THE STORY OF RESURRECTION, REJUVENATION AND REDEMPTION: WITNESS TO TOIL, SWEAT AND BLOOD

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Eph-Xe Cay

The sacred soil of beloved motherland is witness to supreme sacrifices its sons and daughters offered to strengthen its roots and defend its territories with their own sweat and blood, ever since its inception. The soldiers of Pakistan Army, the sailors of Pakistan Navy and the pilots of Pakistan Air Force have written epic stories of valour, professional excellence and disciplined commitment with chivalry and gallant. This is a fact that the friends and foes recognize alike, and the world’s top war correspondents mention it in their well-documented eye-witness accounts – be it 1948, 1965, 1971 wars, Kargil conflict or the 20-year-long war against terror.  

Their admittance that “Pakistan has fought one of the world’s toughest and longest wars of military history and Pakistani nation has emerged one of the most resilient, vibrant and intelligent nations on the globe” bears with it the testimony of strong will of the people belonging to all walks of life and the men in uniform from all ranks and files; they have made a pledge to safeguard the territorial existence of our homeland without fear of life and trepidation of loss. Pakistan has proved its metal by defeating the forces inimical on both conventional and nonconventional fronts, fighting nontraditional asymmetrical battles either in isolation or under the shadows, either in plains or in the rugged terrains, either under waters or above in the air.

If the challenges are enormous and new, Pakistan has evolved too, the Pakistani nation has transformed further, and the Pakistan Armed Forces have undergone further evolution, in accordance with the requirement of the newly emerging geostrategic environment. The Pakistan military has prepared itself to face the fifth generational war. It has successfully built its capacity and machination to thwart hybrid war or cyber-attack, propaganda onslaught or disinformation war.

Pakistan really has amazed the world. The world stands witness to our triumphs. The international community recognizes our contributions so big and sacrifices so many. We literally resurrected from ruins. Post 9/11 put us in grave test of time. Pakistan became the epicenter of global war due to the presence of terrorist roots in Afghanistan and its own contiguous tribal areas. The Allied Forces’ action against Al-Qaeda and Taliban resulted in yet another exodus of Afghan people into Pakistan who had already been hosting over 4 million refugees ever since the start of Afghan War in early 80s. With them also came militants who managed to sneak into Pakistan’s tribal areas, where they later gathered to wage war against the Pakistani state.

The enemy countries, especially India as our neighbor, took it as an opportune time to fuel and finance the terrorist organizations into forming a similar version of Pakistani Taliban, called TTP. Terrorism defeated in Afghanistan was transferred to Pakistan. The Global War on Terror was turned into Pakistan’s War on Terror. Through suicide bombings and Improvised Explosive Devices, the terrorists started targeting innocent Pakistani citizens and military personnel, vehicles and buildings, hospitals and schools, markets and airports, garrisons and installations. Hundreds of innocent people were killed. The terrorists eventually took over the entire Swat Valley and established so-called ‘Shariah Courts.’ The ‘Blood Squire’ called Khooni Chowk right in the middle of Swat city witnessed blood-letting of tens of innocent citizens every day. Brutal flogging of an innocent Swati girl, followed by a later attack on Malala Yusufzai, jolted the entire Pakistani nation.

The Government at Centre gave a go-ahead to Pakistan Army to launch military Operation under Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani’s command. Over 2 million people were evacuated from Swat, shifted to nearby towns in the makeshift IDP camps, and a sweeping operation was conducted. Most of the terrorists met their fate. Mullah Fazlullah, their leader, and his dreaded accomplices fled to Nangarhar in Afghanistan. Peace returned to Swat within months. The IDPs returned to the Valley much before stipulated time. Another Operation – the most difficult and daring one – was conducted in the mazes of Bajaur and mountainous South Waziristan where the TTP leadership had its strongholds.

