Zarb-e-Azb ,an operation against ‘local and foreign terrorists’ in North Waziristan was launched by the Armed Forces of Pakistan on June 15, 2014 on the direction of Government of Pakistan. The main purpose of the operation is to promote peace by eliminating all the militant groups without any discrimination along with their sanctuaries. While explaining why this operation has been undertaken the DG ISPR said that the terrorists were using North Waziristan as a base in their war against the state of Pakistan. They had been disrupting national life in Pakistan not only causing enormous loss of life and property but also damaging socio-economic development and foreign investment. Further, they had also paralyzed life within North Waziristan by terrorizing the peace loving and patriotic local population.
Through the resolution, on June 16, 2914, the National Assembly expressed the fullest resolve to support the decision of the government to launch a military operation by the valiant armed forces against the militants in the tribal areas, who are using Pakistani soil for their nefarious activitiesIt was noted that militants were engaged in attacks on the security forces and law enforcing agencies as well as on public and private property resulting in tragic deaths and injuries to military personnel and innocent citizens and colossal damage to the economy. Further, the resolution expressed the resolve to stand shoulder to shoulder with the armed forces till final victory. It hoped that the operation would not only help restore peace but also bring socio-economic prosperity to the people.
Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif while addressing the National Assembly clarified that that his government had tried its utmost to make dialogue process result-oriented but the terrorists persisted with bloodshed and violence. Terrorism and dialogue could not go side by side. He added that the government sincerely gave peace a chance for four and a half months but its sincerity was not reciprocated and the government had to take the decision to launch the operation as a last resort. He pointed out that there could have been two opinions about the operation and the dialogue process in the past but now this chapter should be closed and the entire nation including media, political parties, religious leaders and tribal people should extend a helping hand to make the operation a success.
Some analyst like Farrukh Saleen, believe that Zarb-e-Asb appears to be one of the most carefully planned, targeted and a limited operation. All exit and entry points leading into South Waziristan Agency (SWA), Bannu, Hangu, Kurram and Karak are being monitored. Surrender points, for those willing to lay down their arms, have been established. The FATA Disaster Management Authority is active in setting up IDP camps, registration centers and transportation facilities for safe evacuation of the local population The Afghan National Army (ANA) has been requested to seal off entry points into Paktia, Khost and Paktika.
Zarb-e-Azb is considered a comprehensive operation which is different from previous operations. Earlier operations were selective against some particular groups but Zarb-e-Azb is an all out operation against all the terrorist groups without any discrimination. Only those militants and groups would be spared who would surrender.
This strategy of the government to target all groups, including those who have been in agreement with the military authorities in the past, has both positive and negative aspects. The positive aspects of this strategy include: first, Pakistan’s most immediate goal is naturally to ensure the safety of their own citizens by targeting terrorist groups which were carrying out domestic attacks: second, because of all inclusive approach , it will increase the credibility of the operation in the international community; third, it will facilitate in meeting the requirements for releasing $300 million of the $900 million Coalition Support Fund under the Carl Levin National Defence Authorization Act for fiscal year 2015; fourth, this strategy will also dispel the impression that Pakistan is reluctant to take any action against some groups such as Haqani Network; fifth, Chinese concerns regarding presence of members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) in North Waziristan have also been taken care of in the operation as many ETIM terrorists and their affiliates had also been killed in the strikes; sixth as now the militants of Haqani Network have moved to Afghanistan and high command of TTP had already taken refuge there, Pakistan is now in a position to ask Afghanistan and USA to take necessary action on their side of the border.
The negative aspects of the all inclusive approach include: first, the strategy of targeting all terrorist groups might have a severe blowback and may end up uniting the militant groups; second, Pakistan may lose the leverage on Haqani Network that it could have used for reconciliation in Afghanistan; third, lack of action by Afghan and NATO forces against the militant groups who have sneaked into Afghanistan would remain a constant threat to Pakistan; fourth, the issue of terrorism is no more a global threat due to decrease in Al-Queeda’s global reach and its focus has been shifted to regions, in view of this transformation there are very less chances that the international community would come forwards to help Pakistan specially to overcome the economic losses and even for rehabilitation and settlement of IDPs from North Waziristan.
There are two major challenges that Pakistan is facing due to Zarb-e-Azb-first is the rehabilitation and settlement of large number of displaced people. The number of Internally Displaced People (IDPs from North Waziristan due to the ongoing operation against militants has exceeded 4 lacs. According to the latest official data as of June 23, 2014, the National Database Registration Authority (NADRA) has registered 35,381 families comprising 435,429 IDPs (114,596 males, 137,301 females and 183,532 children).The second challenge is the fear of backlash of these militant groups at a time of their choice. In order to meet these two challenges there is need for effective and continuous coordination between Federal and Provincial governments on one hand and between government and Armed Forces on the other hand. The role of media and civil society for the rehabilitation of IDPs is equally important. There is a need to project Zarb-e-Azb as an operation for peace not only for Pakistan but also for the region and the World.
Pakistan Observer-June 28, 2014.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are of the author and do not reflect the policy of IPRI.