ISLAMABAD: The ongoing military operation in North Waziristan is a ‘war of survival’ and will pave the way for the dawn of permanent peace in the country, the military’s spokesperson said on Thursday.
In a formal briefing to the media on Operation Zarb-i-Azb, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major General Asim Bajwa told reporters that the operation was being carried out without any discrimination between “good or bad Taliban”.
“This is the biggest and most well-coordinated operation ever conducted against terrorists. It is the beginning of the end for terrorism in the country,” he said.
Maj Gen Bajwa said army troops, Frontier Corps personnel, Khasadars, Levies, intelligence operatives and the Pakistan Air Force were jointly conducting the operation in North Waziristan.
Maj Gen Asim Bajwa says troops have surrounded North Waziristan; claims terrorists did not know operation was coming
“We have surrounded the entire agency and sealed the 180km border with Afghanistan, as well as the boundary with South Waziristan, making it impossible for terrorists to escape,” he said.
Asked if there was a possibility that terrorist leaders had escaped to Afghanistan before the launch of the operation, the ISPR chief said it was possible a few of them had taken refuge on the Afghan side, but most of them were still in the targeted area. “The terrorists could not anticipate the launch of the operation,” he said.
“Terrorists of all kinds, involved in different activities from Fata to Karachi, are based in North Waziristan. They include local and foreign militants, including Uzbeks and Chechens. Now, it is up to them whether they surrender or fight,” he said.
He said the entire nation and the political leadership of the country were on the same page as the military on the issue of terrorism and fully supported the army in the operation.
Asked about the perception that the military once backed militants groups such as the Haqqani group and Gul Bahadur group, the ISPR spokesman said there was formerly a pact with the Gul Bahadur group, but that had since been violated and now, neither side was bound to honour the agreement.
He said that since the launch of the operation on June 15, a total of 327 terrorists had been killed and 45 of their hideouts had been destroyed.
He said 19 terrorists had surrendered to security personnel but did not reveal any details about their nationality or allegiances. Ten security personnel have laid down their lives, while seven had been injured in the line of duty, he said.
The Afghan government had been requested to take action against those terrorists who crossed over to escape operation.
Also read: Pak-Afghan accord to go after all terrorists
He denied that US drone strikes were part of the operation, adding that US had been asked to coordinate, but the operation was solely being carried out by Pakistani troops.
Control rooms had been set up with the Universal Access Number 1135 in different cities, so people could share information about any suspicious activity in their area.
Internally displaced persons
The DG ISPR told reporters that so far, nearly 36,804 families consisting of 456,292 individuals had been registered as internally displaced persons and that most of them had moved in with host families in Bannu, Dera Ismail Khan and Lakki Marwat. Only a few hundred opted to stay in the camps set up for IDPs, he said.
Maj Gen Bajwa said that 50 army personnel and 20 officials of the National Disaster Management Authority had been deployed to ensure the registration of all IDPs.
Related: IDPs bemoan state’s apathy, neglect
Six ration points have been established in Bannu, DI Khan and Tank for the provision of food packets and medicines to IDPs and each family was given Rs15,000 and one month’s ration by the army. Of the registered IDPs, 221,000 had been immunised against polio drops and 32 relief collection points had been set up in different cities.
The DG ISPR said the National Database Registration Authority’s mobile vans were available to check the identity of incoming IDPs at registration centres. “IDPs are also being screened so that no terrorist can escape under the guise of an IDP,” he said.
Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2014