PESHAWAR -- Pakistani army Chief of Staff Gen. Raheel Sharif celebrated Eid ul Fitr in the battlefield with troops on the front lines of the war on terror, giving a strong warning to terrorists of all creeds that Pakistan will eliminate them.
Raheel offered Eid prayers July 6 in Shawal Valley, which was once a terrorist command and control centre and a safe haven for both local and al-Qaeda-affiliated militants.
After celebrating Eid with the troops in Shawal Valley, Raheel spent the day visiting troops in other parts of North Waziristan, as well as in South Waziristan.
The army has sent terrorists fleeing from North Waziristan with Operation Zarb-e-Azb, which it launched in June 2014.
Speaking to troops in Datta Khel, North Waziristan, Raheel commended their morale in fighting on the front lines, even while having to spend Eid away from their families.
The Pakistani people and troops have paid a huge price to eliminate terrorists, Raheel said.
"We won't let these sacrifices go to waste," he told the troops. "With FATA [the Federally Administered Tribal Areas] cleared and terrorists being chased across the country, we are determined not to allow them to return and reverse our gains."
Operations against terrorists of all hues and colours will continue, he said.
Pakistan will never allow anyone to use its soil to plot attacks against Afghanistan, Raheel pledged. He directed all commanders, intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies to take concrete measures against violators of that policy.
"Border management and dignified repatriation of Afghan refugees are important enablers for lasting peace," he said.
"We are committed to facilitate the reconciliation process with sincerity, commitment and resolve," he said, adding that Pakistan expects the same from the Afghan side.
Troops, as well as Afghan and Pakistani civilians, lauded the army chief's Eid visit as a great initiative and a source of inspiration for peace.
"We are all soldiers," Frontier Corps member Rehmat Wali, deployed at a check-point guarding entry to Peshawar, told Central Asia Online. "Army chief or ordinary soldier alike, our motto is to defend our land. We will do it."
"The army chief celebrated Eid with troops, which is a huge inspiration for them," he said. "Our commanders have always served on the front line. That's why we have defeated the terrorists on all fronts."
"Hats off to the army chief," he added.
"The Afghans salute the Pakistani army chief too," Noor Wali, an Afghan refugee and baker in the Hayatabad area of Peshawar, told Central Asia Online. "He ... truly wants to restore peace in the region."
"I always see him on the front lines," he said. "Today I saw him celebrating Eid with soldiers on the battlefield. I am really impressed."
"The army chief sets an example by leading from the front," Hidayat Ullah, a Peshawar traffic policeman, told Central Asia Online.
"The entire nation stands behind him," Gulfam of Peshawar, the widow of an army officer killed in action, told Central Asia Online.
Raheel's frequent trips to the war zone constitute a strategic victory, Brig. (ret.) Mehmood Shah of Peshawar, a former security secretary for FATA, told Central Asia Online.
"Spending Eid with soldiers on the battlefield is a big morale booster for the troops," he said.
Soldiers fighting for months in the field feel at home when they find the army chief celebrating Eid with them, Shah, who served in the army in Waziristan in many years, said.
Leading from the front lines fills troops with new vigour and courage to fight, Shah said, adding that the continuing success of Zarb-e-Azb proves that theory.
How effective will the future fence along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border be in controlling the movement of militants?