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Pakistan army launches operation 'Zarb-e-Azb' in North Waziristan

16 June, 2014

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ISLAMABAD: The military launched a long-expected full-scale operation against terrorists in the North Waziristan Agency on Sunday, days after a deadly gunfight with Taliban at Karachi airport killed 38, including 10 attackers.

"On the directions of the government, armed forces of Pakistan have launched a comprehensive operation against foreign and local terrorists who are hiding in sanctuaries in North Waziristan Agency," a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) quoted Major General Asim Saleem Bajwa as having said. "The operation has been named Zarb-e-Azb."

This is the third full-scale military operation launched in the militancy-plagued north western belt since 2009, following operation Raah-e-Raast and operation Raah-e-Nijaat.

"Using North Waziristan as a base, these terrorists had waged a war against the state of Pakistan and had been disrupting our national life in all its dimensions, stunting our economic growth and causing enormous loss of life and property. They had also paralyzed life within the agency and had perpetually terrorized the entire peace loving and patriotic local population," the ISPR DG said.

"Our valiant armed forces have been tasked to eliminate these terrorists regardless of hue and color, along with their sanctuaries," he said, and added, "With the support of the entire nation, and in coordination with other state institutions and law enforcement agencies, these enemies of the state will be denied space anywhere across the country. As always, armed forces of Pakistan will not hesitate in rendering any sacrifice for the motherland."

With the launch of the military operation, a peace agreement struck between militant commander Hafiz Gul Bahdur and the government comes to an end, security officials said.

On June 6, the military command and the civilian leadership had jointly given the elders of the Wazir tribes in NWA a 15-day deadline to expel foreign militants from the area. However, deadly terror attacks from Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) especially near Islamabad and at Karachi airport prompted the security forces to act even before the expiry of the deadline.

The military had formally decided to launch operation in the tribal region at the 72 Formation Commanders Conference chaired by Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif Wednesday last.

Military sources said the army chief is directly monitoring the military operation. Reportedly, a monitoring room has been set up at the General Headquarters (GHQ) whose functioning is being overseen by Chief of General Staff (CGS) Lieutenant-General Ishfaq Nadeem Ahmad, under the direct supervision of the COAS.

The General Officer Commanding (GOC) 7th Infantry Division Major-General Zafullah Khan has been directed to brief Peshawar corps commander and the CGS on 'minute-to-minute' operational updates. The two generals will give final update to the army chief on the developments involving the operation.

The sources said that Pakistan Army is leading the operation and its paramilitary arm Frontier Corps (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and Pakistan Air Force (PAF) are part of the operation for ground reinforcements and aerial assaults.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Army took over security charge of the federal capital on Sunday, hours after military launched a long-expected ground operation to eliminate Taliban and Qaeda terrorists from North Waziristan.

Reports said over 250 personnel of army's 111 Brigade were deployed at sensitive installations and buildings in Islamabad including President's House, Prime Minister's House, Parliament Lodges and the Diplomatic Enclave located in the Red Zone.

Sources familiar with the development told that the Interior Ministry decided to hand over internal security of Islamabad to army following reports by intelligence agencies warning about possibility of terrorist attacks in the federal capital.

Islamabad has been on high alert since a suicide attack on an army vehicle in Tarnol area near Islamabad wherein two lieutenant-colonels of Pakistan Army were martyred, and the deadly gun-battle at Karachi airport that killed 38, including 10 attackers. Security officials fear that newly launched military operation against Taliban in North Waziristan will trigger militant backlash and they may resort to violence in big cities, especially the federal capital.

Spokesman of Interior Ministry Danial Gilani, when contacted to seek ministry's version on the development, plainly refused to say anything on the ground that he was on leave, and instead suggested to contact Mojib Qadir. Mojib, however, told that he is not empowered to say anything on such sensitive issues.

Moreover, the Punjab government has made foolproof security arrangement at all airports including the Allama Iqbal Internal Airport in Lahore to avoid any untoward incident, said Rana Sanaullah, the provincial minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs.

Due to threats of terrorism, security of all jails across the province has also been beefed up, he said while talking to journalists here on Sunday. He urged leaders of political parties to avoid point scoring over the national security issues.

The minister said that Dr Tahirul Qadri and Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad were trying to misguide the people using various tactics. He said that the government with the support of the masses will foil all conspiracies against democracy and national interests.

Sanaullah said that terrorists would be dealt with iron hands and no compromise would be made on issues of national and masses interests.


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