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Role of Pakistan to counter global terrorism

A detained alleged teenage suicide bomber in Mingora in Swat valley. AFP

The international community feels constantly threatened over growing menace of terrorism, extremism and militancy. The community maintains that the terrorists have openly declared war on the world and humanity at large in the name of Islam. Given this distressing state of affairs, peace continues to remain elusive. Without peace, security and stability, no activity for socio-economic development is possible. The world community is, therefore, pushing for making a concerted effort to counter these evil forces. Pakistan strategic and geographic location in the region, links interest of the whole world. This position thus carves a role of front- line state of Pakistan.

Aftermath of 9/11

After September 11, 2001, when symbols of Americ economic might, the Twin Towers in New York, the nerve-centre of its military, the Pentagon, and the White House were simultaneously subjected to attack, America held Al-Qaeda responsible for the same.

In order to rout the organization, it decided to assail Afghanistan. Once again, America wooed Pakistan. This time it was support for the US war on terror that topped the agenda and for this Islamabad succumbed to acquiesce.

Since March 2004, Pakistan is confronted with mounting threat of Talibanization, which has spread from the autonomous Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the Afghan border deeper into the NWFP, with Swat becoming a major stronghold for Pakistani Taliban. Foreign fighters (Uzbeks, Tajiks, Chechens) including Al-Qaeda militants are also operating in tribal areas. The Kalashinkov culture following the Afghan- Russia war was converted into terrorism and militancy. The militants have gained strength with the help of local criminals, drug mafia, arms dealers and foreign hands joining them on the way.

Precarious situation

Pakistan lost its great leader Mohatarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed to terrorists. Around 2,000 Pakistanis lost their lives in more than 600 terror related incidents last year alone. A direct and indirect loss of more than $35 billion has been inflicted on Pakistan economy. Unless and until the nation gets rid of terrorism, attention could not be paid to other challenges like inflation, power generation and the economic meltdown.

The situation became precarious as the militants descended from their mountain hide-outs in Swat. They were in possession of many strategic points and intended to take control of additional areas. They were out to impose their lifestyle on civil society.

Taliban combatants terrified the people. They attacked the Security Forces, kidnapped the people and beheaded them dubbing them as spies. They desecrated mosques and funeral prayers and destroyed schools, hospitals and killed innocent people including children. Their threats to journalists, politicians and others reflected their intention to rule by force and unleash their barbaric sway.

They had captured emerald mines. They seized houses and Government buildings. They piled up money by collecting ransom. They also looted a number of branches of the banks.

They resorted to destruction of girls schools. Restrictions were placed on women from coming out of their homes. There was public flogging of a young girl by militants in Swat. They attacked the saint shrines and mausoleums of Sufis and religious figures. They destroyed the shrine of Rehman Baba. These negated the basic teachings of Islam. They in fact wanted to crumble the federation. They were widely considered as the enemy of Islam, humanity, peace and stability and future of the country.

Breach of agreement

Contrary to their commitment that after implementation of Nizam e- Adl they would discontinue their activities, they continued to display arms and carry out their activities, even after signing of the peace agreement. Sufi Muhammad, the head of the Tanzim Nifaz Shariat- e- Muhammadi (TNSM) declared that democracy was un-Islamic and that sharia must be enforced across Pakistan. Taliban militants wanted to enforce their own brand of laws in the region and started challenging writ of the Government by attacking Government buildings, courts and security forces in Buner, Dir and Shangla.

The militant tactics used off the war area included booby traps, roadside bombs and other type of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) besides suicide bombers. The continued wave of bomb blasts against law- enforcing agencies in NWEP and Punjab was intended to divert attention of Pakistan Armed Forces from concentration of militants.

Massive operation

The blatant challenging of the writ of the Government constrained Pakistan Armed Forces to launch a massive operation called operation Rah-e- Raast since April, 2009, so as to flush out the anti-state elements in the north-west of the country. The Army with the support of Pakistan Air Force carried out operations in swat, Bajaur, lower Dir and Buner against the militants and extremists.

Pakistan Armed Forces have indeed the support of all segments of society against terrorism and militancy. The Taliban and other Jihadi cohorts have lost their appeal. A recent survey showed 81 percent Pakistanis think that the activities of the Taliban and other extremists are a critical threat, up from last 34 percent in September 2007.

The Security Forces hunted down the Taliban militants. Pakistan Armed Forces in operation Rah-e- Raast in Swat cleared the town of Mingora, Charbagjh city overcoming stiff resistance. Militants strongholds in Mingora, Peochar, Kabal, Khwazakhela, and Shangla had been attacked successfully. Resultantly, Pakistan Armed Forces succeeded in defeating the insurgents by ejecting them from Buner, Dir and other adjacent areas. So far, over 3000 militants have been killed including high profile commanders like Ibne Amin, Zainuddin and Taliban, Swat chapter.

