‘Zarb-i-Azb an indiscriminate operation’: Bajwa briefs media on counter-terrorism efforts

Director-General (DG) Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Asim Bajwa while briefing the media on progress made during Zarb-i-Azb said the operation was an indiscriminate one.

“The salient operational guidelines for Zarb-i-Azb were that it would be an indiscriminate operation, it would avoid collateral damage and it would be mindful of human rights,” Bajwa said.

“In 2014, the security environment when Operation Zarb-i-Azb started was such that the country faced various instances of terrorism,” he said. “There were 311 IED blasts, 74 attacks, and 26 suicide blasts in 2014.”

‘Afghan authorities did not take action against terrorists’
The DG ISPR displayed a map showing what he claimed was the concentration of terrorists in North Waziristan.

“No one could think of going to North Waziristan. It was the epicentre [of terrorism]. It was home to the largest communications infrastructure,” he said. The origin of most instances of terrorism was North Waziristan, he said.

“After the operation, when we cleared the valley, reaching Dattakhel and were moving towards the border, some terrorists came out from there via Afghanistan and reached the fringes of Khyber Agency.”

“Before we started the operation, Pakistan had informed all stakeholders ─ political, diplomatic and military ─ of the operation. The Afghan president, political govt, military leadership, Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan were all informed of the operation and requested that if terrorists cross the border, they would have to catch them.

“They are your people, you will have to take action against them. But that didn’t happen,” Bajwa said.

‘Killed 900 terrorists during Khyber ops’

“When the terrorists went towards Khyber Agency, we relocated some forces from the North Waziristan operation [to Khyber] and conducted operations Khyber I and Khyber II.”

“We recovered weapons, ammunition, IEDs, explosives, communications equipment, hate literature and discovered tunnels,” he said.

“There was enough explosive material there to carry out five IED blasts every day for 21 years. They could have caused 134,000 casualties with the amount of material we recovered.”

“North Waziristan has very challenging terrain but despite that, our armed forces went there and cleared all their hideouts, caves and tunnels. But Khyber was even more challenging. It has snowy mountains and was home to hideouts from the Afghan war and had a very high density of IEDs.”

The Army killed 900 terrorists during the Khyber operation, Bajwa said, and dismantled the network of terrorists that was threatening areas in the immediate surroundings, such as Peshawar.

‘Shawal is like Switzerland now’

“We started operations in Shawal, where all the terrorists from North Waziristan went. It was their last stronghold and they had nowhere to go after that. The operation went well and we cleared every village, every house, every school and every mosque in Shawal.”

“Shawal is like Switzerland now,” Bajwa claimed. “The residents are slowly returning, but they want the Army to stay on and provide stability and revive the economy. Pine nuts are grown in great quantities there. Terrorists were selling them to fund themselves, but now the locals will benefit.”

Border management: armed deployment low on Afghan side of border

There are 18 major crossing points between Pakistan and Afghanistan along the 2,600-kilometre-long shared border, Bajwa said. “We wanted to seal those areas so that terrorists from this side of the border don’t go there and vice versa,” he said.”

“Lots of terrorists who crossed into neighbouring districts in eastern Afghanistan have built concentration camps.”

“After clearing Fata… We began emphasising border management and the Torkham Gate was part of that. There will be proper gates made at all crossing points in addition to immigration staff posts,” the DG ISPR said. He also said hundreds of small posts will be set up where FC forces will be deployed.

“Additional FC wings will be raised, but until that happens, Army troops will provide reinforcement in many areas.”

“Other related agencies, including Nadra, will have staff posts and crossing will only be possible using valid documents on both sides of the border,” he said.

“We have posts along the border and have our own forces reinforcing the Frontier Corps, but the same kind of deployment doesn’t exist on the Afghan side of the border. Because of that void, there is a lot of presence and movement of terrorists there.”

“There will be a lot of patrolling to ensure no one can cross the border illegally. It will take time, but we are moving ahead steadily,” he said.

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