Terrorism & Zarb-e-Azb operation
AFTER the sudden American with drawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban revival, the specter of terrorism in the form of TTP looms large on the horizon of Pakistan.
It was only after the brutal and heart-breaking attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar on Dec 16 2014 that the Pakistani leadership finally gave up the ridiculous policy of good Taliban and bad Taliban and a comprehensive military operation against the TTP was launched to root out this evil from the soil of Pakistan.
Operation Zarb-e-Azb, an all-out operation in North Waziristan Agency was launched against the hideouts and base of the TTP.
Pakistan army under this operation targeted the menace of terrorism without the old philosophy of some factions of the Taliban classified as good Taliban.
This operation was not only against the TTP but also against all foreign terrorists under the umbrella of Islamic Jihad such as Al-Qaeda, East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), Jundullah, Haqqani Network, Laskar-e-Jhangvi and a few other Islamic militant groups operating from the North Waziristan agency.
Before the launch of the operation a serious attempt had been made to start a dialogue or peace talks with the TTP and the Taliban Shura had officially nominated Imran Khan as their sole representative.
The dialogue could not be started due to the arrogance of the TTP leaders and only then it was decided to launch a military operation the brainchild of General Raheel Shareef the army chief at that time who emphasized on the officers and men to eliminate all local and foreign terrorists and their sanctuaries on our soil.
The Zarb-e-Azb operation was successful in targeting and rooting out a large number of terrorists and their supporters and facilitators from the (former) FATA areas of North and South Waziristan but also resulted in the top leadership of the TTP and some hard-core terrorists to escape to Afghanistan and find safe havens and the serious lack of coordination between the Pakistani authorities and Afghanistan government regarding the escaping militants from Pakistan into the safe areas in Afghanistan resulting in the adjacent Afghan territory becoming a new North Waziristan as Islamist militants pushed out by Zarbe-Azb took refuge there.
The government of Ashraf Ghani had not been taken into confidence and the result was complete non-cooperation from the Afghan security forces to prevent the escape of TTP militants into safe havens in Afghanistan.
This operation was a resounding success and just one year after the launch of the operation in North Waziristan, by April 2015 the army had cleared about 80% of the area including five major cities of Miran Shah, Mir Ali, Datta Khel, Boya and Degan.
The Pakistan army managed to kill about 2763 militants, destroyed 837 deeply entrenched hide-outs and conducted 9000 intelligence based operations with the loss of 226 lives from the officers and jawans of the Army.
During this operation the army also destroyed huge quantities of arms and ammunition and captured around 18087 weapons and tons of explosives.
This operation resulted in a flood of internally displaced persons or IDPs that was a huge financial burden on the government IDPs were hurriedly accommodated in some settled areas and a barrage of criticism was faced by the government of the day.
The operation definitely led to a positive impact on Pakistan’s foreign policy and its image in the international community.
Firstly, it improved the inland home security hazard, secondly, it enriched Pakistan’s image among neighbouring countries, thirdly, it reinforced Pakistan’s anti-terrorism stance fourthly it strengthened Pakistan-China relations and facilitated China’s concerns over CPEC. This operation played a pivotal role in strengthening ties between Pakistan and China.
Lastly, the operation was also significant in the prevailing scenario of Afghanistan-Pakistan relations.
The Taliban are back in Afghanistan and this time with new political intentions and with the hope of forming an inclusive government along with the Haqqani Network and the Hizb-i-Islami.
They appear to mend their old ways and allow female education and women employment but it has to be seen if they honour their pledges and prevent the TTP to launch their deadly attacks against Pakistan from the safety of Afghan soil.
The state of security in Pakistan may need another comprehensive operation in areas bordering Afghanistan if and only if the new government of the Taliban does not honour its pledge to prevent the TTP from using safe havens in Afghanistan.
Pakistani security agencies will have to be on their toes again to curtail terrorism, to root out the menace of the TTP and to stop foreign intervention through the borders of Afghanistan.
The TTP and the Afghan Taliban have always been hand in glove. Their political ideology and future plans are exactly the same as both are ardent believers in the imposition of the rule of their own version of Sharia and now with the reincarnation of the Afghan Taliban and their acceptance by the world community, the zero tolerance policy towards the TTP and its local supporters and facilitators will have to be imposed with full force or Pakistan will once again become a victim of the ruthless horror and carnage unleashed by the TTP in the recent past.
—The writer is Professor of History, based in Islamabad.