Operation Zarb e Azb: milestones achieved, time to set new ones

Operation Zarb e Azb: milestones achieved, time to set new onesAll of Pakistan has its hopes set on operation Zarb e Azb. Soon entering its second month, operation Zarb e Azb headed by the Pak army is part of a comprehensive action plan to eliminate foreign and local terrorists hiding in North Waziristan.

Given that 400 terrorists have been killed and arms and ammunition recovered, the operation so far has been a success. Moreover, the army has managed to destroy the command and control system of militants in the area. Miran Shah, Boya and Daygan have been cleared of militants according to the Pak army and two ammunition manufacturing factories have been seized.

Zarb e Azb followed a week after an insurgent attack on one of the busiest airports in Pakistan (Karachi). However, this was one of the many terrorist attacks that Pakistan had encountered. Hence, the operation itself is entirely in the country’s interest and for the country alone. It is not for instance, to keep at bay American criticism or to bag international support. The Pak army is fully vested in the successful and smooth running of the operation but the state is yet to give anything other than lip service to achieving the goal of complete eradication of terrorism.

Even though launching the operation has been quite fruitful with reports of successful clearances of previously terrorist occupied areas, there is a need to ensure that the efforts do not go wasted. The government must step in and fully own the operation. It is claimed that majority terrorists already fled the area before the launch of this operation, taking refuge in Afghanistan and surrounding areas within Pakistan. Perhaps concentrating the operation to North Waziristan alone is not the best course of action. Terrorists could also be taking shelter under the banner of the IDPs waiting patiently to resettle in the area once the army draws out. Hence, the power vacuum that is going to be created after the army brings this operation to an end is precisely what these terrorist groups are waiting to exploit and take over. In order to ensure the long-term success of the operation, the government needs to draw a plan of action safeguarding the cleansed area after the Pak army leaves. The civil administration is responsible for making sure that the vacuum created is quickly filled by suitable policies through active intervention.

The IDPs need immediate government attention and the government needs their support. Once the army draws out, North Waziristan should be accorded development plans and health care facilities in order to facilitate the adjustment process of the IDPs. At this point, the government should learn from the military operation in Swat. The success of a military offensive does not depend solely on performance in the battlefield, the biggest guarantor of long-term success of such a move is direct civil administration intervention in preserving stability and implementing control in the area both during and especially once it’s devoid of the army’s control. However, the current civil administration shows clear signs of a lack of interest in the project. The Prime Minister plans on spending this Eid in Saudi Arabia while Pak army fights in North Waziristan and millions lay displaced back home. The entire country is in a state of war.

The IDPs demand attention: they are in their most vulnerable state right now and they can be easy targets for extremist militant groups to incorporate into their agendas. Unfortunately, the civilian administration is clearly aloof and distant from local problems. One can only hope that the civil government takes responsibility once the army draws out. Otherwise, the efforts of our security agencies and the sacrifices the IDPs have made will all go to waste. Considering such a course of action will only help the enemies of the nation. Perhaps, the civil government needs to revisit its priorities and goals.

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