Military commanders on Monday, August 11, reviewed the progress of Operation Zarb-e-Azb. Thus far, there has been almost no independent reporting of the operation, and such information as does come into the public domain comes via the very active filter of the military media wing, the Inter-services Public Relations (ISPR). The ISPR briefed the media after the meeting. Of particular interest was the report that all those participating “vowed that terrorists will not be allowed to regroup and return to these areas” (the areas ‘cleared’ of terrorists) — and “neither will they be allowed any space across the country”. These are welcome words, which this newspaper wholeheartedly endorses.
The denial of space and support to terrorists after any clearance operation is crucial to long-term success. All too often in the past, there have been operations, often costly in terms of men and material, only to find that within weeks or months, the terrorists were back. That must not be allowed to happen, particularly given the immense suffering being endured by the internally displaced persons, who have lost almost everything in support of a military goal. Failing to hold, once taken, would do a yet greater disservice to these benighted peoples.
Careful note must also be taken of the phrase “neither will they be allowed any space across the country”. If this is a hint of operations yet to come to tackle the well-embedded extremist and terrorist outfits that infest south Punjab in particular, then again, this is a welcome move. Army chief General Raheel Sharif underscored the need for long-term counter-terrorism and counter-extremism measures, both subjects on which there has been much foot-dragging by the current government. The military is seen to be doing its job and it is now up to the civilian government to summon the political will — and the backbone — to fight the cancer that sits in our midst and blights the lives of so many. Rolling back the years of turning a blind eye to the activities of extremist outfits will be difficult and it remains to be seen whether the government will display the same courage, as does the army.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2014.
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