NEWS & VIEWS
IN mid-June 2014, Operation Zarb-i-Azb was launched by Pakistan Armed Forces against TTP, Al-Qaeda, East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETM) and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) in North Waziristan Agency (NWA). The entire nation including political leadership stood behind the Pak Army; and even those who have been opposing the military operation due to one reason or another supported the operation. Some sceptics have been creating doubts about the capability of the armed forces to fight the militants armed with sophisticated weapons supplied by the intelligence agencies of the hostile countries. They opined that in the event of military operation in NWA, militants would retaliate and cause enormous death and destruction. But they were proven wrong, as military decimated the TTP and other militants’ networks, which even 150000 NATO forces and 250000 Afghan forces could not do in Afghanistan.
Some political and religious parties had the penchant to hold dialogue with the militants. Of course, military was able to convince political leadership that militants would not hold meaningful talks with the government, as they had their own agenda. Earlier, militants continued attacking and killing civilians and members of law enforcing agencies even during meetings between the negotiating teams nominated by the TTP and the government. More than 5000 personnel of law enforcing agencies have been martyred and many more wounded since joining the war on terror, and this figure exceeds the number of martyred in wars with India. Elected and military leaderships had realized that in the event militants continued with their vile acts while showing their desire to hold dialogue with the government, it was just to gain time and reorganize; so why not to take them head on. Anyhow, a lot has to be done in implementation of National Action Plan. Civil administration needs to be activated to play their role while Pak Army fights the war. Operation Zar-i-Azb was launched to get rid of terrorists hiding in NWA, and Pakistan Army with help of Tribals has been able to change NWA into a peaceful area. Pak Army always stood by Tribal brothers in hard times, and had established “Army Relief Fund” for IDPs. After military launched a major operation against local and foreign militants in North Waziristan, it sealed off the area and asked the Afghan National Army to plug possible escape routes across the border. But Afghanistan did not listen to the sincere advice. The operation against terrorists was decided after militants stormed the country’s biggest Karachi airport killing 30 people including security officials.
The airport attack had invited public wrath and called for a major ground assault. The country had been all over in the tight grip of a vicious multifaceted terrorism, but it was the northwestern tribal area where the battle of Pakistan in reality was fought. The political parties were divided over operation in North Waziristan, and wanted to give dialogue another chance. But the TTP had come up with the conditions no government worth the name would accept. It stood exposed when committee nominated by the government and the committee nominated by the TTP met, and the latter demanded release of the jailed militants, withdrawal of military from FATA and to clear specific area for talks with the government.
Some terror apologists had been raising concerns about the blow-back of the militants if the operation in North Waziristan was launched, creating doubts about the military’s ability to decimate militants and to destroy their hideouts. They did not realize that even during talks, terrorists had continued with their killing spree. But Pakistan army proved the skeptics wrong by giving practical demonstration of its ability, capability and willingness to accept the challenge posed by terrorists. Earlier, military had cleared Swat, Bajaur and other areas within a short span of time. In Pakistan, victims of terror attacks and suicide bombings have invariably been innocent men, women and even children. The families of these victims mourn and raise a question asking for what crime their loved ones were punished in a way that the scattered pieces of their dead bodies were assembled to bury.
Those who tried to justify terrorism and suicide bombings in the name of Islam were undoubtedly misguided people; and they were at a loss to understand as to who they should talk to, as there were many groups operating independently. In Afghanistan, one knew that there was a chain of command in the Afghan Taliban and they all owed their allegiance to Mullah Umer; whereas in Pakistan there was no such chain of command. Anyhow, operation in NWA was successfully completed and the area cleared. However, it is the responsibility of federal and provincial governments to activate intelligence set up – police, special branch and CID – which has not been working efficiently and effectively. In order to clear Pakistan of terrorists, Pakistan Army launched “Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad” across the country in February 2017.
The objective is to indiscriminately eliminate the remnants of terrorists groups and consolidate the gains made in earlier military operations. Pakistan Air Force, Pakistan Navy, Civil Armed Forces (CAF) and other security and law enforcing agencies (LEAs) are actively participating in the operation and support the armed forces’ efforts to eliminate the menace of terrorism from the country. The decision to mount the operation was taken at a high-level meeting chaired by army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the corps headquarters in Lahore, which was attended by the head of Punjab Rangers and officials of intelligence agencies. Significantly, the focus of the countrywide offensive is Punjab.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.