Chief of the Army Staff General Raheel Sharif has said that unabated ceasefire violations by Indian troops along the Line of Control (LoC) and Working Boundary were affecting Pakistan Army’s operations against extremists holed up in the areas near the border with Afghanistan.
The Pakistani military had mounted a massive operation, codenamed Zarb-e-Azb, against Taliban militants and their foreign cohorts in the North Waziristan tribal region in mid-June. Four months later, another offensive was launched in a remote valley of Khyber Agency as an extension of Zarb-e-Azb.
“Indian aggression on the border and hawkish statements by Indian politicians are affecting our operation [against terrorists],” an official in Washington quoted Gen Raheel as telling US officials. The official spoke to BBC Urdu on condition of anonymity.
Gen Raheel said that Pakistan has deployed 140,000 troops on its western border with Afghanistan and expected calm on the eastern border with India – but that didn’t happen. According to BBC Urdu, the reaction of American officials was not immediately known. Defence observers, however, believe Washington doesn’t want to interfere in the bilateral matters between Pakistan and India.
Pakistani and Indian border forces have repeatedly traded fire along the LoC and Working Boundary since October 2. Over a dozen Pakistani civilians have been killed in what Islamabad says ‘unprovoked firing’ by Indian forces. Pakistan has also lodged protests with New Delhi at the diplomatic level over these ceasefire violations which have escalated tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.
Gen Raheel, who is on a seven-day tour of the United States, is also scheduled to meet US Congressmen on Wednesday where he is expected to share details of Operation Zarb-e-Azb. Long-term Strategic Partnership between Pakistan and the United States past 2014 would also be discussed in the meeting. US-led foreign forces are scheduled to pull out of Afghanistan by December 2014.
BBC Urdu quoted defence observers as saying that Gen Raheel could cite Operation Zarb-e-Azb as the basis for continued US military assistance to Pakistan.
According to the Pakistani military’s statistics, more than 1,200 militants have been killed and 200-plus of their hideouts have been destroyed in the five-month campaign in North Waziristan. The military also claims to have eliminated East Turkistan Movement and Haqqani Network from the region. The Haqqani Network, an Afghan Taliban faction, has been blamed by US officials for some of the deadliest attacks on foreign forces in Afghanistan.
Army chief Gen Raheel Sharif was also conferred with US Legion of Merit Medal for “brave leadership, sagacity, vision, efforts for peace and stability in the region”. According to the military’s media wing, the Inter-Services Public Relations, Gen Raheel and his delegation were greeted with a full honour guard at the US Defence Headquarters.
He met Chairman Joint Chief Staff Gen Martin Dempsey, Deputy Secretary of Defence Robert O Works and Commander of the Marine Corps Gen Joseph F Dunford.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 20th, 2014.