ISLAMABAD: In the ongoing terrorism purge the military claims to have cleared 70% of Mirali Town and its adjoining villages which were once the second biggest stronghold of terrorists in North Waziristan Agency. This comes as officials revised downwards the number of internally displaced tribesmen to around half a million.
“After clearing Miramshah, Boya and Degan of terrorists, security forces have cleared 70% of Mirali Town and its adjoining villages, the second largest stronghold of terrorists, till Sunday morning,” the military’s media wing, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), said in the latest updates on Operation Zarb-e-Azb.
A house-to-house search is ongoing in the area, it added. Two huge ammunition factories with stockpiles were recovered on Saturday. Thirty barrels rigged with explosives and chemicals used for making improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were also seized from two underground tunnels during the clearance operation in Mirali.
“A massive IED, weighing 5,000kg was recovered from Boya and subsequently defused by an expert counter-IED team of the Army Engineers,” the ISPR said. The controlled detonation of the device shook the entire agency and the loud bang was heard as far afield as the settled areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
According to the military, a total of 570 terrorists have been killed since the start of Operation Zarb-e-Azb on June 15. Thirty-four troops have also died in the offensive so far, it added.
Similarly, 98 hideouts of terrorists and 30 IED-making factories, three ammunition factories and training centres for suicide bombers have also been decimated. “A huge cache of arms, communication equipment and propaganda literature have been recovered,” the statement added.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the operation would continue till all the objectives were achieved. “Success of Pakistani armed forces in Mirali against terrorists shows the resolve and commitment of our jawans. We have started Zarb-e-Azb to liberate Pakistan from terrorists and our forces will find them from their hideouts,” he said in a statement issued by the PM Office.
Tens of thousands of tribesmen have been displaced by the operation. On July 22, SAFRON Minister Lt Gen (retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch confirmed that over a million IDPs have been registered and warned that the number could go up to two million as the government plans to expand the scope of the operation to the settled areas.
However, government officials said that after verification it transpired that the actual number of IDPs was much less.
“A report of Nadra has been submitted to the PM office regarding the actual number of IDPs after verification from digital NADRA records,” the authority said in a statement. According to details, 94,152 family heads have been registered. Of which, 53,186 were found correct, while the remaining 40,966 were rejected because of (a) duplicate registrations (b) addresses were not from North Wazirstan, and (c) data was wrong or bogus, it added. The average size of the family is eight to 10 members.
The ISPR statement said that distribution of relief items among the IDPs continues in Bannu, DI Khan and Tank. As many as 152,000 ration packs, each weighing 110kg, have been distributed so far. Similarly, 53,000 special Eid packages have been distributed among the IDPs thus far.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 28th, 2014.