WASHINGTON: Shawal Valley is the next target of the armed forces operating in North Waziristan, senior officials told a gathering of Pakistani-Americans at the embassy.

This weekend, the embassy in Washington hosted the first ever convention of the Pakistani-American community and briefed them on various issues confronting the country.

Officials told the gathering that the government was forced to launch Zarb-i-Azab military operation after all other efforts failed. Even so, the government consulted all political forces in the country before launching the operation.

ALso read: Widening of Zarb-i-Azb operation likely

They said that the militants were never serious about negotiations and continued to attack both civilian and military targets across the country even while holding talks with the government.

“We were worried about the blowback but then the entire country came to the conclusion that the state has to reestablish its writ,” said one of the officials. “And that’s when the operation was launched.”

Another official pointed out that the blowback was “milder than feared because our coordinated efforts did not give them the chance to retaliate”.

Know more: Countrywide actions avert Zarb-i-Azb backlash: ISPR

The official also informed the audience that all security agencies — police, Rangers, IB, ISI and the armed forces — were participating in the effort to eliminate the militants.

“While the main effort is focused on North Waziristan, agencies are also fighting militants across the country, including Karachi,” another official said.

“We successfully neutralised their sleeper cells and sympathisers and reduced the space for retaliation.”

The officials explained that the militants hiding in North Waziristan fled to four directions, within the operation area, to other tribal areas, to major cities in the country and to Afghanistan.

“The armed forces have pushed the militants out of their hideouts but some are still hiding in Shawal Valley,” one official said. “So we plan to enter the valley before December this year and destroy their hideouts.”

The official rejected the allegation that the armed forces had orders not to target certain militant groups, such as the Haqqani Network.

“This is a war against the militants, targeting all groups, including the Haqqani Network, the Punjabi Taliban and all others,” he said. “Those who surrender are captured, those who fight are killed.”

The official, however, pointed out that since the process of seeking political consensus took several months, some militants moved to safe locations.

“But we are going after them too and have requested Afghanistan to tackle those hiding there,” he said.

The official said that the government received two-dozen IED-proof vehicles from the United States before launching the operation and was seeking another 200 vehicles.

Ambassador Jalil Abbas Jilani said the government planned to hold a donors’ conference in Islamabad later this year to assess what Pakistan needed to deal with militancy.

Pakistan’s immediate, “and the most urgent task”, he said was to resettle the IDPs. The country will also need some assistance to deal with the military cost of the operation.

The ambassador said that the country would need at least $2.5 billion for this purpose and was hoping that friendly nations, including the United States, would contribute.

Another senior official said that all precautions would be taken to ensure that the militants do not return to the tribal areas with the IDPs.

“Both civilian and military intelligence agencies are engaged in this exercise and we are confident that we will not allow them to return,” he said. “Remember, thousands of soldiers have died while fighting these militants and we have no sympathy for them.”

Published in Dawn, October 20th, 2014

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