Operation Zarb-e-Azb kills over 5,000 militants

By Javed Mahmood


Tribal elders of Bajaur Agency congratulated Pakistani Army Chief General Raheel Sharif for the success of operation Zarb-e-Azb in FATA and other areas. Gen. Raheel offered 'Eid ul Adha' prayers with troops and tribal people in Bajaur Agency September 12, 2016.[Courtesy of ISPR]

ISLAMABAD -- Military Operation Zarb-e-Azb has eliminated more than 5,000 militants and cleared over 4,000 square kilometres of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) from the Taliban, according to the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI).

The Pakistan Army launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb on June 15, 2014, and the scope of the operation has widened over the past two years, resulting in a significant reduction in terrorist attacks in the country, the ISSI said in its June 2016 “Counter-Terrorism Instruments”.

The most significant aspect of the operation has been the targeting of militants without discrimination. In addition, the report said, "Operation Zarb-e-Azb has seen less casualties on part of military forces because of the strategy pursued."

Under Operation Zarb-e-Azb, the army first used Pakistan Air Force fighter jets and gunship helicopters to carry out an aerial bombardment campaign, and then attacked with ground troops, inflicting maximum losses among the militants, report said.

“Operation Zarb-e-Azb is not only an operation but a [comprehensive approach]," Army Chief General Raheel Sharif said during his visit to Gawadar Port on April 12, 2016, according to the ISSI report. "It ultimately aims at breaking the syndicate of terrorism, extremism and corruption."

Surpassing expectations

Previous operations against militants include Operation Rah-e-Haq in 2007, Operation Sher Dil in August 2008, Operation Black Thunderstorm in April 2009, Operation Rah-e-Raast in May 2009, Operation Rah-e-Nijat in June 2009 and Operation Brekhna in Nov 2009.

But Operation Zarb-e-Azb has proved more fatal for militants and more successful for the military, according to ISSI report.

“The success and achievements of Operation Zarb-e-Azb are beyond expectations and the operation has not only eliminated infrastructure, network, hideouts and no-go areas in FATA, but also minimised terrorist attacks,” security analyst Brig. (ret.) Mehmood Shah told Pakistan Forward from Peshawar.

"Before the launch of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, many people feared a serious backlash from the militants, but the well planned military operation produced stunningly good results and surprised everyone in the country and abroad," he said.

Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), al-Qaeda and their allied militant groups had established strong networks, infrastructure and hideouts in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), said Shah, who previously served as security secretary in FATA.

"Since mid-June 2014, security forces have cleared all the hideouts and no-go areas of militants, and now we are seeing quite an improvement in the security situation in Pakistan," he said.

Sustainable peace

“Achievements of Zarb-e-Azb are remarkable as the number of high-profile terrorist attacks and killings of civilians and security officials has fallen in 2016 to an eight-year low,” said Abdullah Khan, managing director of the Pakistan Institute for Conflict Security Studies (PICSS).

"Now the real challenge is to make the success of operation sustainable by promoting a counter-narrative of militant ideology, reforms in FATA and absorbing those militants who want to surrender for peace," he told Pakistan Forward.

The government must play its role to create national harmony among religious parties, community leaders and scholars, and evolve a counter-narrative designed to uproot extremism and militancy from society, Khan said.

"The war on terror is a national issue and without the involvement of the government and political and religious parties, the goal of completely eliminating extremism from society cannot be achieved," he said.

Karachi operations

“The targeted operation launched in Karachi from September 5, 2013, has also played a vital role in minimising terrorism and militancy in the country,” said Ali Nasir, a security analyst and senior anchorperson for Businessplus TV in Karachi.

Security forces in Karachi have arrested thousands of militants, eliminating their strongholds, power and networks, as well as their ability to finance militancy through kidnappings for ransom and robberies, he told Pakistan Forward.

Security officials should implement the National Action Plan across the board and focus on breaking the nexus of terrorism and corruption all over the country for a sustainable and long-lasting peace, he said.

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