General Khalid Shameem Wynne, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee presiding over the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee meeting at Joint Staff Headquarters. — Photo by APP

ISLAMABAD: Top military body’s declaration on Thursday that it was ready for any sacrifice for eliminating terrorism sparked speculations about the possibility of a major military offensive against Tehrik-i-Taliban and other terror networks operating from tribal areas.

“Participants expressed their satisfaction over the standard of preparedness of Armed Forces to take on the upcoming challenges being faced by the country. It was reiterated that the resolve to fight the menace of terrorism will be kindred and Armed Forces of Pakistan are ready to render any sacrifice therein (sic),” a rather strongly-worded statement from ISPR said after the meeting.

The meeting, chaired by General Khalid Shameem Wynne, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, was attended by Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Asif Sandila, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Tahir Rafique Butt, Secretary Defence, Secretary Defence Production, Chief of General Staff, Director-General Joint Staff, Director-General Inter Services Intelligence, Director-General Strategic Plans Division and senior military officers from the three services.

Although there weren’t any specific details in the statement, but it was widely interpreted as a signal from the army to Taliban that it was finally ready to take them on.

Reiterations from the top military leadership, in the past, about their commitment to counter-terrorism had always led to speculations about a major operation against militants being in the offing — the latest being Gen Kayani’s Azadi night speech at the Kakul Academy.

However, as no announcement came from the government or the military, the speculation died out. But the strong reaction from the military leadership to the attack on Malala has once again triggered talk of a possible operation.

But, back-to-back statements from Army Chief Gen Kayani and Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, the principal military advisory body, and more importantly the raging anger in the country against the atrocious attack on a young activist who stood up for education of girls is being seen as an important development with regard to an all-out operation to flush terrorists out of their hideouts.

Gen Kayani’s late evening meeting with President Zardari made the rumour mills’ work overtime. No statement was issued either by the Presidency or ISPR, but some sources claimed that the two had met to discuss the security situation in the country and a possible response.

“We refuse to bow before terror. We will fight, regardless of the cost, we will prevail Insha Allah,” Gen Kayani had said after visiting Malala Yousufzai at a military hospital in Peshawar.

A top general, who was not authorised to officially speak, while sharing the military’s assessment said: “The situation is ripe, people are themselves asking for operation in North Waziristan.”

He, however, noted that a political decision would be required before initiating the operation.

Military had long avoided involving itself in a campaign in North Waziristan on the pretext that it was engaged in other parts of the tribal region. Now with no major operation taking place except for Orakzai Agency, the army may think it to be feasible to go into the area it had long avoided.

The National Assembly had in its meeting on Wednesday adopted a resolution stating that the house “resolves that until the establishment of peace in the great motherland, the rooting out of terrorists will continue”.

It’s not clear if the operation, whenever it takes place, would be restricted to TTP which claimed responsibility for the attack, and its affiliates or whether Haqqani network’s sanctuaries would also be targeted.

The Rawalpindi kidnapping of a retired brigadier with intelligence background may be yet another indication of things moving fast towards the ultimate face-off.