By Sadia N. Qazi & Sobia Butt
General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the Chief of the Army Staff, visited the Rajgal valley situated in the Khyber Agency on August 5 where the COAS was given detailed briefing on the progress of Operation Khyber 4 under which the Pakistani forces have cleared over 90% of the objective area. The COAS appreciated the professionalism of the participating troops including the support of PAF for skilfully targeting the terrorists’ strongholds which helped minimized own casualties. If this operation is completed, Khyber Agency would be free of terrorists’ influence thereby providing environment for return of the TDPs and development prong to proceed.
Talking to the officers and troops participating the Operation Khyber IV, which is part of Raddul Fasaad, the Chief of Army Staff thanked Allah for His blessings which enabled the Pakistan Army to come up to the expectations of the nation in their achievement against terrorism and militancy in the country. He said that with the full backing of the nation we are heading towards a normalized Pakistan where the writ of state and supremacy of law would be second to none and where every Pakistani whether in cities, tribal or far flung areas will be able to play their positive and rightful part in Pakistan’s progress.
Pakistan Army launched this operation on July 16, 2017 which aimed at clearing the 250 square kilometres area of Rajgal Valley and securing the areas up to international border with Afghanistan while eliminating the terrorist hideouts and establishing the writ of the state. The operation also aimed at creating conducive conditions for the safe return and peaceful rehabilitation of the TDPs from Rajgal Valley. A force of Division’s size, including troops from the Special Services Group (SSG), is taking part in the operation with the active support of Artillery, Pakistan Army Aviation and Pakistan Air Force.
Operation Raddul Fasaad is continuing vigorously as the Frontier Corps (FC) Balochistan on August 6 conducted intelligence-based operation (IBO) on terrorist camps in Kohlu and Dera Bugti areas. The terrorists resisted to security forces and during exchange of fire four terrorists were killed, according to an Inter Services Public Relations statement. One FC soldier got minor injuries. The killed terrorists were involved in extortion, kidnapping for ransom, attacks on security forces and other sabotage activities. Terrorist camps were dismantled, while improvised explosive devices (IEDs), other explosives and communication equipment were also recovered.
The operations being conducted at various places across Pakistan have obviously resulted in reducing the number of suicide attacks in the country; the decline in attacks, incidents of terrorism and extremist violence, during the last nine months when the operation Raddul Fasaad – an extension of Zarb-e-Azb – is an evidence enough of the effectiveness of military and intelligence-based operations in countering terrorism.
In 2013, there were 43 suicide attacks recorded, resulting in 751 people killed and 1,411 injured, according to data from the South Asia Terrorism Portal website. In 2014, the year the Pakistan military launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb targeting various militant groups, the number of suicide attacks dropped to 25, killing 336 and injuring 601.
Nineteen suicide attacks took place in 2015 and again in 2016, while 10 suicide attacks have been recorded so far this year, through July 9.
“Military operations and security measures have yielded positive results, leading to a significant decline in suicide attacks and in casualties among civilians and security personnel,” security analyst Brig. (retd) Mehmood Shah of Peshawar, former security secretary for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), said. “The Operation has proved to be the most fatal for the terrorists and not only inflicted heavy casualties on the militants but also destroyed their hideouts, training camps and weapons depots in North Waziristan,” he said and added, “After the launch of the Operation, the graph of terrorism has dropped to the lowest level in the country.”
Some 1,816 militants belonging to proscribed organizations in Pakistan were killed in operations in 2015 and 2016, while 5,611 were arrested, according to the National Action Plan Tracker Report 2016, published by the Centre for Research and Security Studies in April. Pakistan has done remarkably well in the past few years in its fight against terrorism, the report says, as a result of which violence-related fatalities decreased across the country by 66% between 2014 and 2016.
The Pakistani military’s new Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad, launched in February, is also containing militancy and strengthening the gains of the previous operation, Shah said. Targeted security operations throughout the country and the tightening of security at the border with Afghanistan, including construction of fences in porous areas, have also discouraged militancy, he said.
“The decline in suicide attacks is the outcome of the overall improvement in security in recent years,” said Abdullah Khan, managing director of the Islamabad-based think tank Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS), adding, North Waziristan was the strongest base of militants, where the terrorists used to train newly recruited militants, and explosive devices were also manufactured there.”
