Pakistan Army on Wednesday launched 'Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad' across the country, Inter-Services Public Relations, the army's media wing, said in a statement.
Radd-ul-Fasaad — which translates roughly to 'elimination of discord' — will aim at indiscriminately eliminating the "residual/latent threat of terrorism", consolidating the gains made in other military operations, and further ensuring the security of Pakistan's borders, read the statement.
Pakistan Air Force, Pakistan Navy, Civil Armed Forces (CAF) and other security and law enforcing agencies (LEAs) will actively participate in and 'intimately support' the armed forces' efforts to eliminate the menace of terrorism from the country, the statement added.
"The effort entails conduct of Broad Spectrum Security / Counter-Terrorism (CT) operations by Rangers in Punjab, continuation of ongoing operations across the country, and focus on more effective border security management," the ISPR said.
"Countrywide de-weaponisation and explosive control are additional cardinals of the effort. Pursuance of National Action Plan will be the hallmark of this operation," it added.
The announcement followed a meeting in Lahore between Chief of Armed Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa, the corps commanders of Punjab, the director general of Pakistan Rangers Punjab, and the heads of intelligence agencies.
Earlier in the day, the federal government had approved a request forwarded by the Government of Punjab for the deployment of Rangers personnel in the province.
Punjab had requested the federal government to deploy over 2,000 Rangers personnel in the province, who would be given policing powers to conduct intelligence-based operations (IBOs) against militants, wherever required and with full authority.
Additionally, at the start of the week, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had informed Senate that the army had been empowered to act against terrorists across the border if it had concrete evidence that Afghan soil had been used to launch recent attacks in the country.
He had said it had been established beyond doubt that foreign soil had been used to orchestrate the attacks in Lahore and Hayatabad.
Recalling Pakistan’s commitment to not allow its soil to be used for terrorist acts in any country, Dar had said the time had come to ensure that no other country’s soil was used against Pakistan either.
Renewed focus on NAP?
Operation Radd-ul-Fasad has been announced as a continuation of the National Action Plan (NAP), the ISPR said in its Wednesday notification.
Widely criticised for its apparently half-hearted implementation, NAP had been formulated after the devastating attack on Army Public School Peshawar in December 2014.
As part of the plan, military courts were established to fast-track terrorism cases. Intelligence-based operations across the country were initiated to disrupt and destroy terror networks in urban and rural areas. The plan had also laid an emphasis on curtailing terror financing.
NAP had also promised to take action against seminaries involved in militancy, but the government had dithered on bringing them under control, apparently for fear of backlash from religious parties as well as militants.
The plan further envisaged countering hate speech and extremist material through the powers vested in the provincial police and other authorities. Pemra and other regulatory authorities were tasked with checking and banning glorification of terrorism and militant groups through print and electronic media. The drafting of the Electronic Media Code of Conduct was also a positive step.
The provinces were further instructed under NAP to raise a counter-terrorism force under a dedicated command structure.
Read more: National Inaction Plan?
Resurgence in terror attacks
Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad was announced in the aftermath of a fresh resurgence in terror attacks in Pakistan.
On Feb 21, security forces killed three suicide attackers who attempted to wreak havoc at a local court in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Charsadda district. The attack had killed five civilians and was claimed by the proscribed Jamaat-ul-Ahraar (JuA).
On Feb 16, the shrine of Sufi saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan was struck by a suicide bomber affiliated with the militant Islamic State. The worst in the recent flurry of militant activity in Pakistan, it saw at least 88 killed and more than 300 injured after a suicide bomber targeted devotees during the evening dhamaal.
Earlier the same day, an explosive device had targeted an Army convoy in the Awaran area of Balochistan, killing three soldiers.
On Feb 15, a suicide bomber had struck in Mohmand, killing three personnel of the Khasadar force and five civilians. This attack was also claimed by the JuA.
The same day, a suicide bomber rammed his motorcycle into a vehicle carrying judges in Peshawar's Hayatabad Phase 5 area, killing the driver and injuring its four other occupants. This attack was claimed by the TTP.
On Feb 13, a suicide bomber had struck a protest on Lahore's Charing Cross interchange, killing 13 and injuring 85. The attack had happened right outside the gates of Punjab's Provincial Assembly.
The attack was claimed by the JuA.
On the same day, two personnel of Balochistan's bomb disposal squad were killed as they attempted to defuse an explosive device planted under the Sariab Road bridge in Quetta, the provincial capital.
Chronology of military operations in Pakistan
The following are major military operations carried out by armed forces against local and foreign militants in the recent past:
Operation Rah-i-Haq-I in Swat valley and Shangla district (2007)
Operation Rah-i-Haq-II in Swat valley and Shangla (2008)
Operation Sirat-i-Mustaqeem in Khyber Agency (2008)
Operation Sherdil jointly launched with Frontier Corps in Bajaur Agency (2008)
Operation Rah-i-Haq-III in Swat valley and Shangla (2009)
Operation Black Thunderstorm in Buner, Lower Dir and Shangla district (2009)
Operation Brekhna in Mohmand Agency (2009)
Operation Rah-i-Rast, commonly known as Swat Operation, (2009)
Operation Rah-i-Nijat in South Waziristan (2009)
Operation Zarb-i-Azb in North Waziristan along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border (2014)
Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad across the country (2017)