The Pakistan Army announced on Friday it has successfully completed the ‘preliminary phase’ of its operation in Shawal Valley, a key location close to the Afghan border where the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had set up its remaining sanctuaries.
Army chief General Raheel Sharif visited the forward-most locations close to the Pak-Afghan border in North Waziristan Agency and congratulated the troops for clearing all peaks around Shawal, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement.
The thickly forested ravines of the valley are a key smuggling route between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and hub of Taliban bases used as launch pads for attacks on Pakistani forces.
After clearing Tirah Valley, security forces launched the ground offensive in Shawal in late May as part of the final phases of Operation Zarb-e-Azb.
The military’s media wing said the formation commander briefed Gen Raheel about progress in Operation Zarb-e-Azb and future plans to clear the remaining pockets of terrorists in Shawal. The army chief commended fighting troops for their professionalism, sacrifices and state of high morale so visible through their operational gains so far.
“It’s a matter of great privilege and honour to be commanding such an accomplished and battle hardened army,” he said. He also appreciated the special integrated teams that had carried out intelligence-based operations (IBOs) across urban areas of Pakistan and severed links between terrorists’ sanctuaries in the remote areas and their sleeper cells in cities.
Gen Raheel directed all concerned to continue these operations to apprehend all terrorists, their facilitators, abettors and financiers from anywhere across the country without any discrimination and irrespective of the cost. “We will not stop until we achieve our end objective of a terror-free Pakistan,” he said.
Gen Raheel also visited Wana, South Waziristan Agency where he was briefed on the ongoing rehabilitation work, and its effects on the social landscape of the area, particularly the relief that they bring to all residents of these regions.
Commending the noteworthy effects of already completed numerous small scale and mega projects, he underscored the importance of capitalising on operational gains to bring lasting peace and prosperity to the region.
Acknowledging the hardships and sacrifices of temporarily displaced persons (TDPs), Gen Raheel emphasised on all stakeholders to ensure TDPs’ expeditious and dignified return to better built and rehabilitated areas for long term stability on the bordering regions of Pakistan. He reiterated that the army will provide assistance in completing all development projects in time.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 4th, 2015.