The operation Zarb-e-Azb is the most comprehensive and effective military operation against the resurgent terrorist and militant outfits deeply entrenched in Pakistan’s terror-infested tribal areas. The army has successfully dismantled the deeply-rooted organisational structure of terrorists of all strata and flushed the outlawed terror groups out from the area. Due to the grand operation, terrorist and militant attacks have decreased manifold resulting in a kind of relative normalcy across the country. To make the operation a real and meaningful success, the government should introduce socio-economic, political and educational reforms in the long-neglected tribal areas.
Owing to Zarb-e-Azb, incidents of terrorism have shrunk by 65 percent in the last two years; fatalities have dropped by 36.8 percent as compared to the first quarter of the last year; suicide attacks do not occur as a matter of routine anymore and militants do not occupy any territory. Though we still witness some isolated incidents of terrorism, the situation is certainly not as bad as it was before the grand operation.
The ongoing operation in North Waziristan had begun on June 24, 2014 as a crackdown on terrorists who were blatantly using the area as a hub to spread terror all over the country. According to the DG ISPR, during the operation a 3,600-kilometer square area has been cleared of terrorists including Datta Khel, Alora Mandi and Shawal valley; 992 terrorist hideouts have been destroyed and more than 7,500 factories, which manufactured weapons and bullets, have also been destroyed. The Pakistan Army has lost 500 of its brave personnel in the operation while over 3,000 terrorists were killed.
What the incumbent government should take cognizant of is that modern terrorists and militants are adept at employing sophisticated war tactics against their targets. Similarly, the hardened terrorists under the banner of outlawed Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have skilfully shifted their main leadership centre, training camps and fighters to different locations inside Pakistan as well as in Afghanistan. All makes it crystal clear that only grand operation is presumably insufficient to cleanse the country from the menace of entrenched terrorism and militancy. Since terrorism and militancy have morphed into seemingly convoluted security issues on account of modern technology, the government should also fine-tune and diversify its approaches to weed them out in perpetuity.
In Pakistan, assorted terrorist and militant outfits make the most of divergences and imbalance in civil-military relations. Before Zarb-e-Azb, the government showed outright reluctance to allowing the military to crack down against the TTP despite army’s insistence on the use of force. The TTP regrouped itself and flagrantly unleashed a reign of terror while negotiating with the government for tranquillity in the tribal areas. Moreover, the government delayed permitting the army to root out Chhotu gang in Punjab.
Currently, despite Army Chief’s call for a crackdown on massive corruption and implementation of the civilian parts of the National Actions Plan (NAP), the government is still indifferent to discharge its part of the Constitutional responsibility. Therefore, it has instigated distrust and reservations within the Armed forces about the seriousness of the civilian government. Lack of all-out and earnest support from the government’s side has created a string of roadblocks and bottleneck for the army to successfully wrap up the operation. It has become a reality that Pakistan cannot counter rampaging terrorism without forging amicable relations with Afghanistan and India.
If the civilian leadership along with the security establishment had provided India uninterrupted and facilitated land access to Afghanistan for trade and commerce, both India and Afghanistan would have stamped out TTP leader Fazalullah and his commanders based on Afghanistan’s soil.Without rounding up the fugitive TTP head and its hardened fighters, it is arguably futile to conclude the ongoing operation. Therefore, the PML-N should strive to befriend other regional players, including Afghanistan, to increase bilateral trade and coordinate coordinated efforts against the TTP, Daesh and Al-Qaeda.
All successive civilian governments have shown unwillingness to reform the lethargic police of the country. After each military operation, the ill-equipped and poorly-trained police have dismally failed to maintain lasting peace while keeping the militants and terrorists at bay. It is not the Constitutional responsibility of the army to permanently discharge policing duties inside the country. Therefore, to yield lasting benefits from Zarb-e-Azb, the incumbent government must craft new laws, train the force, equip it with all necessary tools and resources so that it can steadfastly and confidently face criminals and non-state actors.
There is no doubt that we are producing terrorists, bigots, militants and insurgents through our outdated and jihad-centric syllabi of seminaries and other educational institution. On the other side, we have employed all our resources to wage a never-ending war against these non-state actors. More alarming is that the state seems rather reluctant to reform such outmoded school materials.
The country’s abysmal socio-economic conditions have undoubtedly afforded a mushrooming ground to terrorists to recruit well-educated and energetic youth all over the country. Almost half of the population lives below the line of poverty. Millions of school-age children are compelled to work in factories and in shops in shabby working conditions. Educated youths become old while searching relevant jobs. A poor plaintiff becomes insolvent and consequently commits suicide due to unjust and expensive justice system of ours.
It is time to ascertain the underlying causes of terrorism and seriously plan while keeping only national interests in mind. The government should begin a counter-terrorism operation within itself by making the legislative, executive and judicial organs fully accountable, responsive, competent and genuine servants of the people. Pakistan should once and for all resolve the issue of the Durand Line with the Afghan government. Over and above, it is imperative to immediately shut down all unregistered seminaries engaged in churning out deadly terrorists. The state’s police force also needs to be reasonably reformed.
— The write is freelance columnist based in Karachi.