The Pakistan Army exhibited extreme valour and bravery in carrying out operations. Rah-e-Rast and Rah-e-Nijaat were focused military operations conducted in areas saturated with terrorist hideouts. The operations in Swat, Bajaur and South Waziristan were difficult due to demography and terrain. But with robust determination Pakistan Army penetrated deep into the areas which were being used as terrorist safe havens. Pakistan Army busted and destroyed terror dens, safe havens, arm dumps, suicide training centers and highly sophisticated cyber-war and sabotage-gadgets which led to believe as to who actually was behind.

India in collaboration with anti-Pakistan elements had been conspiring to turn Pakistan into center-of-terrorism turmoil. As the external threats hovered over borders, we have had internal miscreants disrupting peace and stability of the nation. The Fourth Generational War was imposed upon us. Pakistan had to face two major challenges. One was the dangerous and dodgy narrative of the terrorists. They were using their own version of Shariah as their shield. And the other challenge was facing the terrorists from shadows, from behind the human shields. It was the ghost invisible amongst the visible – amongst our own.

Besides TTP, a number of al-Qaeda affiliates from Chechnya, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and other Arab and African countries who had earlier been operating in Afghanistan entered the tribal areas. They held hostage the local population in North Waziristan, Bajaur and other tribal agencies. They established a command-and-control system from where they monitored terrorist activities all over the country. A new wave of terror gripped the entire country. Suicide bombings, IED blasts and terror-storming targeted the security personnel, government and private buildings, innocent citizens, women and children, which not only caused a heavy toll on human lives, but also posed serious dent to economy and trade, business activity and routine life. This also nosedived Pakistan’s international image and standing.

Desperate times call for difficult decisions. Winning a war becomes inevitable when the security of the homeland is threatened. Pakistan stepped up with a steady resolve to stand guard against the terrorists entrenched in the country. It was also hard for the Pakistani nation to step into a war where Pakistan was checkmated due to the regional and religious sentiments for the Afghan brethren. But the saying goes, “yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.”

The terror attacks in Islamabad courts, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Lahore, Karachi, Attock, Quetta, and other cities sent a shockwave throughout the country. It put a serious question mark for the Security Establishment of the country. The Pakistan Army needed a nod from the political leadership. But the political dispensation first wanted to opt for peace talks with the TTP. This only proved to be a time gaining tactic for the terrorists. The terrorists stormed the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi on 9 June 2014. This was enough for Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif who wasted no more time and launched the already planned Operation Zarb-e-Azb on 15 June 2014. The operation was all-encompassing. “This would end only after the elimination of the last terrorist”, declared Gen. Raheel.

The political government however still wanted to use talks as an option. It didn’t lend its fullest hand to Zarb-e-Azb. But 16 December 2014 changed all. The terrorists conducted the most barbarous attack on Army Public School Peshawar – 140 school children and teachers were brutally killed, many burnt alive – by the terrorists who had crossed over from Afghanistan. This atrocious act engulfed the country in pain – unimaginable and unbearable.

“Enough is Enough” – was the ONE Voice of the Nation. Political Government and Security Forces joined heads together. All Parties’ Conference was held. The National Security Council met. They came up with a consensus National Resolve to hit back. No talks. Patience no more. A comprehensive National Action Plan was finalized with an 18-point agenda – which led to gearing up of all tiers of national security apparatus against the terrorists, who attacked Mehran Base, Kamra Airbase, Budhber Camp, Wagha border, Lal Shahbaz shrine, Lahore city, Hazara community members in Quetta, and many more.

Now was the time for the falling the Azb – the Sword of the Prophet PBUH. Zarb-e-Azb was a high-magnitude offensive operation – an absolute measure to eradicate the terrorist threats from the country – once and for all. The operation was carried out at three fronts that included (one) gaining the political support, (two) isolating the militant groups by conducting targeted strikes, and (three) protecting the civilians from the backlash of the operation. The operation started off with air strikes targeting militant hideouts in North Waziristan and elsewhere. The Armed Forces destroyed militants’ training facilities and other infrastructures supporting the insurgents. Their sanctuaries were targeted and destroyed.

