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Pakistan is accusing the Taliban of letting militants conduct cross-border attacks

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

When Afghanistan's Taliban seized power in August, many people celebrated it in neighboring Pakistan, including the country's prime minister, Imran Khan. But as NPR's Diaa Hadid reports, Taliban rule hasn't panned out as well as Pakistan might have wished.

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DIAA HADID, BYLINE: A Pakistani military chopper flies us over the dusty, scrubby peaks of the Hindu Kush to Miran Shah. They're taking us on a tour. Militants loyal to al-Qaida, the Taliban and their offshoot, the Pakistani Taliban or TTP, once sheltered around here, slipping in and out of neighboring Afghanistan. But it's been relatively peaceful here since 2014, when thousands of Pakistani soldiers pounded this area to push them out. That operation, called Zarb-e-Azb, is still celebrated in Pakistan.

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UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL ARTIST: (Singing in non-English language).

HADID: But years on, tribal elders say they're still rebuilding after their homes and livelihoods were destroyed in the shelling. They spoke to us at a jirga, or gathering, arranged by the army.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: After the disaster of Zarb-e-Azb, there is - every field is open to you, whether it's health or education, any other development in infrastructure. So we will be very much grateful if you would assist us.

HADID: Elders gather around us.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Non-English language spoken).

HADID: One says his village needs a dispensary. Another asks for the hospital to be upgraded. Army officials say most homes have been rebuilt, and they're establishing schools and bazaars. But these small steps towards normalcy here appear increasingly tenuous. That's because the Taliban's rule has led to an uptick in cross-border attacks in Pakistan, particularly by the TTP, the Taliban's Pakistani offshoot. They've largely targeted security forces, but other groups are also emboldened, like ISIS. Earlier in March, one of their suicide bombers killed more than 60 people in a Shiite mosque.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: (Non-English language spoken).

HADID: It was the deadliest attack here in years. Huma Yusuf, a columnist, says the Taliban's victory created space for militants.

HUMA YUSUF: It created a sort of more permissive environment within which the TTP could start to regroup.

HADID: Army officials say they've mostly regrouped right across the border from Miran Shah. Yusuf says the Taliban won't crack down on those militants targeting Pakistan because they're still trying to assert their control as Afghanistan's rulers.

YUSUF: They're not going to pick fights with other militant groups.

HADID: Pakistani officials like the prime minister, who courts the religious right wing, openly celebrated the Taliban's victory. And the army's been long accused of sheltering Afghan Taliban leaders in Pakistan, even while going after other groups. It's an allegation they deny. Still, Yusuf says...

YUSUF: I think that there was hope that the Afghan Taliban would be more proactive and use their influence over the group to the extent that it exists to sort of stem the tide of attacks.

HADID: If the violence continues, and it is expected to, Yusuf says the army might have to conduct more operations around the border with Miran Shah. That will unravel the fragile gains made here and the hopes of so many for a normal life. Diaa Hadid, NPR News, Miran Shah. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.