Zarb-e Azb: A National Aspiration

Note: On this S M Hali also conducted a talk show that’s embed here on this page.

By Raja G Mujtaba

Pre 9/11 the terrorist activities were not politically motivated but were funded by foreign powers so that Pakistan would be internally weakened enough to give up its support and demand for Kashmir and would not extend any support to Afghan Mujahideen who were fighting Soviet Union in Afghanistan. But at that time the terrorist activities were not so frequent or destructive as compared to the one being carried out currently.

The hallmark of 9/11 has shaped up a different world. The US made Pakistan to succumb to its pressure and support her invading forces to dismantle Taliban government who for all known reasons had not yielded to the US pressure in granting them the oil pipeline contract to ONCOL instead were inclined towards Argentina who had offered much lower prices for the same project.

The US groomed India as her successor in Afghanistan and gave her a free hand in that region; The US also awarded to them some huge contracts in order to sustain and carry out their agenda. This all provided a vast margin for India to spread an arc of consulates along Pak-Afghan border from where it carried out all nefarious activities in Pakistan. This fact was confessed not only by Manmohan Singh in Sharmalsheikh but was also revealed by Chuck Haggle before becoming Secretary Of Denence  in his statement that India is playing as a funding hand for the terrorist activities in Balochistan and FATA.

Moreover, the reality of United States was fully exposed when Raymond Davis surfaced and killed two Pakistani citizens in Lahore. Incidentally Raymond’s release was also brokered by Mian Nawaz Sharif against the popular sentiments of the people of Pakistan.

During the election campaigns, both PML-N and PTI were supportive of dialogue with the terrorists (TTP). It may be deemed as the reason that PML-N rallies or candidates were never attacked during the election campaigns though PTI suffered a couple of hits; however it maybe because they wanted Imran Khan to firm up his support for them.

Gradually the terrorist activities picked up pace to an extent that nearly five to six suicide attacks were being carried out on a regular basis. They were targeting random people and places; however it was observed that mostly Mosques, Churches, Imambarghas, Military installations were being were mostly attacked and damaged. As a community, the Hazara Shias paid a very heavy price and there was no respite. The previous government of Asif Zardari was not moved by all these devastating events and his Interior Minister Rahman Malik became one of the most detested official figures of all; as it is also been said that he was the one who granted blanket visas to Black Water etc.

With a drastic increase of terrorist hits on a regular basis, followed by target killings in Karachi, the whole nation turned hostile towards the terrorists and they started to demand military action everywhere including Karachi.

It was for the first time that the whole nation rejected the options for negotiation with these terrorists and they raised their voice at every forum in favour of an operation. However, the social media proved to be a very active and potent medium for the public and where the peoples’ opinion was outraged to the maximum and they could be vocal without any fear. People wanted an all out military offensive against the terrorists this could only happen if the political government would give them a green signal.

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Neither the Army was prepared to participate in the negotiations with the terrorists nor the ISI; this was due to obvious reasons as they were more prepared for luchig an operation against the terrorists. Mian Nawaz Sharif made all efforts to get them on board but they rightfully declined. It was because the Army knew the facts and they knew that they would have to eventually fight them out hence they never came on board in favour of the talks as an option.

The committee that was announced for the talks had none from the opposition or other main stream parties; all the nominees were personally listed by Mian Nawaz Sharif who had obliged him in one way or the other.

Before the advent of the talks, I had recorded my Radio Conversation on the topic of “Pakistan In The Grip Of Terrorism”, where I had revealed the fate of these talks. Presently, when I go back and listen to that recorded talk, I find all my fears to have come true .

While the talks were in progress, the terrorists struck at Islamabad Courts and gunned down about 15 people including a judge and a lady lawyer who had just started her practice. Ch Nisar, the Interior Minister refused to blame the TTP, instead termed it vaguely that it was an attack by some terrorists in spite of the fact that the TTP had claimed the responsibility for it.

There is no denying of the fact that it’s India, Afghanistan and the US who are fully responsible to induct, fund, equip and train all the terrorists to fight Pakistan. Each of these countries has a reason to do so. What Nawaz Sharif could have possibly done was to confront the leaderships of the countries sponsoring and supporting terrorists in Pakistan. At the same time he could have also confronted Uzbekistan for their nationals who are deeply involved in all terrorist activities in Pakistan, but unfortunately he has never proved to be enough sincere and intelligent to take any of such steps.

The question then comes up is that what holds him from doing so? Though it remains unanswered and not understood. He must know that the base of his power is the people of Pakistan and not the foreign crutches that he walks on. What he is doing is providing mere lip service as if people are fools. He must know that nations don’t thrive on slogans and rhetoric but on practical steps taken in the right direction.

During the talks, the terrorists struck at a military installation in KPK province to which General Raheel Shareef reacted with iron fist and took out over 20 terrorists with precision and speed. This action shook the terrorists who came rushing back to the negotiating table. Gen Raheel made it very clear that the government may continue the talks and if civilians are hit, the army will not react but even if a single soldier dies army will hit back with its might which they rightfully did.

If today the frequency of terrorist activities has gone down, it’s no credit to the government but the punitive action actions of the army and the air force.

These talks were sheer loss of time for Pakistan but proved fruitful for the terrorists. In the cover of the talks, they also got released over 40 of their prisoners without conceding anything; some of these were most wanted as they had the head money on them. Nawaz Sharif released them like a child’s play.

