February 1, 2023
Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers Wednesday rejected allegations their territory was used in this week’s mosque bombing in Pakistan, urging the neighboring country to thoroughly investigate such terror acts before blaming others.
Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi told a gathering in the capital, Kabul, that Pakistani officials should find a solution to their security challenges locally and desist from “sowing the seeds of enmity” between the two Muslim countries.
No group has claimed responsibility for Monday’s bombing of a crowded mosque in the highly guarded provincial police headquarters in the Pakistani city of Peshawar. The ensuing blast killed more than 100 people, mostly police personnel, injured many more and demolished the upper story of the building.
Pakistani authorities were quick to blame the outlawed Pakistani Taliban, also called Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), for what they said was a suicide bomb attack and suggested the violence emanated from Afghanistan.
“We advise them to conduct a thorough investigation into the Peshawar bombing,” Muttaqi said Wednesday. “Our region is used to wars and bomb blasts. But we have not seen in the past 20 years a lone suicide bomber blowing up roofs of mosques and killing hundreds of people.”
Muttaqi echoed suspicions and questions being raised by critics in Pakistan in the wake of the large scale destruction caused by the blast.
The TTP, designated a global terrorist group by the United States, has long been conducting deadly terrorist attacks in Pakistan and its leadership allegedly directs the violence from Afghan sanctuaries. But the Pakistani Taliban has formally denied involvement in the Peshawar mosque bombing.
Moazzam Jah Ansari, the provincial police chief, told reporters Tuesday that a suicide bomber had entered the mosque as a guest, using up to 12 kilograms of explosive material earlier brought to the site in bits and pieces.
Investigators said Wednesday they had arrested several suspects in connection with the deadly bombing. Provincial police officials said they had recovered the remains of the attacker but shared no other details. They did not rule out the possibility that the bomber had internal assistance evading security checks.
Pakistan’s military was frequently accused of sheltering Afghan Taliban leaders and fighters while they were waging insurgent attacks, including suicide bombings, against U.S.-led international forces in Afghanistan for almost two decades.
The Taliban regained control of Afghanistan in August 2021 as the U.S. and allied nations withdrew troops from the country.
Since then, Islamabad has deepened economic and trade cooperation with the cash-strapped Islamist Taliban leadership in Kabul to help it deal with financial troubles stemming from sanctions and international isolation of the Afghan banking sector.
However, a spate of recent terrorist attacks in Pakistan, mostly claimed by the TTP, has strained relations between the two countries.
Islamabad and the global community at large have not yet recognized the Taliban as legitimate rulers, mainly over human rights issues and their restrictions on women’s access to public life and education.
U.S. officials are also skeptical of the Taliban’s pledges against terrorism and continue to press them to prevent the use of Afghan soil for cross-border attacks. Taliban authorities reject the skepticism and so did Muttaqi while responding to the Pakistani allegations Wednesday.
“Don’t point fingers at Afghanistan. If Afghanistan were a center of terrorism then it would also have hit China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Iran. Today, all these countries are safe and so is Afghanistan,” asserted the Taliban foreign minister.