Zarb-e-Azb and Raddul Fasaad eliminated the militant strongholds while intelligence-based operations have made it impossible for terror outfits to regroup in Pakistan. In recent attacks, the security personnel have found out that the suicide bombers were trained in Afghanistan; this development represents a reversal of past trends.
Border security and military operations alone are not enough to end militancy in Pakistan, said Murtaza Mughal, chairman of the Islamabad chapter of Nazaria-i-Pakistan Trust, a research institution. “The government and the security agencies must hold accountable the influential abettors, facilitators and financiers of terrorists in the country”, he said and added “Until the financiers and facilitators of militants are given exemplary punishment, reviving a long-lasting peace in the country will remain a dream.”
Those who work hard in silence and let their success make the noise are the real heroes that revel to create substantial impact with their unwavering capabilities and unmatched ample perseverance. General Qamar Javed Bajwa is such a hero who has proven his worth and competencies in a diminutive period and has exhibited his potentials of grit and insight.
It has been nine months since General Qamar Javed Bajwa was appointed as the COAS, one of the most highly prestigious and powerful positions in Pakistan. It is never easy to hold office of such responsibility especially when the predecessor has set such high bars of expectations. Gen (r) Raheel Sharif has been an acclaimed asset of Pakistan and has served to be not only a great leader for the Pakistan Army but has also been a cherished lead for whole of the nation. Geneneral Qamar Javed Bajwa has manifestly sustained the legacy of the former but also set new bars of committed excellence by being low profile but firm with describing decisions.
One of the reasons for his appointment as a COAS was his pro democratic track record. And it has been witnessed that despite Pakistan experiencing political fluctuations, and recently the ouster of Prime Minister through Supreme Court verdict, the COAS, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, has strengthened the democracy scenario and let the democracy get mature and run its course with upholding the Constitution prime and supreme. The pro-democracy standing of the COAS has added to mark the political stability and washed away any concerns that shadowed otherwise.
Dawn leaks has been a sensitive issue and demanded a solution which was handled with subtle amicability. An intense fallout of the Dawn leaks story and the committed follow-up by the Army and COAS has led to investigation of the matter and dismissal of the responsible was realized. It is clearly the standing of the COAS at not surrendering the issue that led to set an example to adhere to the ethical norms of journalism and exhibited the vivid message that any attempt to malign the institutions of Pakistan, especially the Armed Forces, will not be dealt with leniency.
Another recent delicate matter sparked after the unfortunate terrorist attack in Parachinar where the bomb blasts claimed more than 80 precious lives while injuring another 200. After the bomb blasts in Parachinar, a large gathering of people observed a sit-in as a protest against the terrorist attacks in a Shia dominated area and demanded a profound action against the culprits. Such a terrorist attack is targeted to disrupt the sectarian concord in the expanse and exploit the situation adding fuel to the fire. In this delicate matter COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa visited Parachinar to offer condolences to the grieving families.
Furthermore, he also held a meeting with the tribal elders and the families of the victims to resolve the anger that led to the sit-in situation and diminish the anguish of the community. It was indeed a sensitive issue but the elders and families exhibited their faith and support with the Pakistan Army and its leadership. The local elders and the victim families resolved that they are Pakistanis and Muslims only and their blood is for Pakistan. It is creditable for the COAS to be able to restore assurance and unity amongst the community.
The Pak-Afghan relations have perceived vacillations in the past as the terrorism remains the core issue disrupting the peace at both sides. COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa cited to extend its support with Afghanistan in order to eradicate the cancer of terrorism and to deal with the issue with utmost support and resilience. And Pakistan Army will extend coordinated efforts with Afghanistan to resolve the issue.
Moreover in the start of the year surgical strikes were carried out in Afghanistan by Pakistan Army targeting the terrorist camps. It was a first for Pakistan Army as it has never been initiated before. These strikes were carried out after substantial evidence and intelligence was gained on these camps related to the tragedy at Laal Shahbaz shrine which claimed nearly 90 valuable lives and left the country in anguish and dismay. The tormented nation demanded a strong action against the responsible elements. With the nation standing behind the Army, the strikes were carried out by Pakistan Army on the terrorist camps which reflects the inner strength of the Army leadership and its resolve to stamp out any internal or external threats making attempts to destabilize Pakistan.
