Terror networks nearly eradicated in Pakistan: officials

By Javed Mahmood

Pakistani troops participate in "53rd Frontier Corps Week" drills in Peshawar on November 19. Troops have wiped out more than 60 terror groups over the past 15 years, leaving no safe havens for their supporters, security analysts say. [A Majeed/AFP]

Pakistani troops participate in "53rd Frontier Corps Week" drills in Peshawar on November 19. Troops have wiped out more than 60 terror groups over the past 15 years, leaving no safe havens for their supporters, security analysts say. [A Majeed/AFP]

ISLAMABAD -- Military operations across Pakistan over past 15 years have destroyed the might and infrastructure of more than 60 banned terror outfits, security analysts said.

Pakistani army Maj. Shahid Ahmed Afridi, author of an Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) report titled "Pakistan's Counterinsurgency: Military and Civilian Approach", told Pakistan Forward of that achievement.

Since 2001, the army has conducted at least 1,087 small- and large-scale military operations against the Taliban, as well as grand operations such as Black Thunderstorm, Sherdil, Rah-e-Rast and more recently Operation Zarb-e-Azb. The army launched the last operation in North Waziristan in June 2014. It continues to this day.

These operations have crushed the will and operational capability of the insurgents and destroyed their physical infrastructure, Afridi said in his November 2016 report.

Military operations 'fatal' for militants

"Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan Agency and the intelligence-based operations of security forces in different parts of the country have proved most fatal for the notorious militant groups," security analyst Brig. (ret.) Mehmood Shah told Pakistan Forward from Peshawar.

Whenever a major incident of terrorism took place in Pakistan or abroad in past years, the roots of the militants were traced to North Waziristan, where several notorious terror outfits had developed safe havens and strongholds, he said.

"You cannot even count the number of groups [that] were engaged in militancy throughout Pakistan," he said. But now, those groups "are seen no more in the territory of Pakistan".

"We can claim that not a single banned militant group now has safe havens, networks and infrastructure in Pakistan as military operations have eliminated terrorists' networks throughout the country," Shah said.

Thousands of militants have been killed, while some top leaders of notorious groups fled to Afghanistan after the launch of Operation Zarb-e-Azb.

At present, only two or three major groups of militants from Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) al-Alami (global) are carrying out terrorism in the country, Shah said.

Meanwhile, their leaders are hiding somewhere in Afghanistan from where they are sending suicide bombers and saboteurs, he said.

The army is consolidating the successes of Zarb-e-Azb and other operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and other areas with the aim of preventing the return of militants and maintaining peace and the rule of law, he said.

Ban on terror organisations

Between August 2001 and November 2016, the Pakistani government banned 65 terror organisations, according to the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NACTA).

The most dangerous of these proscribed groups include various factions of the TTP, al-Qaeda, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL), LeJ, Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), Tehreek-e-Jaafria Pakistan, Jamiat-ul-Ansar, Hizb ut-Tahrir, Lashkar-e-Islam, Balochistan Liberation Army, Lashkar-e-Balochistan, Ahle Sunnat Wal-Jamaat (ex-SSP), Jaish-e-Islam, 313-Brigade and Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz.

"Before the [military] operations, especially Zarb-e-Azb, peace in the country was a dream," Mubasher Mir, security analyst and resident editor of the Urdu-language Daily Pakistan in Karachi, told Pakistan Forward. "But now we hardly see any banned outfit operating anywhere in Karachi and other parts of the country."

A majority of the militants have been killed and countless others are languishing in jails facing sentencing, while a few leaders have fled Pakistan, he said.

To nip militancy in the bud, the government and security organisations should develop a framework that completely blocks militants' dealings with banks, government organisations and private companies and their access to passports and computerised national identity cards (CNICs), he said.

Several militants have joined new organisations such as the Difa-e-Pakistan Council, an alliance of more than 40 religious and political entities, enabling them to receive all services without hindrance, according to Mir. This manoeuvre empowers banned groups again and poses a threat to national security, he said.

Banning proscribed groups' ability to access funds and identification documents will help wipe out militancy and extremism, he said.

Moreover, the government and the security organisations must control porous border points in KP, Balochistan, Sindh and Punjab to prevent the penetration of militants into Pakistan, he said.

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True...but the Government and authorities must tell what is their strategy to eliminate terrorists leaders who have fled to Afghanistan ? They must also tell what is their strategy to stop suicide bombers coming all the way from Afghanistan ? Unless we don't secure our border and review our visa policy for Afghans it will be very difficult for our security departments.