Operation Zarb-e-Azb will no doubt become another success story like Operation Rah-e-Rast in Swat, once it results in not only the complete destruction of militants’ well-established dens and compounds, but also the disintegration of any unity and order that does exist among them. However, certain doubts and confusion lingering in the minds of tribesmen in particular, are yet to be addressed.
On completion of its one-year anniversary, ISPR Director General Major General Asim Bajwa shared its achievements with the general public through social media with people from different walks of life appreciating these achievements. These achievements have indeed exceeded expectations. The armed forces, through well-planned strategies, not only crushed the resistance, but also left the militants with no option other than to abandon their dens and compounds. Within months, the armed forces had cleared almost all of the Miranshah and Mirali regions. The latest official figures reveal that 2,763 militants have been killed and over 9,000 have surrendered. Around 837 compounds have been razed to the ground and 253 tonnes of explosives seized. All these achievements were made possible in return of the precious lives of the jawans and officers of the armed forces. Like Operation Rah-e-Rast in Swat, the personnel of the armed forces have put their lives at risk while carrying out actions against militants in scattered areas of North Waziristan. The exact figures of martyrs are yet to be made public, but those who sacrificed their lives belong to almost all parts of the country. The entire nation is proud of the brave soldiers who have sacrificed their lives for the country.
It is important to note that the achievements of Operation Zarb-e-Azb are also owed to tribesmen who abandoned their homes, leaving their life savings and belongings behind and becoming internally displaced, especially those belonging to Bannu and adjoining areas. Official estimates reveal that around 106,000 families left homes in North Waziristan and became internally displaced, whereas around 70,000 individuals have crossed the border into Afghanistan. So far, only 1,674 internally displaced families have returned to their homes. The repatriation process of internally displaced persons (IDPs) is in progress, but it seems to be proceeding at too slow a pace. Though the government, the armed forces and civilians have made efforts in being hospitable to the IDPs, the gap between North Waziristan tribesmen and the government has widened. Many tribesmen are unhappy with the government’s attitude whereas the terms and conditions that have been put forward before them in the wake of their rehabilitation in their homes have generated further complications. Almost all tribesmen are reluctant to sign the 28 terms and conditions and view them as harmful to their tribal traditions and norms as well as to basic human rights.
Another aspect to take note of is that leading militants, including Hafiz Gul Bahadur, along with his aides, are still at large. These militants, who either moved across the border or found shelter in forests and the snow-covered Shawal mountains, pose a threat to the lives of tribesmen as well as to peace in the country. Unless the reservations of the tribesmen are addressed, it could be hard for the government and the security forces to ensure a durable solution for peace. Instead of forcibly imposing its own decisions, the government needs to take the tribesmen into confidence regarding future strategies for the region. Like people from the rest of the country, the tribesmen are extremely patriotic and determined to serve their country’s interests. They deserve respect and honour.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2015.