By Agha Iqrar Haroon
Pakistan had faced the worst brunt of terrorism due to its proximity to the all-time unstable Afghanistan and radicalization injected into the region since the Afghan-Russo war of 1979. Offering our land to host global Jihadism in the 80s changed the social fabric, resulting in a massive onslaught of terrorism that Pakistan had gone through since then.
After the retirement of the then COAS Gen Raheel Sharif, everybody understood that the long-lasting success of Operation Zarb-e-Azb was depending upon an Army leadership that could manage the rehabilitation of internally displaced people in our erstwhile Federally Administrative Tribal Areas (FATA areas), Swat Valley and all other Afghan bordering areas
The pinnacle of infusion of venom by the multi-headed serpent of radicalization and terrorism was the era of 2006-2014. Pakistan Army fought terrorism gallantry and became the only army in the world that defeated terrorism without external help through several military operations, the biggest such operation was “Operation Zarb-e-Azb” which was started in June 2014. This operation successfully eliminated terrorist hideouts, nurseries, and breeding grounds in urban as well as far-flung areas. However, Pakistan could not be left without placing a mechanism that could ensure continuity and sustainability in anti-terrorism efforts to consolidate the gains we had achieved through Operation Zarb-e-Azb. At that time the change of command in the Pakistan Army was crucial and after the retirement of the then COAS Gen Raheel Sharif, everybody who had been covering operations against terrorism understood that the long-lasting success of Operation Zarb-e-Azb was depending upon an Army leadership that could manage the rehabilitation of internally displaced people in our erstwhile Federally Administrative Tribal Areas (FATA areas), Swat Valley and all other Afghan bordering areas.
This was the time we needed a fatherly figure as a new COAS who could continue negotiation with disgruntled elements and could feel the pain of victims of terrorism as a father not only as a strong-headed soldier.
Here we had new COAS Gen Qamar Bajwa whose smiling face, fatherly personality, and soft-hearted nature mingled with iron-fisted professional capabilities made wonders. This is the time when civil governments in KPK and Islamabad were shy to take responsibility for the social, economic, and psychological rehabilitation of victims and political leadership virtually failed to play their role in the execution of points they promised to do in the National Action Plan (NAP) including massive changes we still need in our curriculum and in our media management. Out of a total of 20 National Action Plan points, 9 points come into the ambit of the Pakistan Armed Forces, which have successfully been implemented by the Army. While following the National Action Plan, in a bid to eliminate terrorism and end extremism, the literature carrying sectarianist, extremist and hateful material was banned and confiscated, while more than 78 terrorist organizations and their leaders came under NAP’s watch.
Over 3 lakh IBOs were conducted under Radd-ul-Fasaad, which enabled the Army to confiscate more than 75 thousand illegal weapons and over 5 million ammunitions
The world has duly acknowledged Pakistan Armed Forces’ triumphs made under Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad during the last five years. All these operations included some most significant and grand operations which helped in restoring the law and order situation in populated areas. The security situation on the western border remained challenging during the last year for the very reasons relating to the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan; the subsequently changing dynamics of surrounding areas; and the enemy country’s continuing negative role in addition.
Anumber of kinetic and non-kinetic operations, big and small, were conducted, which made it possible to have vacated around a 48,000 sq km area from the hands of terrorists
All the past operations conducted had concentrated on particular areas against a visible enemy and for a stipulated timeframe. Those operations did pose a formidable blow to the terrorists. However, their sleeper cells within the country and the presence of their facilitators remained to be a bigger threat. Therefore, a number of kinetic and non-kinetic operations, big and small, were conducted, which made it possible to have vacated around a 48,000 sq km area from the hands of terrorists. Today we have not a single no-go area there. Besides, over 3 lakh IBOs were conducted under Radd-ul-Fasaad, which enabled the Army to confiscate more than 75 thousand illegal weapons and over 5 million ammunitions. The operation conducted by the security forces from time to time sent to hell hundreds of terrorists while thousands of miscreants were captured and put on trial; out of which 70% of terrorists got convicted by the court of law.
The Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) have since 2017 especially focused on capacity enhancement, under which 67 new FC wings have been established. The security forces
have, during the last five years, imparted training to over 40 thousand police personnel, besides giving training to more than 22 thousand Levies and Khasadar jawans.
