Pakistan Sends Minister to Kabul as Taliban Offshoot Ends Truce

(Bloomberg) -- Pakistan’s junior foreign minister is in Kabul for talks with the Taliban regime a day after a local offshoot of the militant group ended a cease-fire with the government in Islamabad and announced a resumption of attacks across the nation.

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Hina Rabbani Khar will hold talks with the Afghan government on multiple issues, including security, according to a statement from the Foreign Ministry. The visit follows an announcement by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan ending a monthslong agreement to pause violence and ordering its fighters to resume attacks.

The cease-fire, brokered by the Taliban-run government in Afghanistan, had been in place since May this year.

With the Taliban in control of neighboring Afghanistan, Islamabad has been concerned that a spillover in terror activities could affect investments, including China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which has seen $25 billion poured into power plants and road projects. Pakistan has already faced pressure from Beijing which called on the government to protect such projects after a bus explosion in July last year killed 12 workers, including nine Chinese citizens.

The threat of escalating violence comes as the country is already facing political and economic crises. Former premier Imran Khan has been pressing for early elections and clashing publicly with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s administration and the powerful military.

The government is still to fully assess how much it will spend this year to rebuild the country following the devastating floods this summer. The delay is also holding up a loan disbursal from the International Monetary Fund. The country’s foreign exchange reserves cover about one month of imports, less than the IMF’s three-month benchmark and inflation rose more than expected to about 26.6% in October.

Deadly terrorist attacks in Pakistan increased to the highest level in over four years after the Taliban took power last year. According to the Islamabad-based Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, militant violence spiked by 22% in the past ten months compared to the same period in 2021. A total of 296 attacks have been reported through October this year.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or Pakistani Taliban, has killed more than 70,000 people over the past few decades and engineered some of Pakistan’s worst terrorist attacks, including one on an army school that killed 150 people in Peshawar in 2014. The group operates across the border between the two countries.

--With assistance from Eltaf Najafizada.

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