QUETTA -- A special counter-insurgency operation in Qilla Abdullah District of Balochistan resulted in the arrest of six suspected high-ranking terrorists and the seizure of a large weapon cache, including an explosives-rigged vehicle, officials told Pakistan Forward.
Security forces carried out the intelligence-based operation July 12-14 in the Toba Achakzai and Chaman areas of Qilla Abdullah District.
The operation was part of the counter-terrorism National Action Plan, which Pakistan launched in December 2014. Balochistan authorities carried out the raid to "foil the re-emergence of militant groups in the border zone of Balochistan", Muhammad Imran, a senior intelligence official of at the Balochistan Police counter-terrorism desk, told Pakistan Forward.
"Several restive areas of Balochistan close to the Pakistani-Afghan border have remained hubs for militants in the past, and we have reports that there are still some undisclosed militant hideouts in Qilla Abdullah, Zhob, Qilla Saifullah and other adjacent areas of the province," he said.
"It is our first priority to smash the militants' chain of command and support network," Imran said.
Authorities detained six terror suspects from a compound discovered near the border city of Chaman, said Manzoor Ahmed, a senior Frontier Corps (FC) official based in Quetta.
"Weapons recovered during search operations at Toba Achakzai and Chaman included 20 107mm missiles, 43 high-explosive grenades, 36 RPG-7 rockets, 60 mortar shells, an explosives-laden vehicle and other weapons," he told Pakistan Forward.
"The arrested terror suspects were working for a banned militant organisation involved in bombings, targeted killings and assaults on security forces in different areas of the province," he said without identifying the group.
"The targeted operation is under way in other parts of the province as well, and a large number of FC, Levies Force and other law enforcement agencies' personnel are taking part," Ahmed said. "The successful drive against militants is proving positive results."
The detainees revealed that their network was involved in abductions for ransom, bank robberies and other criminal activities in Balochistan, which were comprised a big part of their fund-raising, Imran said.
Operation Zarb-e-Azb is diminishing the fear of terrorism from the hearts of the people in Balochistan, he said, referring to a counter-terrorism offensive that the Pakistani army launched in June 2014. "Many people in Balochistan are fully supporting peace efforts in the province, and militants are largely surrendering to the state."
Militants on the run
"Because of the on-going Operation Zarb-e-Azb, Taliban militants in large part have fled from their hideouts to Afghanistan and other parts of Pakistan," Lt. Gen. (ret.) Talat Masood, a senior defence analyst from Islamabad, told Pakistan Forward.
"There must be an effective strategy for handling those militants trying to enter Balochistan from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and other parts of the country," he said, adding that the tribes can play a big role in the fight against militancy.
"Peace efforts in Balochistan have shown a ray of hope for the common people of the province, and it is also fostering the development process in the region," Balochistan government spokesman Anwar ul Haq Kakar told Pakistan Forward.
"We have a zero tolerance policy for terrorism," he said. "The state is taking every possible step to counter militancy in our region for lasting peace."
"Over the past year, we have conducted more than 450 intelligence-based targeted operations in different parts of the province and have destroyed a large number of militant camps," he said.
"In the recent fiscal-year budget passed in June, we allocated a huge amount for the law-and-order situation in the province," he said. "The government is keenly working to provide security to protect the lives and property of the people."