Are terrorists on the brink of defeat? That is the message being projected by recent reports that Army has eradicated 90 per cent of militant strongholds in North Waziristan and is preparing for a “final push” against last redoubts of TTP. This narrative of Army closing in on final defeat of anti-Pakistan militants is founded on two statistics: Reduction in overall terrorist attacks and high number of militants killed since launch of Zarb-e-Azb offensive last June. A swift and decisive conclusion to the operations is the prayer of all, but there are reasons not to get too excited too quickly.
Militants attacks may be down overall, but they are not stopped. Recent reports note that while not at previous levels, number of terrorist attacks has actually been rising. In some ways, these new attacks have been even worse because they have been more likely to target civilians in urban areas instead of security forces in tribal areas. Army may have cleared 90 per cent of militant safe havens in tribal areas, but what good is it if militants have simply moved to new safe havens in urban areas?
Body counts are also a notoriously bad metric for judging success of military operations. American military forces are infamous for ability to “shock and awe” with high body counts. US-led coalition has killed 10,000 Islamic State militants since last 10 months, but does anyone believe that the extremist group is on the verge of being wiped out? Military operations may have disrupted Taliban groups in Waziristan, but what has been done to stem the tide of Saad Aziz recruits from the urban areas? Terrorist groups like ASWJ have been “banned“, but continue to operate openly. Others like Jamaat-ud-Dawa remain untouchable. Army may be able to kill thousands in tribal areas, but where is the evidence that those militants are not being replaced by two or three recruits from other areas?
Army has been declaring victory since anti-terrorist operations began, yet after these declarations we have continued to suffer terrorist attacks including the inhuman slaughter of innocents at APS Boys Peshawar and Safoora Chowrangi. What is needed at this time is not another false hope of quick victory, but taking the nation into confidence on the long and difficult task ahead to rid the country of extremism that fuels the terrorist threat.