To further control the cross border terrorist movement, Pakistan Army started the fencing of the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is also a first for Pakistan as over a decade the problem has erected challenges for the security forces. Fencing the borders will allow a better monitoring of the border and will hinder the escape routines for the terrorists. The construction of the fence will be carried out in two phases. In the phase one, the ‘high-infiltration prone’ border which includes the areas of Bajaur, Mohmand and Khyber Agencies will be sealed off. In the second phase, the railing of the remaining border areas of Balochistan will be carried out.
Another achievement of General Qamar Javed Bajwa in his nine months of holding the office is sparing the troops for carrying out Census. It was established that the much overdue National Population Census could not be carried out without the involvement of the Army troops. Despite the engagements of the Army in anti-terrorist operations, General Qamar Bajwa approved utilization of 200,000 troops for the activity. It was a difficult decision as the troops were to be spared not compromising on the security of the region and the efficiency of the operational activities. The Census was carried out with the Pakistan Army troops involved in all the steps with the trained staff to provide security oversight to the teams and also to ensure the validity and exactness of the collected data. General Bajwa, along with the Army leadership, kept tabs on the troops’ efficacy and monitored each step to ensure exactitude of the process and eliminate any concerns by the stakeholders.
The deployment of troops in Census did not hamper the efforts of Pakistan Army to uproot the threats lurking to destabilize the country. In a recent intelligence based operation carried out in Mustang region of Balochistan, 12 hardcore terrorists were killed. In difficult landscape of caves, the operation was carried out to target notable banned terrorists belonging to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al Alami who were reported to be in hiding. There were actionable reports that the organization has been collaborating with Daesh to provide a foothold for its operations inside Pakistan. It was alarming and an immediate action was required. The said operation was conducted by Pakistan Army for almost three days and successful results were attained. An attempt of footing intended for Daesh was dealt with prompt action and eliminated successfully and is certainly a great accomplishment for General Bajwa’s leadership. Furthermore in a short time more than 600 rebels in Balochistan have surrendered. General Bajwa has also expressed great support for the development in Balochistan.
Zarb-e-Azb, a defining manoeuvre against all threats of terrorism has proved to be a final blow to the terrorist networks. The operation initiated in time of General (r) Raheel Shareef, is still continuing in the name of Raddul Fasaad under the current leadership with utmost zest and zeal. The continuation of the aggressive operations has led to significant outcomes. But this operation which broke the terrorist networks also stemmed in sleeper cells and isolated terrorist snares a thwart the country. To eradicate these hideouts, a new operation Rudd–ul-fasaad was initiated. This on-going intel-based operation is collaborated between different intelligence agencies and the Security Forces of Pakistan to sweep for terrorists nationwide and conduct targeted operations. For the first time, such targeted operations were carried out in Punjab and a number of terrorists were apprehended and the terrorist sanctuaries destroyed. The operation is carried out in every city, every province of Pakistan concurrently and is the biggest operation of its kind in the history of Pakistan.
Genera; Qamar Javed Bajwa also accompanied the then Prime Minister to Saudi Arabia to help resolve the Gulf conflict. Saudi Arabia, along with Egypt, Bahrain and UAE cut off all ties with Qatar on the alleged support for extremism and terrorism. Pakistan played neutrality and offered to extend its help to resolve the issue as Pakistan relishes brotherly relations with all the Gulf countries.
Last month, Pakistan successfully carried out the test of The Hatf IX (“Vengeance IX”) or Nasr which is a tactical ballistic missile system. The successful test of this missile with improved range is deployed to deter and respond to India’s cold start doctrine. It is developed as a “low-yield battlefield deterrent” which marks at mechanized forces like armed brigades and divisions and can be used against Indian Army on Pakistani soil as the blast yield is much lower than strategic nuclear missile.
The nine months of the Chief of Army Staff, Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, have proved him to be a pragmatic leader initiating bold and timely responses. In the hour of need, Gen Qamar Bajwa was seen in the forefront retorting to any call-for-action with readiness and insight. Certainly the achievements of Pakistan Army in strengthening Pakistan, clearly reflects the dauntless and valiant leaderand fortifies the reliance of the Armed Forces and the nation in Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa. Surely the COAS of Pakistan Army, Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa not only kept high the legacy and elevated unwavering bar set by his predecessor but he also touched new heights of achievements and deliverance.
(The authors contribute as freelance columnists)