Over 250 terrorists have been killed as Zarb-e-Azb enters the final phase. It is a headline that brings some hope after the senseless bomb attack at Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park in Lahore while thousands of Qadri supporters wrecked the capital.
Zarb-e-Azb has been the brain child of Gen Raheel, so it it possible that the operation is entering its final phase just as the General is entering the final few months of his term as Chief of Army Staff. Next year there will be a new COAS, and he will bring a new operation. What will finally rid the country of terrorism is a question no one seems able to answer.
Apparently it is time for the Spring Media Offensive. According to reports, COAS Gen Raheel has given the order to begin the ‘final phase‘ of Zarb-e-Azb operation. The Army chief said at a briefing that remaining terrorists should be eliminated from their hideouts. It’s very encouraging and shows that the war against terrorists is finally coming to an end.
Hopefully it will come true this year. It didn’t work out after Pakistan Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman announced that operation Zarb-e-Azb has ‘backbone of terrorists‘ last spring.
It didn’t work out the year before when military officials declared that operation Zarb-e-Azb had ‘crippled‘ command and control system of TTP. A few days later, the ‘crippled’ Taliban carried out audacious attacks on Samungli and Khalid airbases.
It didn’t work out when DG ISPR Major General Asim Bajwa announced that due to operation Zarb-e-Azb, Taliban capacity to carry out terrorist attacks had been neutralised, only to have his announcement followed by the suicide bomb attack at Wagah border crossing.
It didn’t work out when PM Nawaz Sharif announced that Zarb-e-Azb had dealt a ‘fatal blow’ to terrorists in December, only to have his statement followed almost immediately by the barbaric attack against APS Peshawar.
However this is a new year. It is Gen Raheel’s last chance to finally put the nail in the coffin of terrorism and leave office as the hero that he has been built up to be. As for the rest of us? What can we do but hope that this year’s declaration of victory is the one that finally comes true.
Recent articles published in the US media are giving the impression that Islamic State, with a global Jihadi appeal, is struggling hard to get a foothold in Pakistan but the authors of these articles are either downplaying the tell tale signs or the articles lack the necessary framework in which emerging terror organizations flourish.
As the Taliban lose steam as a result of the death of their supreme leader Mullah Muhammad Omar and splintering and internal fighting, stage is set for a new group to take over. A cursory look at the metamorphosis of Jihadi organizations in Pakistan and Afghanistan over the past two decades indicate that they are getting deadlier, sophisticated and high tech savvy with every passing year; from Mujahideen groups willing to negotiate to Taliban willing to blow up and finally to Islamic State willing to behead innocent people. This is a worrying development not only for the South Asian region but for the entire world as well.
“You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”
Gen Bajwa’s elevation to three stars was seen as announcing the arrival not only of the respected general himself but of 4G warfare and the psychological operations that ISPR has perfected under Gen Bajwa’s leadership. To commemorate the anniversary of APS Peshawar attack, ISPR released another excellent video, ‘Mujhe Dushman Kay Bachon Ko Parhana Hai’. The video has received thousands of views and positive coverage in the media. But while ISPR’s media programme was rallying nationalist fervor, another narrative was beginning to take hold. One that is questioning whether everything is really as we’re being told.
Army’s anti-terrorism campaign has been a huge success. We know this because we are reminded of how successful the Army has been by their crack media team such as the series of Tweets from General Asim Bajwa declaring operation Zarb-e-Azb “a phenomenal success” further projected by media that has been recruited as just another wing of ISPR. Gen Bajwa’s Twitter profile proclaims that “Truth Prevails”, and as far as we know everything that the Army’s top PR manager says is the truth, and the successes and sacrifice of our brave soldiers should be appreciated. However, without denying the great successes of Gen Raheel and Zarb-e-Azb, if “Truth Prevails”, we must also face the limits of military power in finally ridding our country of the menace of terrorism.