The first year of Zarb-e-Azb marked the aggressive blow to terrorist networks. The combative strikes by Pakistan Armed Forces rendered the terrorists to scatter and isolate. This nudged the peace to take over the country. After a long time, the frequency of bomb blasts lessened – a wave of life and a sigh of relief washed over the country. As per security report published in 2016, the terrorist related incidents decreased in Pakistan up to 40 percent since the inception of Zarb-e-Azb and a major dip was witnessed in terror related incidents in Pakistan. To support the operation and to execute punishments to the captive terrorists, Military Courts were set up and the moratorium on executions of terrorists was removed through a Presidential Order. Hundreds of terrorists have so far met their fate.

Zarb-e-Azab broke the backbone of terrorist networks. This also resulted in isolating the scattered hideouts. These insulated bunches entice and seam the terrorists providing safe havens for their restoration and resumption of activities. The success of a military operation lies in an incessant exertion to sojourn the unification and integration of the terrorist network. Such a need led to the evolving of the robust Bajwa Doctrine. The success of Zarb-e-Azb necessitated it to be ranged to every nook and corner of the country to ensure an enduring outcome of all military operations carried out previously – and propel it to probable conclusion of eradication and purge of terrorism in all forms – the primary source of its spread was corruption and illegal flow of money.

In permanence of this notion, Pakistan Army under Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa launched Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad on February 22, 2017. Radd-ul-Fasaad – as the name suggests – aims to eradicate the insurgents spreading all kinds of Fasaad and Fitna that may destabilize Pakistan. The eclectic spectrum of this ongoing operation aims to target the sleeper cells and various access nodes of the residual terrorist networks with the synchronizing contribution of Pakistan Army, Pakistan Air Force, Pakistan Navy, Civil Armed Forces, Intelligence and other Law Enforcing Agencies. The highest achievement attained by the success of Radd-ul-Fasaad is the prevalence of peace in the country – opening doors for tourists. The whole world has witnessed the successful commencement of Pakistan Super League cricket matches and international players coming to Pakistan.

The merger of FATA with KPK has taken place that is to deliver political, administrative, judicial and security reforms along with chalked down plans for rehabilitation and reconstruction in the war affected areas. The FATA reforms have mainstreamed the region – and with education and development it is embracing permanent peace.

Fencing of the Pakistan-Afghan border is also a big success aimed at solidifying the borders and encumbering any cross-border movement of terrorists. Forts and checkpoints are created to ensure better border security management. The almost complete project of over 2600km long fencing stands today as Pakistan’s another hard power deterrent.

The Quaid’s vision for Pakistan is a peaceful Pakistan where every citizen has a right to practice religion with complete freedom – and freedom for all regardless of religion, caste or creed. Pakistan is differing up against extremism and terrorism is a firm step towards Quaid’s vision. It is imperative for Pakistan to hold on to this Vision and strive for the Welfare State it was always meant to be. For the peace of Pakistan and peace of the world – Pakistan Armed Forces have sacrificed many precious lives. The brave soldiers have given their toil, sweat and blood to make the defence of Pakistan impregnable. The Pakistani nation, its citizens and people from all walks of life have stood firm at the rear of the Armed Forces and provided their support, love and respect. Pakistan as a vibrant nation has exhibited relentless resolve and unmatched resilience. More than 70,000 precious lives were lost in this war against terror. After every terrorist attack, Pakistanis gathered themselves. With fresh wounds, they returned to living their lives to the fullest. They have amazed the world.

Despite the terrorist attacks and threats, Pakistanis showed clearly that no matter what, they will challenge every threat and deny living in fear as it is a nation of the brave. The Pakistani nation wears with pride all these sacrifices made in the name of peace. All these wounds by the terrorist attacks may never heal and leave scars – but these scars mean that Pakistan as a nation survived, Pakistan as a nation is stronger than what was trying to hurt us. Integrated Pakistan never gave up the fight and stood guard with sheer bravery, unwavered resolve and unmatched resilience. We have come true to the words of the Quaid, who said: “there is no power on Earth that can undo Pakistan”.

The sacred land of beloved motherland will continue to witness supreme sacrifices of its sons and daughters to safeguard its territories when and where the new challenges emerge and will never let down the integrity, sovereignty and security of Pakistan.

(The writer is security analyst)