QUETTA -- At least 12 "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) commanders were killed in an intelligence-based counter-insurgency operation on the outskirts of Mastung District, Balochistan, said officials Sunday (June 4).
"It was a large-scale operation conducted in the rough hills near the Splinji area of Mastung, and through this operation, security forces foiled major terrorist activities in Balochistan," Imran Abid, a Quetta-based senior intelligence official, told Pakistan Forward.
"The neutralised terror suspects were hiding in a cave that was the main operational command and control centre for ISIS in Balochistan," Abid said.
"The cave was situated 50k away from the city, and because of the terrain of the area, tactically it was not possible to engage militants directly," he said. "Therefore, army gunship helicopters were used in the operation."
"Our forces recovered a huge cache of arms and explosives from the terrorists' hideout," he said.
The three-day operation was part of on-going counter-terrorism Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad, launched in February.
"The targeted cave was the headquarters of ISIS in Pakistan, where key commanders were controlling their operations in Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab," he said. "[Targeting] it was a big blow for the enemies of Pakistan."
Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of the military, confirmed the details of the operation.
"Terrorists were hiding inside a cave for planning, co-ordination and execution of terrorist activities in Balochistan," said ISPR in a statement June 4.
"During the exchange of fire, 12 hardcore terrorists have been killed," the statement said, adding that 10 security personnel were injured.
"Our Special Services Group commandos were also part of this operation," said Mohammad Hilal, a top defence official based in Quetta.
"It was carried out very successfully, and all the key militant commanders were eliminated," he told Pakistan Forward, adding that the commanders had been holding a "high-level meeting" in the cave.
"They were planning to execute more terror attacks in the rest of Pakistan," he said.
Punjab-based militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) splinter group Jamatul Ahrar militants are said to be among the dead, said Hilal.
"This operation was led by premier intelligence agency personnel, and during a search [of the cave] they recovered some highly classified documents at the scene," he said.
The documents revealed ISIS militants' "massive destructive strategy ... which was formed for Pakistan", Hilal said.
"We will never compromise our national security," he said. "Our firm resolve against militancy in the region is significant for the integrity of the country."
Revising counter-terror policy
"Pakistan is in a state of war, and the enemy is sponsoring terrorism to promote unrest in the country," said Hassan Askari Rizvi, a political science and military analyst based in Lahore.
"The state must revisit its national security policy to address the key security breaches," he told Pakistan Forward.
The National Action Plan (NAP), Pakistan's comprehensive counter-terrorism policy developed in January 2015, has not yet been fully implemented, he said.
"The implementation of the civilian side of NAP remains slow and inconsistent and marked more by oratory than by action," Rizvi said, adding that political and foreign interference is impeding the full implementation of NAP.
"Our political and military leadership must address those threats," he said.
Using Islam to counter violence
The threats to victory over terrorism include misleading the public about the true nature of Islam, Rizvi said.
"Radical elements are misusing religion for promoting terrorism," he said.
"Islam is a religion of peace, and it has given the message of love and harmony," he said. "The state must promote the real face of Islam in the country and counter the violent strategy of anti-peace elements."