Zarb-i-Azb, NAP and the militant challenge

Written by  Published by:Shiite News
Published in Articles
Monday, 06 June 2016

THE end of Operation Zarb-i-Azb has been speculated about for a while. On occasion, the military has suggested that it will be an open-ended operation, with counter-insurgency in North Waziristan morphing into counterterrorism operations in the cities. However, Gen Raheel Sharif’s comments to the Formation Commanders’ Conference on Thursday would appear to suggest that the military has a definite timeline in mind when it comes to the conclusion of Zarb-i-Azb — and that the end of the operation may only be months away. If the operation does come to a close soon, it would be a milestone in Pakistan’s fight against militancy. While other major operations have been fought in the past — in Swat and South Waziristan in particular — North Waziristan, both for operational reasons and for those of perception, had come to be regarded as a kind of final frontier: wresting North Waziristan away from militants and re-establishing the state’s writ in the agency would signal a return to a more internally secure Pakistan. The bravery and sacrifices of the soldiers who have fought in Zarb-i-Azb deserve the highest praise.

Yet, great challenges remain in the fight against militancy. While the banned TTP and affiliated groups may be decimated, the full spectrum of militancy continues to pose significant threats. There is also, beyond military operations and counterterrorism actions, the more complicated tasks of counter-extremism and de-radicalisation. Therefore, the end of Zarb-i-Azb, necessary as it may be, should bring with it some clarity and direction in the next phase of the long war. The National Action Plan may have a great deal of merit but it appears to have been virtually abandoned by both the political and military leaderships. In any case, NAP does not provide a phased approach, one that creates a road map in the post-Zarb-i-Azb security situation. Unhappily, if the absence of a declared road map is worrying enough, the means to create one is even more in doubt at the moment. From Zarb-i-Azb, the next logical step was to tackle the militant infrastructure in Punjab — and the infrastructure of all militants, not just those who have taken up arms against Pakistan. But the government does not appear to regard militancy in Punjab as a serious matter, while the security establishment seems uninterested in shutting down anti-India militant groups that are based in the province but that have spread their networks across the country. Surely, the nation’s security demands a less myopic approach.

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