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Utkarsh Dwivedi asked: What is the fundamental difference between the Pakistani Taliban and the Afghan Taliban?

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  • Ashok Kumar Behuria replies: Disparate Taliban (plural) groups, operating inside Pakistan, came together towards the close of 2007 to form Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

    TTP is a radical conglomerate, wedded to the idea of bringing Sharia rule to Pakistan. They are close to the Haqqani group, an important constituent of the Afghan Taliban. Haqqanis are known to be ideologically intolerant and Wahabi in their outlook.

    Like the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban advocate a radical Deobandi line bordering on Wahabism, which is aggressively puritanical in content. Similarly, like al Qaeda, the Pakistani Taliban owe their allegiance to the leader (Amir) of the Afghan Taliban movement. While Afghan Taliban deny any link with al Qaeda, post-911, and have assured the United States of not harbouring al Qaeda in Afghanistan if they return to power in Kabul, the Pakistani Taliban maintain close nexus with al Qaeda in the Pakistan-Afghanistan borderlands. Interestingly, while some groups within TTP go further than al Qaeda in their radical orientation, and are intensely sectarian in their outlook, much like Daesh or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Afghan Taliban have back-pedalled on their sectarian (anti-Shia) agenda, which had led them to unleash massive genocidal attacks on Afghan Shias (especially, the Hazaras) in the early 1990s. 

    An important difference between the two Taliban groups is their diametrically opposite views of the Pakistani Army. While the Afghan Taliban maintain close links with the Pakistani Army, the Pakistani Taliban consider Pakistan Army as un-Islamic, munafiqin (hypocritical) and wajib-ul-qatal (fit to be eliminated). Ironically, this complexity continues to remain unresolved because Pakistani Army has not been able to tame the TTP despite its well-known influence and control over the Afghan Taliban, to whom the Pakistani Taliban owes its allegiance, and also despite the fact that it might be maintaining its links with some groups affiliated to TTP.    

    Posted on February 16, 2021

    Views expressed are of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manohar Parrikar IDSA or the Government of India.