Nevertheless, the successes made by Pakistan have had a huge cost, in men and materials. The nation has paid a huge sacrifice of over 86 thousand lives, including more than 7 thousand jawans and officers of the Pakistan Army, while overall economically the country suffered a loss of about $152 billion.
During Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad, the security agencies unearthed numerous anti-Pakistan plots hatched by the Hostile Intelligence Agencies (HIAs), and put before the world irrefutable proofs, especially regarding the facilitation of terrorists as well as training them. At the same time, the terrorists continued cross-border attacks from the western side, which were given a tit-for-tat response. All the Balochistan-based formations in Quetta and elsewhere in the province remained deployed and engaged in the fight against terrorists and hostile elements. “We are building peace in our country brick by brick; moving from relative stability towards an enduring peace” was the Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa’s unequivocal assurance to the nation.
We need to review what role of Pakistan Army under the leadership of COAS Gen Qamar Bajwa played for almost six years to mitigate the impacts of terrorism and to move forward for providing a better Pakistan to our future generations.
Related Story: On the completion of 4 years of Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad, DND Thought Center has launched a Database covering all incidents of terrorism, elimination of terrorists, and sacrifices rendered by army officials and citizens of Pakistan from February 22, 2017, to February 22, 2021. Click here to access Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad DataBase.
Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad commenced on 22 February 2017 under which Intelligence Based Operations (IBOs) were conducted in the width and breadth of the country. It was aimed at restoring law, order, and peace within Pakistan by first tightening the noose against the elements of evil and then finally eliminating them from our soil. This operation was regarded as the national cause of which the people of Pakistan are an important part as well as a primary focus.
It is actually the people’s role that determines how pivotal is it to exterminate extremism and terrorism. Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad started at a point when the terrorists tried to hide in urban areas, after suffering huge losses in men and materials. There in the populated areas, they started hitting soft targets, which in deed necessitated the initiation of a comprehensive all-encompassing operation.
Points were taken care of under Radd-ul-Fasaad include:
The right of the use of power rests with the State; securing the western frontiers under WBMR (Western Border Management Regime); eliminating terrorists’ safe havens throughout the country; ending violent extremism; and, culminating the welfare initiatives in terror-hit areas.
A narrative can be countered by bringing up a better narrative evolved through national consensus. In order to draw positive results, it was mandated to implement, in letter and spirit, the National Action Plan (NAP), bring the tribal areas into the mainstream, and garner effectively enacted reforms by the government.
Socioeconomic Uplift in KPK and erstwhile FATA
In order to connect FATA’s inaccessible areas with the rest of the country, a vast network of 1441-long-km roads and bridges has been constructed. Anti-Pakistan elements damaged a lot many educational institutes in a bid to deny them the beacon of knowledge. Pakistan Army not only rebuilt schools and colleges on a war footing but also introduced a comprehensive education system, keeping in mind the modern-day scientific needs. In addition, primary and secondary schools for girls and boys were separately built and established along with clean hostel accommodations. Moreover, well-equipped cadet colleges with modern-day facilities were established, which are guaranteeing a brighter future for the shining students. From the 886 educational institutes in KP, over 2 lakh and 17 thousand students have completed their education. Besides, the Army Chief announced a youth package that is helping in imparting free-of-cost education to APS students as well as technical education in vocational colleges on a concessional basis.
Public Health projects were also launched in KP, which include Rural Health Centers, dispensaries, and, rather, hospitals equipped with modern-day machinery and various other facilities. These projects are benefiting around 11 thousand and 530 patients on daily basis.
Over 831 development projects have been initiated in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s tribal districts costing Rs 31 billion. These are benefiting the local people. By virtue of security and stability provided to the people through the Pakistan Army’s Direct Support Program, 558 projects reached completion in 2021. These projects include markets, educational institutes, hospitals, and communication infrastructure.
In Balochistan, anti-Pakistan elements have of late resorted to sabotaging the law & order situation. However, security agencies are proactively engaged in thwarting their nefarious designs, day in and day out.
