Operation Zarb-e-Azb, the comprehensive operation against foreign and local terrorists who are hiding in North Waziristan, has entered its second month. Official sources claim to have destroyed the command and control system of militants. More than 400 terrorists have been killed and a large cache of arms and ammunition has also been recovered. Miramshah, the headquarters of the agency, has been cleared and the operation is going on to clear other areas.
However, apart from Adnan Rasheed, hardly any other high-profile terrorist has been arrested or killed in this operation so far. This gives credence to the claims of the critics that most of the terrorists fled the area before the operation was launched and have taken refuge in Afghanistan as well as other areas of Pakistan. But the biggest problem of the operation is the resettlement and rehabilitation of internally displaced persons (IDPs). So far, more than 800,000 IDPs have been registered. It is not easy to accommodate such a large number of IDPs. The strained relations between the federal and provincial governments is making the situation even more complicated. Both criticise each other for not doing enough.
Once the current operation ends, those hiding in other parts of the country must also be cleansed. The killing of militants in Lahore near the prime minister’s house proves their spread across the country — and that they are actively planning attacks. Security officials should also be vigilant to check any infusion of terrorists under the garb of IDPs. Though militants have not been able to carry out any major attack since the start of the operation, we should not underestimate their strength nor overlook the fact that they have sympathisers in all walks of life. Madrassas in particular have unfortunately become the nurseries for militants and there is an urgent need to bring them under government control.
Militants are also believed to be hiding in Afghanistan; Mullah Fazlullah and other high-profile militants are believed to be hiding there. Pakistan has asked Afghanistan several times to hand over Fazlullah and others, but without any success, and since there are fears of the Taliban getting stronger in Afghanistan, particularly following the country’s controversial elections, it seems unlikely that the Afghan government will hand over Fazlullah.
Pakistan should raise this issue at all international forums. And if there are militants hiding inside Pakistan who are involved in some kind of terrorist activities within Afghanistan, we should hand them over to Kabul. Both countries should jointly fight this war against terrorism. Militant safe heavens should be dismantled and there should be a road map to cross-border coordination to fight this menace. It is pertinent for the stability and prosperity of the region.
Though this operation should have been launched long ago, for one reason or the other, it had been delayed. But following the attack on the Karachi airport, the government was left with no option but to opt for the operation. Pakistan has suffered a lot due to terrorism; its image has been tarnished; tens of thousands of people have been killed; no foreign investment is coming our way. Owing to energy deficit coupled with the worsening security situation, even local investors are moving out of the country.
Operation Zarb-e-Azb is very important for our survival. The prosperity and the future of Pakistan depends on its success. The good thing is that there is broad-based consensus among civil society, political parties and the media about it.
However, at this critical juncture, the country cannot afford any political instability, as it would help the militants. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has decided to launch a long march on August 14 to protest against the alleged poll rigging. Processions, strikes, and protests are the right of any political party. However, they should not create a law and order situation. As it is, the government has already created a lot of problems for itself by using unwarranted and unjustifiable power in Model Town incident in Lahore. The country cannot afford such incidents. Any attempt to use force to stop the long march can be detrimental; such issues must be addressed politically. Considering our security agencies are fighting a very difficult war, we must sustain the national consensus against militants, for any kind of instability will only help our enemies.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2014.
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