The Pakistan Army said on Monday it had for the first time deployed a locally manufactured drone which killed three ‘high-profile’ terrorists in a strategic valley of North Waziristan Agency, in what one analyst termed a ‘significant development’ for the country’s defence capabilities.
“The first-ever use of Pakistan-made Burraq drone on Monday. Hit a terrorist compound in Shawal Valley, killing three high-profile terrorists,” said Inter-Services Public Relations’ (ISPR) Director General Maj Gen Asim Salim Bajwa in a message on micro-blogging website Twitter.
Shawal Valley, situated on the confluence of borders between North and South Waziristan tribal agencies near the border with Afghanistan, has seen some of the fiercest fighting between Pakistani troops and the Taliban since the launch of Operation Zarb-e-Azb in mid-June, last year.
Pakistan reportedly started work on the armed drone capability back in 2009. In March this year, the indigenously-developed armed drone and its laser-guided missile Burq were successfully tested. Army chief General Raheel Sharif had commended the engineers and scientists involved in the development of Burraq for their untiring efforts to acquire the latest technology.
So far, the United States, Israel, Great Britain and Pakistan have used armed drones in combat, according to a report by the New America Foundation, though several other countries are developing their own programmes, including Pakistan’s arch-rival India.
Shaukat Qadir, a retired brigadier-turned-analyst, said: “It’s a significant development. We have been hearing about the development of this weapon system for quite some time. “It had been tested successfully and now it had been put in to use and it has found its target and hit it.”
Qadir added that Pakistani drones were now set to play an ‘important role’ in its more than a decade-long battle against the Taliban insurgency within its borders.
Pakistan publicly opposes US drone strikes in the tribal areas but has long been seeking the technology from Washington. The drone strike also suggests a shift in Pakistan’s policy in terms of using armed drones. Islamabad has long maintained that the US drone policy is counter-productive because of its collateral damages.
General Raheel visits Swat
Army chief General Raheel Sharif visited Kalam Festival on its concluding day on Monday.
According to the ISPR, the army chief appreciated the people of Swat for playing a vital role in supporting security forces in the restoration of peace in the area and bringing festivals and tourism back to the valley, where a massive military operation was carried out in May 2009 to flush out militants.
Gen Raheel said dark-age of terrorism prevailed in Malakand division, to which Swat is a part, a few years back and it had become impossible to hold such functions in Swat. “But sacrifices and firm commitment of the valiant soldiers of Pakistan Army, civil forces and the local people eliminated terrorism from Malakand division,” he said.
Expressing hope that tourism would flourish in the valley, General Raheel assured that the army would always stand by people of Swat and help build capacity of civilian institutions. He reiterated that terrorists would not be allowed to return to these areas and disrupt peace and stability of Swat. The army chief also appreciated the organisers for arranging such an ‘excellent event’.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 8th, 2015.