Their command and control, logistics and training infrastructure has been destroyed. Substantial number of middle and low level leadership has been wiped out. According to Army sources, there was least possibility of return of the leadership of the Taliban to regroup and operate in the valley.

The operation conducted by the Armed Forces in Swat to flush out around 5,000 militants and led 3.5 million people to shift to camps in Peshawar, Charsada, Mardan and Swabi.

Operation Rah-e- Raast is advancing to its successful culmination paving way for the safe return of IDPs of Malakand Division including Swat. No-go areas like Peuchar, Skahra and Biha valleys have been secured. The Security Forces cleared mines and defused Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and destroyed hide- outs of the terrorists.

Setting up a cantonment

A number of training centres having tunnels and bunkers have also been destroyed. On completion of the Operation Rah-e- Raast, the Army has now launched the Operation Subh-e- Nau for repatriation of IDPs. The Emergency Responsive Unit (ERU) has been formed to deal with the issue of IDPs.

Chairman of Special Support Group (SSG) indicated that IDPs repatriation would be completed in four phases. In the wake of evolving security constraints, the Government has decided to establish a cantonment in Swat.

An elite force is also being constituted for Malkand and services of 1,800 ex-army men have been hired.

Confrontations

With the approval of Chief of Army Staff. Besides, community policing system is being introduced in the affected areas. Checkpoints are being set up on entrance and exit points. Latest scanning equipment is also being installed at each check point.

The Armed Forces are now engaged in the operation Rah-e- Nijat against Baithullah Mashud and his network in south Waziristhan Agency. He and his terrorists have wreaked havoc on Pakistan people’s lives and properties and indeed are posing a civilization threat to the homeland. He spearheads terrorist attacks in settled areas. There are reportedly 12000 Mehsud fighters. The Security Forces have also to confront three other terrorist chiefs and their networks operating in Waziristhan, namely Maulvi Nazir, Hafiz Gul Bahadur and the deadliest of them all, Jalaluddin Haqqani, a national of Afghanistan.

The US has reportedly made 40 drone sorties inside the Pakistan border in the last 10 months killing hundred of persons. The ever increasing bitterness and resentment amongst the local population in particular and public in general against the US drone attacks involving extensive collateral damage is vitiating overall atmosphere. Thereby impacting negatively on Armed Forces gains.

Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik asserts that Pakistan efforts to take on the Taliban on its side of the border are being hampered by the failure of American and British troops in Afghanistan to monitor their side. Two years ago we were being criticized by the West for our ISI (Inter Services Intelligence agency) helping the Taliban cross into Afghanistan.

The Minister maintained, we have stopped the border crossing. Now we re finding the same situation. They’re coming from the other side, bringing arms and fighters from Helmand into Baluchistan and into Waziristhan. Should we say it Afghan or western intelligence helping them?

An IDP Pakistani family in Swat Valley. AFP

The Armed Forces are also closely safeguarding nuclear weapons as western nations apprehend that Taliban sympathizers within Pakistan Army could help the terrorist organizations acquire some of the country nuclear weapons.

Pakistan Armed Forces despite heavy odds are putting up a tenacious fight against terrorism and militancy. The Taliban make use of the battlefields of southern Afghanistan as a training ground. They have turned into a disciplined fighting force and the terrain suits them whereas the Pakistan Forces are mainly trained in conventional warfare.

Heavy death toll

In hilly terrain, the infantry has to make use of tracks made by animals adding to its logistic problems. Moreover, so long Pakistan military is preoccupied by any potential threat from India, it could not appropriately concentrate on eliminating the Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces.

In the war on terror, around 1500 Armed Forces personnel have embraced martyrdom since September 2001. These sacrifices are being commended by the international allies in war on terror.

Admiral Mike Mullen, US chairman Joint Chief of Staff said: A year ago, not many people would have said that the Pakistan military could pull that Swat off, and yet they have made an awful lot of progress.

The G-8 Summit held in Italy in July this year, said in a statement that they stand with Pakistan in its fight against the recent surge in Taliban activity in the northwest of country, where military is trying to push back a growing insurgency. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband recently announced that the UK fully recognized Pakistan immense sacrifices in war against terrorism.

Pakistan Armed Forces’ operation against extremists and militants has achieved a great success. As a matter of fact, the victory of the Armed Forces over the perpetrators of violence and terrorism remains a major determinant of a viable future of Pakistan and sustainable peace all the world over.

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