On-going security successes project more positive image of Pakistan

By Muhammad Shakil


Pakistani troops guard Khyber Agency near the Afghan border in July. The Pakistani army concluded Operation Khyber-IV in Rajgal Valley, Khyber Agency, destroying militant hideouts. [Muhammad Shakil]

PESHAWAR -- Recent successes by Pakistani troops against militancy are boosting popular confidence in the government and projecting a positive image of the country to the outside world, say observers.

The most recent success was the completion in late August of Operation Khyber-IV in the remote Rajgal Valley. Its purpose was to prevent militant groups like the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) from entering Pakistan and forging alliances with local banned outfits.

The ongoing Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad, which aims to secure borders, dismantle militant sleeper cells and eliminate safe havens, is another such example of success.

"Militants have been doomed since [troops] destroyed their strongholds in Operation Khyber-IV," Brig. (ret.) Mehmood Shah, a Peshawar-based security analyst, told Pakistan Forward.

"Securing the [Afghan] border in Khyber-IV will produce positive and lasting impact on the security situation inside the country," he predicted. "It will increase public confidence ad improve the image of Pakistan."

Pakistan broke the backbone of the militancy, he added, comparing the situation to that in Iraq and Syria.

Increasing unity among sects

Another benefit, some say, is more confidence among minorities who feel particularly threatened by Islamic extremists.

"The improvement of security in Pakistan and the establishment of the state's writ in areas that were once considered militant strongholds represent a remarkable deed," Haroon Sarab Dayal, chairman of the All Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement, told Pakistan Forward, crediting the achievement to security forces' "unmatched sacrifices".

The series of counter-terrorism offensives that began under then-army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif [in 2014, with Operation Zarb-e-Azb] is forging unity among the various peoples of Pakistan, he said.

"In the past, it was impossible for minorities to enjoy religious freedom," he said. "But a new picture has emerged after military operations. Each minority member feels free to exercise his [or her] rights like any other citizen of Pakistan."

"A false impression of religious intolerance that formed after the [terrorist] targeting of religious places has faded away," he added, saying, "Hindus, Muslims, Christine and Sikhs are now celebrating each other's festivals in an atmosphere of harmony and tolerance".

Widespread acclaim

The foremost responsibility of the state is to ensure its citizens can exercise their rights freely and safely, Jamil Jacob, a Peshawar schoolteacher, told Pakistan Forward.

Pakistan has been doing just that, he said.

The government's efforts against extremism and militancy have not only bolstered Pakistan's international stature but have given hope and a sense of security to its population, including minorities that have lived in Pakistan since before independence, he said.

"The improving security situation and a peace-promoting environment are landmark achievements of Pakistani authorities," he said.

The minorities and the Muslim majority alike overcame their fear all because of the successful counter-terrorism offensives since 2014, said Jamil.

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