Top civil and military officials have sought to dispel media speculation that Operation Zarb-e-Azb will be selective, reiterating that “terrorists of various hue and colour”, including the Haqqani Network, would be targeted.
In his first public statement since the army launched a ground offensive in North Waziristan Agency, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made it clear on Tuesday that the decision to initiate the military operation was taken after careful deliberations.
“All foreign fighters and local terrorists will be wiped out without any exception and no sanctuary will be spared by Pakistan’s armed forces. The state of Pakistan will enforce its writ in the tribal areas,” he said in an official handout issued here. “We have planned for the development of the tribal areas after a successful operation,” he added.
Army chief General Raheel Sharif has already made it clear that the operation was aimed at eliminating terrorists of all hues without any discrimination.
The civil and military leadership’s emphasis on an all-inclusive offensive was an attempt to quash the perception, particularly in Afghanistan, that the Haqqani Network was not the target of Operation Zarb-e-Azb.
The Haqqani Network, which is considered as the deadliest of all Afghan insurgent groups, is said to have established safe havens in North Waziristan and because of ‘strategic interests’, Pakistan’s security establishment in the past was reluctant to take action against them. However, the chief military spokesperson insisted on Tuesday that there would be no discrimination in the ongoing operation.
“The terrorists of various hue and colour are not wearing different caps, so this will be an indiscriminate operation – when they (soldiers) go there they will eliminate everyone without discrimination,” Maj-Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa, the director general of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), told a briefing arranged for the foreign media. “That means any terrorist who is on the soil of Pakistan right now within the area of operation,” he added.
If Pakistani authorities’ claims are to be believed, this would be seen as a paradigm shift in the security establishment’s years-old policy of drawing a distinction between ‘good and bad’ Taliban.
Maj-Gen Bajwa revealed that on Tuesday ground forces raided an ammunition factory in Miramshah, which was manufacturing improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The security forces seized 225 cylinders filled with explosive material, 150 empty cylinders, 400 prepared pallets inserted with nuts and bolts, training literature and 10 anti-tank mines.
In addition, he said, the factory also had a physical training facility and equipment that was used for cutting and welding metal pipes. Two soldiers were killed on the second day of ground operation, he added.
Maj-Gen Bajwa, who was also accompanied by Minister for Information and Broadcasting Parvaiz Rashid and Minister of State for Frontier Regions Lt Gen (retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch, said that no one would be allowed to use Pakistan’s soil for terrorist activities.
Officials said the prime minister’s statement insisting that no terrorist would be spared during the operation was also aimed at conveying a clear message to Kabul, which has often accused Pakistan of harbouring certain Taliban outfits.
Afghan National Security Advisor Rangin Dadfar Spanta during his recent visit to Islamabad delivered a letter on behalf of President Hamid Karzai setting certain preconditions for cooperation with Pakistan. The conditions include taking actions against alleged hideouts of the Haqqani Network in North Waziristan.
On the other hand, Pakistan is seeking tangible action from Afghan authorities against the sanctuaries of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in its north-eastern provinces of Kunar and Nuristan. At Tuesday’s briefing, Maj-Gen Bajwa reiterated Pakistan’s demand that Afghanistan take action against Mullah Fazlullah or hand him over to Islamabad. Meanwhile, the Foreign Office strongly rejected the latest allegations by certain Afghan officials linking Pakistani security forces with the armed clashes in Helmand province.
“We reject these allegations as completely baseless,” Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam said in statement. At a time when Pakistan is engaged in serious efforts with Afghanistan to address common challenges, it is imperative to refrain from making comments that would undermine efforts to create an environment conducive for positive and productive engagement, she said.
Helping the IDPs
Tens of thousands of tribesmen have been displaced by the ongoing operation. According to a daily situation report issued by Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), a total of 38,155 families and 469,357 individuals have been registered until Tuesday. The provincial government has released Rs349 million to the PDMA for establishing camps in Bannu city.
Meanwhile, the DG health services also paid a visit to Bannu and formed teams to provide round-the-clock emergency care to the IDPs, such as treatment for sunstroke, body aches, cramps, and polio vaccination.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 2nd, 2014.