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On the issue terrorism, Army and Nawaz Sharif have never shared a common platform of opnion, neither the public ever supported the idea of talks. However, the Army and the public were of this mutual opinion that terrorism should be encountered through an operation. Today the whole nation stands behind the Army like a rock; today the people are also demanding that the army should remove this corrupt government which is completely indifferent to the people’s needs.  Nawaz Sharif through his arrogance and fear of the terrorists has completely ignored the public sentiments. Today Nawaz Sharif is paying the political price for his arrogance and not going with the public pulse.

Nawaz Sharif’s trip to India was more of the fulfillment of his dream. He is still fixed in the 90s and frozen his watches in that era. Since then, lot of water has flown under the bridge. The world reality has changed, so have the focus of other countries. Vajpai was a different personality and Modi is quite opposite of him. Modi carries an anti Muslim sentiment. Narendra Modi acting quite contrary to the customs of hospitality handed over a charge sheet to Nawaz Sharif which he did not even protest. Such businesses are discussed in formal meetings fixed for such talks.

Nawaz Sharif being a business man, has his interest in his personal trade and commerce. He would go to any extent to secure his business therefore he is not willing to confront India on any issue. During his visit, he ignored the Kashmiris, never met any of the Hurryiat leaders instead preferred having photo sessions with the film actresses and talked of join productions. Also along with his son Hussain Nawaz, he visited a business tycoon who is a leading name in the Indian steel industry.

This fact is quite apparent that Nawaz Sharif still holds a strong grudge against the Army and has been known to pick up troubles with almost every Army Chief starting from General Asif Nawaz Janjua. He picked up a row with General Kakar and the then president Ghulam Ishaq Khan. Kakar not showing any personal interest in taking over the power forced both Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Nawaz Sharif to quit. He formed a caretaker setup that conducted fresh elections within the stipulated time frame. Once again, he picked up a similar scuffle with General Jehangir Karamat who acting like a gentleman tendered his resignations and went home but his dual with General Parvez Musharraf was quite another story.

Although Nawaz Sharif has been in power for almost three decades but he has never learnt from his mistakes. His desire to wield total and complete power has not died down. To achieve that end, he always picks up on the Army Chiefs.

Pakistan Army has learnt from its past mistakes and shown a lot of maturity and tolerance but on the contrary Nawaz Sharif is still dreaming to be the unchallenged king of Pakistan where he can pass on the power to his coming generations like a monarch.

Another sad episode of his open hostilities with the army is that he fully backed Geo and Hamid Mir to defame and malign army in every way that he could. Hamid Mir had grown too big for his shoes and had no control over his mouth. The entire nation had turned against both Geo and Hamid Mir, public openly supported the demand to shut Geo and ban Hamid Mir from coming on air. This popular demand was resisted by Nawaz Sharif, instead he went to Karachi and met Hamid Mir to throw his weight behind him. This drew a reaction from the Army Chief and he called on Lt General Zaheer ul Islam DG ISI. This gesture was highly appreciated by the public at large.

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Hamid Mir was the leading man to attack the Army and ISI; he always supported the insurgents under one pretext or the other. So much so that when he went to Bangladesh to collect the prize on behalf of his late father he prompted them to hold trials and also move the international bodies to that end. As a result, Hasina Wajid became instrumental in carrying out trials of all those who supported Pakistan Army in 1971 and some of them have been hanged.

Today, the way Army and the Pakistan Air Force are operating in tandem and to take out the terrorists from their hideouts deserves some appreciation. When operating at this scale, some civilian casualties cannot be ruled out but the scores are much better than the US drone strikes.

Today the Army has announced one month’s rations and one day salary of all ranks towards the IDPs relief effort is a great gesture of humanity.

While this operation Zarb-e Azb is in full swing, Shabaz Sharif has opened yet another front by attacking and killing over 20 people of TUQ’s party and over a hundred seriously wounded. What was the need to act in such an irresponsible manner only Shabaz Sharif or his brother Nawaz Sharif can answer? Some say that it was timed to eclipse Zarb-e Azb, that had become focus of the entire nation who were supportive of it. This irresponsible act, has not only distracted the entire nation but it makes army also jittery about any unforeseen eventuality. If a nation is destabilized in such a manner then it certainly does invite the enemy to take advantage of such a situation.

Another point to note is that during this period, General Raheel Sharif cancelled his visit to Sri Lanka whereas Nawaz Sharif went ahead with his visit to Tajikistan. Tajikistan also has an Indian Air Force base where two squadrons of SU 30 nuclear capable are stationed. This base ensures India the second strike capability why Nawaz Sharif had to visit there and this time, some analysts are seeing it with some suspicion.

A few days earlier, the terrorists struck at Karachi International Airport, reportedly all were of Uzbek origin and were carrying Indian weapons. This made Nawaz Sharif furious as to why India has been named in this attack.

Operation Zarb-e Azb maybe over in a specified time frame but the war would be far from being over. TTP have spread out into other major cities like Karachi, Lahore etc. They are also showing strong presence in southern Punjab and perhaps upper Sind. Battles in those areas would be quite tough that needs to be tackled swiftly but may not be desired by the Nawaz Sharif government.

As a long term policy, we need intellectuals, educationists, social scientists etc who believe in spiritualism to reframe the education policy where they can teach tolerance and co-existence with each other. It is only the people who have strong inclination towards spiritualism who would inculcate the message of love, peace and harmony.

“Operation Zarb-e-Azb & Beyond” by sultanhali