Propaganda against Zarb-e-Azb

Zarb-e-Azb-northwaziristanBy S. M. Hali

Operation Zarb-e-Azb against the miscreants in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) is in its eleventh week and heading towards its logical conclusion i.e. weeding out the miscreants who were wreaking havoc against the State of Pakistan. The operation took years in coming for various constraints but finally commenced on 15 June, 2014. It is never easy to launch a military operation in one’s own territory for fear of collateral damage and hoping that wayward miscreants may be brought back in the fold of sanity and abandon their heinous agenda.

The military operations against the miscreants in Swat and South Waziristan achieved the desired results but took a heavy toll of precious lives of the armed forces. Logically, the military is required to achieve its target of wresting the control of sovereign territory from the miscreants, conduct mop up operations and hand over the administrative control to the civilian authorities for rebuilding, reconstruction and rehabilitating the IDPs. Unfortunately, the civilian administration lacked the capacity as well as the will to discharge its responsibilities and it fell upon the military to recreate the communication infrastructure, rebuild the bridges, hospitals, schools and houses destroyed by the Taliban and attempt to restore the lives of the IDPs as well reinstate their confidence in the state of Pakistan and provide them security from the trauma inflicted by the Taliban. Repeating the exercise in two theatres of war overextended the resources of the Armed Forces. National and international pressure was on the armed forces to stop the onslaught of terror attacks being launched by the miscreants from NWA. Simultaneously, there were demands to give a chance to peace talks with the TTP, which proved futile since the miscreants were only vying for time to reorganize their odious campaigns. The blatant attacks, while the talks were in progress, including the one on Karachi Airport, finally convinced the government to give the green signal to the armed forces to commence Operation Zarb-e-Azb. The military struck with all its might, after giving a chance to the civilians to vacate the area. Nearly a million IDPs resulted, whose care also befell on the shoulders of the armed forces.

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Precision attacks by PAF jet fighters and Pak Army gunship helicopters softened the target while the ground forces moved in to destroy the terror training camps, factories for manufacturing Improvised Explosive Devices, arsenals of deadly weapons and secret tunnels. Over 800 terrorists were killed, hundreds arrested while their strongholds and sanctuaries were razed to the ground. Selected groups of local and foreign media were conducted to the locations to examine the theatre of war and judge the intensity of the miscreants’ operational capability. It was expected that the world would see through the window of the media outlets, the extent of the challenge and threat, which was met head on in Operation Zarb-e-Azb and decapitated.

Unfortunately, Pakistan and its fight against terror have had its detractors. There used to be cries of “do more” from the US and its allies during the decade of the 2001-2011. There were constant demands of launching operations against purported Al-Qaeda and Taliban hideouts in NWA. Pakistan’s military had its hands full because of the operations mentioned above as well as the continued threat from our eastern adversary. Now that the military operation has finally taken place and a modicum of success has been achieved, the same detractors are finding fault with Pakistan. Earlier, they used to propagate that Pakistan was colluding with the Haqqani Group and facilitating it in its cross border incursions into Afghanistan. When this lie was nailed and the same detractors were secretly negotiating with the Haqqani Group for a semblance of peace in Afghanistan, they have now found fresh ground to express their grouse.

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Certain foreign media analysts and writers are now insidiously propagating that Taliban leader Gul Bahadar is an asset of Pakistan Army and ISI. Some domestic media persons, perhaps carried away by the international propaganda, have given vent to their incessant habit of bashing Pakistan Army/ISI, have re-echoed the same misinformation, asserting that Pakistan Army/ISI were soft on terrorists like Gul Bahadar. If that were not enough, remaining oblivious to ground realities, the same group of detractors is purporting that operation Zarb-e-Azb was purposely delayed to facilitate certain militants close to Pak Army/ISI to exfiltrate into fresh safe havens. The same critics are leveling charges that operation Zarb-e-Azb is a forged action and a bogus exercise undertaken by PAF and Pak Army while sparing hardened miscreants like Gul Bahadar and others.

In effect, the armed forces have found evidence of foreign support to the miscreants both materially and financially. Perhaps in a bid to hide their own abhorrent agenda of destabilizing Pakistan through their own machinations, they are launching a disinformation campaign to sow doubts regarding the sincerity and credibility of military operation and demoralize the troops engaged in Zarb-e-Azb.

Recent air strikes against terrorists in Khyber and Dutta Khel (NWA) killed 48 suspected militants. A house belonging to Gul Bahadar has been destroyed in the air strike. Reportedly terrorist Fazlullah and other prominent militant commanders were also present in the targeted house. Unfortunately Gul Bahadar managed to escape but others have reportedly been killed. Military has really demonstrated its zeal and firm resolve to eliminate all terrorists from NWA without any discrimination. This proves not only the level of seriousness of the military to eliminate terrorists and but also nails the lie of the propagandists that Gul Bahadar was being sponsored by the military. Successive Governments upheld the peace treaty of 2006 with Gul Bahadur and security forces stood by their promise despite suffering heavy casualties. Gul Bahadar is the only one refusing to expel Foreign Fighters and stands alone on their side, while the complete tribal Shura stands loyal to the state. Unlike a genuine leader, Gul Bahadar has opted to endanger men, women and children of NWA for his personal gains and is a much wanted commander to the military; hence the unwarranted propaganda against Operation Zarb-e-Azb must cease.