Army is gearing up for a final push in Zarb-e-Azb operation that began one year ago. According to reports, troops are preparing to clear Shawal Valley which has been termed as ‘home to some of the last redoubts of TTP’. This is encouraging news, but is it realistic? Unfortunately, the answer is no.
According to COAS Gen Raheel Sharif’s own statement, “We will not stop unless we achieve our end objective of a terror-free Pakistan.” However, there is no reason to believe that clearing Shawal Valley will result in terror-free Pakistan. The most obvious example of this reason was the killing of three people on Monday in a sectarian attack by anti-Shia jihadis. A few days ago, six police were killed in two separate attacks including a suicide bombing in Peshawar. Afterwards, Taliban warned of more attacks to come. And it’s not just Balochistan and KP that are facing threats. Security forces raided a house in Lahore a few days ago and found Taliban and suicide vests. This is just a sample of events that have taken place since the last week, far away from Shawal Valley.
So how is it possible that Shawal Valley is key to achieving terror free Pakistan? Actually this is only possible if we define ‘terrorism’ so narrowly that it is a term only used for members of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan who are attacking security forces in certain areas. This is like the American mistake of only terming any violence by Muslims as terrorism while armed attack by a White gunman on a Church killing nine Black people is not considered terrorism.
The threat of terrorism is greater than just the threat of TTP, and by ignoring the broader scope of the threat, we can give it space to grow.
Though the North Waziristan military offensive is an attempt to damage militants’ operational baseline, at the same time it has forced the militants to assemble in Khost, Nuristan and Kunar regions, which are all places that seem more conducive for beginning a militant struggle toward the eventual establishment of their fantasised Islamic state.
Official statements and media reports declaring a wrapping up of anti-terrorist operations might be good for ratings, and it might be what we want to hear, but it is not what we need. If we are going to achieve the stated objective of terror-free Pakistan, we need to come to terms with the fact that the problem is bigger and more widespread. Only then we can devise a strategy to defeat it.