How to make Zarb-i-Azb more suc­cess­ful?

Pakistan Observer - - OPINION - Ayaz Ahmed

THE op­er­a­tion Zarb-e-Azb is the most com­pre­hen­sive and ef­fec tive mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion against the resur­gent ter­ror­ist and mil­i­tant out­fits deeply en­trenched in Pak­istan’s ter­ror-in­fested tribal ar­eas. The army has suc­cess­fully dis­man­tled the deeply­rooted or­gan­i­sa­tional struc­ture of ter­ror­ists of all strata and flushed the out­lawed ter­ror groups out from the area. Due to the grand op­er­a­tion, ter­ror­ist and mil­i­tant at­tacks have de­creased man­i­fold re­sult­ing in a kind of rel­a­tive nor­malcy across the coun­try. To make the op­er­a­tion a real and mean­ing­ful suc­cess, the gov­ern­ment should in­tro­duce so­cio-eco­nomic, po­lit­i­cal and ed­u­ca­tional re­forms in the longne­glected tribal ar­eas.

Ow­ing to Zarb-e-Azb, in­ci­dents of ter­ror­ism have shrunk by 65 per­cent in the last two years; fa­tal­i­ties have dropped by 36.8 per­cent as com­pared to the first quar­ter of the last year; sui­cide at­tacks do not oc­cur as a mat­ter of rou­tine any­more and mil­i­tants do not oc­cupy any ter­ri­tory. Though we still wit­ness some iso­lated in­ci­dents of ter­ror­ism, the sit­u­a­tion is cer­tainly not as bad as it was be­fore the grand op­er­a­tion.

The on­go­ing op­er­a­tion in North Waziristan had be­gun on June 24, 2014 as a crack­down on ter­ror­ists who were bla­tantly us­ing the area as a hub to spread ter­ror all over the coun­try. Ac­cord­ing to the DG ISPR, dur­ing the op­er­a­tion a 3,600-kilo­me­ter square area has been cleared of ter­ror­ists in­clud­ing Datta Khel, Alora Mandi and Shawal val­ley; 992 ter­ror­ist hide­outs have been de­stroyed and more than 7,500 fac­to­ries, which man­u­fac­tured weapons and bul­lets, have also been de­stroyed. The Pak­istan Army has lost 500 of its brave per­son­nel in the op­er­a­tion while over 3,000 ter­ror­ists were killed.

What the in­cum­bent gov­ern­ment should take cog­nizant of is that mod­ern ter­ror­ists and mil­i­tants are adept at em­ploy­ing so­phis­ti­cated war tac­tics against their tar­gets. Sim­i­larly, the hard­ened ter­ror­ists un­der the ban­ner of out­lawed Tehrik-i-Tal­iban Pak­istan (TTP) have skil­fully shifted their main lead­er­ship cen­tre, train­ing camps and fight­ers to dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions in­side Pak­istan as well as in Afghanistan. All makes it crys­tal clear that only grand op­er­a­tion is pre­sum­ably in­suf­fi­cient to cleanse the coun­try from the men­ace of en­trenched ter­ror­ism and mil­i­tancy. Since ter­ror­ism and mil­i­tancy have mor­phed into seem­ingly con­vo­luted se­cu­rity is­sues on ac­count of mod­ern tech­nol­ogy, the gov­ern­ment should also fine-tune and di­ver­sify its ap­proaches to weed them out in per­pe­tu­ity.

In Pak­istan, as­sorted ter­ror­ist and mil­i­tant out­fits make the most of di­ver­gences and im­bal­ance in civil-mil­i­tary re­la­tions. Be­fore Zarbe-Azb, the gov­ern­ment showed out­right re­luc­tance to al­low­ing the mil­i­tary to crack down against the TTP de­spite army’s in­sis­tence on the use of force. The TTP re­grouped it­self and fla­grantly un­leashed a reign of ter­ror while ne­go­ti­at­ing with the gov­ern­ment for tran­quil­lity in the tribal ar­eas. More­over, the gov­ern­ment de­layed per­mit­ting the army to root out Ch­hotu gang in Pun­jab.

