power in August, Pakistan wants to “hand over the former tribal areas” to the TTP in a bid to “force Pashtuns to live under neocolonial conditions.”

Few are convinced that a peace deal with the TTP will end violence in Pakistan. "If the TTP foot soldiers won't benefit from the impending deal, they are likely to switch over to Bahadur's group or move on to join Daesh," said lawmaker Mohsin Dawar, referring to the Islamic State (IS) extremist group.

Hafiz Gul Bahadur, the leader of a breakaway TTP faction, has increased attacks on Pakistani forces even as the mainstream TTP agreed an indefinite cease-fire with Islamabad.

Anger Over Forced YouTuber Confession

RFE/RL's Radio Azadi reports on the outrage over the Taliban’s arrest of popular Afghan YouTuber Ajmal Haqiqi and three of his colleagues, who were charged with “insulting Islam."

The militant group released a video of Haqiqi, who appeared on camera with bruises on his face, apologizing to the Taliban-led government.

Rights groups have accused the Taliban of extracting the so-called confession under duress.

“If it is proved that his confession was forced, it will have no legal value,” said Soraya Pekan, an Afghan legal expert. "The Taliban should clarify what laws they are currently employing.”

Forced Displacement In Baghlan

Radio Azadi reports on residents of the Andarab Valley accusing the Taliban of forcibly evicting hundreds of people from their homes in Baghlan Province.

Baghlan and the neighboring Panjshir Province have been the scene of deadly clashes between the Taliban and an armed opposition group.

The fighting has triggered allegation of widespread Taliban abuses, including extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, torture, and forced displacement.

“They didn’t even allow us to take any of our belongings,” said Ahmad, whose family of six was forced out of the valley last week. "The telecommunications networks are limited here, so people can't get their voices heard. The Taliban can do whatever they want."

Taliban Rule Shatters Afghan Lives

Radio Azadi reports on how Taliban rule has upended the lives of many Afghans. One university student said he was forced to flee his homeland in order to earn a living. Meanwhile, a theater actor said economic hardship compelled him to turn to farming work.

“Economic problems, fear of the Taliban, and no hope for the future prompted me to leave the country," said Abdul Sattar Seerat, who gave up his law degree in Badghis to become a laborer in Iran. More than half of students at the private Hanzaleh University, where Seerat studied, have dropped out after the Taliban seized power.

In Farah, Ghulam Sakhi, a 55-year-old actor, became a tenant farmer after the Taliban banned theater in the province. "I am committed to pursuing this profession, but no one has helped us," he told RFE/RL.

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Yours,
Abubakar Siddique
Twitter: @sid_abu

P.S.: You can always reach us at gandhara@rferl.org.

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