Under “Vision Balochistan 2030”, communication infrastructure, healthcare, and safe city projects have been launched in the entire province. The work on the construction of more dams, and the provision of safe drinking water, and fisheries is continuing at a fast pace. Moreover, the establishment of 9 cadet colleges, an NUST campus, and particularly a dates processing plant in Panjgur are going to prove a milestone in Balochistan’s future prosperity.
In order to connect Balochistan’s far-flung areas with the rest of the country, a 1079-km-long network of roads has just been completed. On the health side, in Quetta alone and in other parts of Balochistan, 490 health projects have been completed. These include state-of-the-art cardiac centers, Gwadar hospital, Avaran, Zob, Khuzdar, and Panjgur’s public health facilities where 35 thousand patients are benefiting from, on daily basis.
A special concessional program has been introduced to encourage the Baloch youth for joining the Armed Forces. Over 21 thousand soldiers and 1,487 officers belonging to the province are currently serving in the Army. This has geared up the Baloch people’s in-take in the Armed Forces.
202 educational institutes have been built for spreading education in Balochistan, along with special seats announced for the deserving. Currently, over 1 lakh and 50 thousand students are getting an education. In all Army Public Schools across Pakistan, the students from Balochistan are being imparted education. In order to encourage added induction and recruitment of Baloch youth in FC, the standard procedure of required height and education has been relaxed. Besides, over 6 thousand students have already benefited from the Chamalang Education Scheme, while 4,550 students are currently getting education under this project.
Under the De-Radicalization Program, which was a part of Radd-ul-Fasaad, 4,988 people have so far been reintegrated into the country’s mainstream. The terrorists’ assets have been frozen and their movement is banned. More than 1,200 sub-nationalist extremists have been brought back to the normal way of life. At the same time, jihadi organizations like Ansar-us-Shariah Karachi, JuA Kurram Chapter, TTS Lahore Chapter, TTP Swabi Chapter, Intiqam e Waziristan Group, TTS Dir & Swat Chapter have been eliminated.
Paigham e Pakistan
Paigham e Pakistan is the significant part of NAP. For the first time, over 1800 religious ulema together released an edict against terrorism and extremism. Here comes General Bajwa’s personal efforts to garnering support and mutual consensus by Wafaq-ul-Madaris and ulema, who really helped in making the most effective narrative against the elements of hate. Be it the mandate of implementing NAP for countering extremism or action against the banned organizations or be it the action plan of chasing and eradicating the remaining terrorists, the security agencies conducted intelligence based operations through the width and breadth of country, without discrimination of color or race.
Besides banning hate speech or confiscating inciteful material, the terrorists’ narrative and its dissemination was effectively countered and failed.
Pakistan Army played a pivotal role in madrassa reforms and bringing back religious harmony in the country. Paigham-e-Pakistan in fact helped in saving the youth from going into the dirty trap of terrorism and defeated the narrative of violent, militant and extremist ideologies.
There are so many points I might have missed to mention but I have expressed my viewpoint that having administratively disastrous governments during 2018-2022 in the Centre as well as in KPK (that is the breeding ground of terrorism), this was the only leadership of COAS Gen Bajwa who had managed to move forward. However, the regional scenario that changed after the fall of Kabul is again triggering the situation and it is feared that terrorists could come back we have seen a series of attacks on security forces in the last year.
Do we remember the story of the Trojan Horse that Homer tells us in the Iliad? The lessons we get from Iliad are that states are defeated through enemies injected within the states and by spreading fears, pessimistic approaches, and negativity among the population
I fear that the land of Afghanistan is again being used against Pakistan but I am sure our forces under the command of COAS Bajwa will nip this situation in the bud he needs support and sanity from our political leadership. Alas, we have politicians like former Prime Minister Imran Khan who are injecting hate among youth against our armed forces and spreading pessimistic approach and negatively in society are snubbed by the state because such people are serving our enemies who always try to breed hatred against institutions among masses as part of their of hybrid war against Pakistan. Fatherly figure COAS Gen Bajwa has been a driving force in mitigating psychological trauma faced by victims of terrorism because he cares for and loves them as a father and his smiling face has been a source of the desire to live again among victims.
Do we remember the story of the Trojan Horse that Homer tells us in the Iliad? The lessons we get from Iliad are that states are defeated through enemies injected within the states and by spreading fears, pessimistic approaches, and negativity among the population.
The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk (DND). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk News Agency.