Cur­rently, de­spite Army Chief’s call for a crack­down on mas­sive cor­rup­tion and im­ple­men­ta­tion of the civil­ian parts of the Na­tional Ac­tions Plan (NAP), the gov­ern­ment is still in­dif­fer­ent to dis­charge its part of the Con­sti­tu­tional re­spon­si­bil­ity. There­fore, it has in­sti­gated dis­trust and reser­va­tions within the Armed forces about the se­ri­ous­ness of the civil­ian gov­ern­ment. Lack of all-out and earnest sup­port from the gov­ern­ment’s side has cre­ated a string of road­blocks and bot­tle­neck for the army to suc­cess­fully wrap up the op­er­a­tion. It has be­come a re­al­ity that Pak­istan can­not counter ram­pag­ing ter­ror­ism with­out forg­ing am­i­ca­ble re­la­tions with Afghanistan and In­dia.

If the civil­ian lead­er­ship along with the se­cu­rity es­tab­lish­ment had pro­vided In­dia un­in­ter­rupted and fa­cil­i­tated land ac­cess to Afghanistan for trade and com­merce, both In­dia and Afghanistan would have stamped out TTP leader Faza­lul­lah and his com­man­ders based on Afghanistan’s soil. With­out round­ing up the fugi­tive TTP head and its hard­ened fight­ers, it is ar­guably fu­tile to con­clude the on­go­ing op­er­a­tion. There­fore, the PMLN should strive to be­friend other re­gional play­ers, in­clud­ing Afghanistan, to in­crease bi­lat­eral trade and co­or­di­nate co­or­di­nated ef­forts against the TTP, Daesh and Al-Qaeda.

All suc­ces­sive civil­ian gov­ern­ments have shown un­will­ing­ness to re­form the lethar­gic po­lice of the coun­try. After each mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion, the ill-equipped and poor­ly­trained po­lice have dis­mally failed to main­tain last­ing peace while keep­ing the mil­i­tants and ter­ror­ists at bay. It is not the Con­sti­tu­tional re­spon­si­bil­ity of the army to per­ma­nently dis­charge polic­ing du­ties in­side the coun­try. There­fore, to yield last­ing ben­e­fits from Zarb-e-Azb, the in­cum­bent gov­ern­ment must craft new laws, train the force, equip it with all nec­es­sary tools and re­sources so that it can stead­fastly and con­fi­dently face crim­i­nals and non-state ac­tors.

There is no doubt that we are pro­duc­ing ter­ror­ists, big­ots, mil­i­tants and in­sur­gents through our out­dated and ji­had-cen­tric syl­labi of sem­i­nar­ies and other ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tion. On the other side, we have em­ployed all our re­sources to wage a never-end­ing war against these non-state ac­tors. More alarm­ing is that the state seems rather re­luc­tant to re­form such out­moded school ma­te­ri­als.

The coun­try’s abysmal so­cioe­co­nomic con­di­tions have un­doubt­edly af­forded a mush­room­ing ground to ter­ror­ists to re­cruit welle­d­u­cated and en­er­getic youth all over the coun­try. Al­most half of the pop­u­la­tion lives be­low the line of poverty. Mil­lions of school-age chil­dren are com­pelled to work in fac­to­ries and in shops in shabby work­ing con­di­tions. Ed­u­cated youths be­come old while search­ing rel­e­vant jobs. A poor plain­tiff be­comes in­sol­vent and con­se­quently com­mits sui­cide due to un­just and ex­pen­sive jus­tice sys­tem of ours.

It is time to as­cer­tain the un­der­ly­ing causes of ter­ror­ism and se­ri­ously plan while keep­ing only na­tional in­ter­ests in mind. The gov­ern­ment should be­gin a counter-ter­ror­ism op­er­a­tion within it­self by mak­ing the leg­isla­tive, ex­ec­u­tive and ju­di­cial or­gans fully ac­count­able, re­spon­sive, com­pe­tent and gen­uine ser­vants of the peo­ple. Pak­istan should once and for all re­solve the is­sue of the Du­rand Line with the Afghan gov­ern­ment. Over and above, it is im­per­a­tive to im­me­di­ately shut down all un­reg­is­tered sem­i­nar­ies en­gaged in churn­ing out deadly ter­ror­ists. The state’s po­lice force also needs to be rea­son­ably re­formed. — The write is free­lance colum­nist based in Karachi.

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