The Zarb-e-Azb and After | Ikram Sehgal

The Army’s well-planned military operations to rid North Waziristan of militants has been a major success; there is a sharp drop in acts of terrorism throughout Pakistan. The frequency of militants attacks was 154 per month, it has now come down to 71 per month; less than 50%, following in one year almost to a 6 years low. The major success has been denying the militants the space to move around in freedom in their own logistics areas, arms dumps, bomb-smoking factories, field hospitals, etc, even Rest and Recreation (R & R) areas for their war weary and war wounded. With 89% of North Waziristan cleansed of militants, they are now cornered in some pockets in difficult mountainous terrains.

Breaking the TTP as a consolidated fighting force is not enough; unless the Zarb-e-Azb momentum to wipe them out as individual entities is relentlessly pursued, the factions could join hands together. The cross-fire between the military and militants has made nearly one million of the population of North Waziristan into Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), with over 100,000 migrating to Afghanistan for the first time in history (compared to 3 million (plus/minus) Afghans for last 35 years on our soil). With the return of peaceful conditions in North Waziristan nearly a million IDPs are scheduled to return to their homes by December 2016; and their rehabilitation effort requiring a giant co-ordinated military and civil effort.

Complete cleansing of the militants or their sympathisers from settled areas is still far from being achieved and will not be possible for some time, sporadic attacks by militants are still going on. It is very important to stop their sources of funds flowing into Pakistan from various Middle Eastern countries (as well as inimical intelligence agencies) which sustain their terrorist activity. Stoking trouble in these disturbed areas by the Indians goes on unabated and needs to be expeditiously neutralised. Suffering about 3000 deaths, the militants have had 837 of their hideouts destroyed and over 253 tons of explosives seized. In contrast the army’s casually figures are almost 350 killed and over 1000 wounded.

Despite their lofty claims the militants failed to put up co-ordinated resistance to the Army’s onslaught and/or precision attacks by the PAF. Their infrastructure built up over three decades in settled areas of Pakistan allowed them to stage spectacular attacks on airports, APS, (Peshawar), suicide attacks in Karachi, Rawalpindi and Shikarpur. The militants’ capacity for mayhem in the urban and urban-rural areas of Pakistan has been diminished only somewhat because of the Army’s on-going campaign.

The government’s 20-point National Action Plan (NAP) has not materialised to its required capacity and potential. Despite showing some results it has not eliminated and/or eradicated the militant presence. Repeated claims notwithstanding, the Counter Terrorism Force (CTF) is not yet on the ground and intelligence coordination, though far better than it was a year ago, has not yet reached the measure where “actionable intelligence” results in effective action. Unearthing suicide bombers’ chain of recruitment, handlers and money sources before execution of actual attack is a must. Militants’ capacity can only be destroyed if the intelligence agencies provide timely and accurate information.

The oncoming winter season will give time to militants to reorganise their splintered forces and resources and again become a potent threat if their momentum is not kept going. The trials of arrested militants have been delayed because of the unwillingness of witnesses to come forward given the lack of credible guarantees for their safety. Weak prosecution of cases based on incomplete evidence being put before the courts and the penchant of courts to strictly follow the wording rather than the spirit of the law has resulted in many terrorists and associated criminals from organised crime to walk free. Effectively, the courts have allowed them to kill and maim our hapless civil population again. Upholding any punishment awarded by the military courts that have now been established will be almost impossible to carry out given the penchant of our present judicial system to give criminals relief on demand. Given this situation can we break the nexus between politicians, militants and certain schools of extreme religious sentiments? What is required is to restore the public confidence in state institutions, the supremacy of law and evoke the responsibility of public servants. All citizens must be considered equal in the eyes of law and treated as such; nobody being permitted to act above the law.

The absence of Local Bodies (LBs) in governance for the last 8 years made democracy farcical in Pakistan. LBs are crucially important. Only by providing justice at the doorsteps on many issues that need local adjudication can we restore confidence in our judicial process. Ensuring of basic human rights and social values must be in line with the law. Corruption and crime provide a readymade nursery to militants and promote culture of lawlessness. We must attempt to rid society of these illnesses. Delay, bribery, extortion, exploitation of weak party, being insulted by petty bureaucrats at every step, physical torture by police, calculated absenteeism from court appearance, replacement of judges and frivolous litigations are the characteristics of our current judicial system. Maintaining supremacy of law will ensure citizens’ right to live in prosperity, serenity and self-respect. Therefore, drastic changes and reforms in legislative, judicial and police departments are required for expeditious dispensation of justice.

A recent security meeting chaired by the PM noted that the elements of the NAP have long been identified as poor performing. Those include action against terror financing; foreign funding of seminaries; proscribed organisations and sectarian groups; hate speeches; and madrassah reforms. The provincial mechanism for civil-military coordination on security issues continues to experience difficulties.

The law enforcement agencies have completed investigation in key cases involving senior leaders of political parties in Sindh. Despite the rhetoric, key decisions about the Karachi operation are still pending approval by the political leadership. Under the law, arresting high-profile political figures requires a go-ahead from the government. The military leadership has been urging the civilian government to refer cases to special courts set up under the “Protection of Pakistan Act”, these are still mostly dormant. While the military leadership has tried to convince the civilian leadership, the seething frustration is evident from the Corps Commanders’ Conference urging for “good governance” to match their military operations. It is a moot point whether the approved decisions will ever be carried out. To put it bluntly, the requirement is not matched by the political will. What the Rangers do in announcing their next phase of their operations, we will see!


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