The peace-talks with Taliban are over and the military has stepped in North Waziristan. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that “Pakistan will no more be allowed to become a sanctuary for the terrorists”. The military operation named ‘Zarb-e-Azb’, in North Waziristan, is a unanimous politico-military initiative launched at terrorists. COAS, General Raheel Sharif stated “all terrorists along with their sanctuaries would be eliminated and the operation is not targeted against the valiant tribes of North Waziristan but against those terrorists who are holed up in the agency and have picked up arms against the state of Pakistan”. When the announcement was made that military action would be taken in North Waziristan, there appeared consensus in the country. Everybody is supporting the military operation and views it essential to weed out terrorism from the country and liberate the society from this menace.Tribal elders of North Waziristan have also assured their support to the military operation.
As per the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) release “Many tribal elders from around Miranshah, Mir Ali, Datta Khel assure support to army operation,” “they have assured not to let the militants return to the area”.Political government tried to negotiate with the Taliban leadership, but the terrorist attacks in the country continued. Since January till June, 20 major terrorist attacks have been reportedand approximately 195 people have been killed. The latest attack was on the Karachi Airport. Tehreek-Taliban-Pakistan (TTP) and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) were behind the attack. IMU Chief Usman Ghani gave a statement “This martyrdom operation was carried out to avenge the bombings by Pakistan fighter jets in Waziristan”. Air strikes on terrorists’ hideouts in North Waziristan Agency killed 60 terrorists including some commanders and foreigners. After the attack on the Karachi airport, it was felt that it is high time that the disgruntled elements, who in the name of religion have killed thousands of innocents should be taught a lesson and writ of the state should be strengthened.
North Waziristan is home to local as well as foreign miscreants. Clearing the area from the terrorists and establishing writ of the government might take few weeks or months. Pakistan military have confronted similar offensives in Swat and South Waziristan, and was successful in fleeing the terrorists from the area. However, the war will not remain confined in the tribal belt, rather there would be retaliatory attacks in the cities, towns and villages of the country, and to counter these would be an arduous task.For that matter, Rangers, Police and other security agencies have to be on high alert to thwart any untoward incident. Taliban would also try to mould the public opinion through projection of their religious views. To counter their ideological / religious belief, media has to play a pivotal role. In this regard religious scholars through various media channels should counter this extremist ideology and tell the public that Islam is a religion of peace and the teachings of Taliban are against the essence of Islam and jihad. It should also be highlighted that Pakistan has stood by the international community in the fight against terrorism. Nearly, 50,000 Pakistanis have lost their lives in the terrorist attacks, but still people are determined to fight terrorism.
Another important angle in this operation is, how it is being seen by the regional and international actors. “The US and NATO military commander in Afghanistan, Marine General Joseph Dunford, was quoted as saying that they had increased its surveillance over the Pak-Afghan border but had not yet seen militants fleeing North Waziristan”.How the Afghan government has reacted? Since the US led War on Terror (WoT), Afghan leadership has been blaming Pakistan for sponsoring radicalism and terrorism on Afghan territory. After the launch of operation in North Waziristan, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called President Hamid Karzai and requested the Afghan government to beef up security on its side of the Pak-Afghan border; the aim was to prevent militants fleeing from Pakistan to enter Afghanistan. In response, the press release issued by the President’s office in Kabul stated “both sides would have to sincerely take action against the terrorists and militants on their side of the border to tackle militancy and terrorism”. In another interview with the BBC Karzai said “the war on terror being waged by the US led NATO forces for more than a decade in Afghanistan should have been fought outside his country’s borders and not in Afghan villages and homes”.
Once the North Waziristan has been cleared off militants, the next step should be the economic empowerment of the area. A comprehensive economic package encompassing health, education and employment for the locals of the area should be announced and the deprived people of the tribal belt should be brought at par with the rest of the country.
Pakistan Observer-Jun 26, 2014
Disclaimer: Views expressed are of the author and do not reflect the policy of IPRI.