Mehr Ispahani and Saima
The War on Terror had had a major impact on Pakistan after the 9/11 attacks in
2001. Pakistan Armed Forces had to face the threat of al-Qaeda and Taliban
militants, who fled from Afghanistan and started targeting the state buildings,
civil and military facilities as well as high-profile figures. Several
operations were conducted against the terrorist groups located in Waziristan,
Bajaur, Swat and other areas. As a reaction, Pakistan faced suicide attacks on
hospitals, schools, government installations, infrastructure, men, women and
A broad-based counterterrorism policy, taking the issue holistically, came into
being in 2014. The attack on the Army Public School that killed more than 145
children and adults proved to be a turning point for Pakistan’s counterterrorism
policy. Zarb-e-Azb was thus launched on June 15, 2014, which has remained a very
successful operation so far.
Pakistan has remained a target of different terrorist organizations for years.
Different militant groups emerged during the US-led war in Afghanistan. Pakistan
being the ally of the US in WOT had to face serious challenges both from inside
and outside of the country. Waziristan and KPK for its proximity with the Afghan
border had to face several attacks from different militant groups, mostly from
across the border.
6 September 2014: Pakistan Navy frigate PNS Zulfiqar was attacked and briefly
captured before being recaptured by Pakistan Navy forces. The attack was
intended to use the Zulfiqar’s anti ship missiles to attack the US Navy Fleet in
the Arabian Sea. 10 militants were killed in the ensuing operation to recapture
the ship. 14 October 2014: Nine people were killed in blast in Taunsa Sharif
District, D G Khan. 16 December 2014: At least 132 children among over 141
killed by Taliban militants who stormed an army-run school in Peshawar city.
Seven militants were also killed during the SSG rescue operation. 18 December
2014: At least 3 paramilitary soldiers died in a roadside bomb blast in Bajuar.
18 February 2015: 3 people were killed and several injured in an explosion at
Qasar-e-Sakina Imambargah on Kuri Road, Rawalpindi. 24 February 2015: Bomb
killed at least one and another 8 were injured in Chaman district, Balochistan.
15 March 2015: TTP bombers targeted two churches in the Christian neighborhood
of Yuhanabad, Lahore, as worshippers were gathering for Sunday mass. At least 14
people were killed and another 70 were injured. 20 March 2015: 2 people were
killed and 7 wounded after a bomb planted on a motorcycle exploded outside a
mosque in Karachi. 11 April 2015: Militants gunned down 20 laborers and injured
3 others in Turbat, Balochistan. 29 May 2015: 35 people were forced off a bus by
the United Baloch Army men; 23 of those passengers were killed. 18 September
2015: 29 people, including an army Captain, were killed as militants attacked a
Pakistan Air Force base in Badhaber, Peshawar. 29 December 2015: 26 were killed,
56 injured in suicide blast at NADRA office in Mardan.
20 January 2016: At least 20 people were killed and 60 wounded after gunmen
opened fire inside Bacha Khan University. 27 March 2016: 74 people were killed
and 338 others were injured in a suicide bombing that hit the main entrance of
Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, one of the largest parks in Lahore. 8 August 2016: A bomb
blast outside a hospital where lawyers had gathered to mourn the death of a
prominent lawyer killed at least 70 people in Quetta. 24 October 2016: Three
militants stormed a police training centre in Quetta and took between 200 and
500 cadets hostage. Two of the attackers blew themselves up while the third
attacker was killed. At least 60 people were killed and more than 190 people
were injured. 26 November 2016: Two FC personnel were killed and 14 others
injured when 4 suicide bombers attacked a camp in Mohmand; all 4 attackers were
Under such circumstances the Pakistan Army launched operation Zarb-e-Azb and
with an active support of the entire nation achieved unparalleled successes in
the war against terrorism. The government and the military leadership took a
number of difficult steps during the last few years. Pakistan is the only
country that has rendered more sacrifices than any other country in this costly
and protracted war. The above graph shows a gradual decline in the incidents of
terrorist attacks during the last three years.
Moreover, under the National Action Plan, NACTA and COIN, a well thought out
plan was envisaged especially to de-radicalize the society, especially in FATA
and KPK. Though heavy price was paid in terms of the killing of Dr Farooq, the
head of De-Radicalization Plan, yet this programme remained successful and
hundreds of youths, who had been earlier hired by TTP for suicide bombing,
recovered from South Waziristan and elsewhere where their handlers had been
training them, were brought out from the brainwashed mindsets.
Extremist ideologies were countered through launching of ulema, intellectuals,
psychologists, psychiatrists, TV programmes, workshops, seminars and by bringing
in necessary changes in the curriculum. A moratorium on the death sentence put
during the Zardari regime was lifted. The government hanged a number of
terrorists and extremists, including the killer of Punjab’s Governor Salman
Taseer. Special Army Courts were also set up, which also hanged a large number
of terrorists and where the cases are still under trial.
The government of Nawaz Sharif right at the outset launched development projects
of metro bus service, orange line train service, green bus service, roads
network, bridges, hospitals, and other infrastructure programmes. Despite
opposition’s dharnas and agitations, the government succeeded in securing a
historic mega project called CPEC with the Chinese government and the Pakistan
Army as well the Pakistan Navy took direct responsibility of providing security
for this project. A two divisions of armed force was raised and trained,
deployed along the Corridor lines, which resulted in the passing of first
250-truckloads of convoy from China to Gwadar onwards.
Due to successes and gains in the Zarb-e-Azb operation, the world not only
acknowledged Pakistan but world leaders also started visiting Pakistan and GHQ
for extending and getting help in the expertise as to how to quell terrorism in
their respective countries. Despite unprovoked firing on the Line of Control,
instigative statements by the Indian leadership, the government and armed forces
handled both external and internal threats. The Indian drama of surgical strikes
was also exposed and the world recognized this fact that India has no capacity
to launch such strikes.
These positive steps will help make the entire region stable and prosperous and
it is all due to the tireless efforts and sacrifices of Pakistan in the war
against terror. Operation Zarb-e-Azb has achieved its military and security
objectives and that is how it will be remembered. The new Army Chief Gen Qamar
Javed Bajwa with his profile and vigor will follow his predecessor’s footsteps
and will complete the task Gen Raheel Sharif started. (ENDS)