ISLAMABAD: Even as General Musharraf's 2007 emergency has had no impact on the ongoing counter-terrorism action by the military operations, Swat and Malakand are expecting a major Army operation to rid them of local Taliban leadership by the end of December.
In a background briefing to senior editors by the Directorate General of Military Operations, at the GHQ on Wednesday, about the VCOAS' concept of handling growing militancy in the country, especially in NWFP and Balochistan, it was told that the VCOAS wanted to create a balance between the military and political solutions.
Significantly, when asked how the imposition of emergency has improved the DGMO's work in quelling militancy, given that countering militancy was one of the main reasons given for General Musharraf's Emergency 2007, it was told that emergency has had "no impact" on the DGMO's work vis a vis terrorism.
"The journalists were told that the VCOAS stresses that "military solutions must be politically acceptable" and "only minimum use of force must be resorted to." Worryingly, the message from those involved in the military operations is that they see no political will to "get it over with". It was said that "neglect" of the intrinsic issues and the deep-seated political and development problems is continuing.
It was shared in the briefing that no willingness from the government functionaries was forthcoming to adequately administer the areas - even the "political agent of Waziristan sits in Peshawar".
"Improving the situation would need a wholesome approach which is not there, except in presentations," was a rather depressing assessment. The MO says it is trying to aim for a strong political administration and building up local institutions. "That is the end state we are looking for, but when we try to push the local administration to take the lead, they are hesitant."
Participants of the briefing were told that while the government of Pakistan's Fata strategy included multiple prongs: military, political, and development; however, all three prongs did not work at the same pace; particularly development, which came to a halt due to the security situation.
It was said that the valley of Piochar, currently under the control of Mullah Fazalullah and his comrades, would be sanitised by the end of December and the local gang leaders, including Fazalullah, Qari Mushtaq, Ikramuddin, Cheenala, TOR Mullah, are the main targets.
Bedevilled by the poor intelligence, which earlier resulted in embarrassing captures of soldiers and members of law-enforcing agencies, the MO personnel leading the action have come to the conclusion that instead of the huge threat of thousands of local Taliban followers of Fazalullah, Swat is being terrorised by a group of 40-50 odd thugs. They are thugs masquerading as Taliban leaders, and they will soon be cleaned up, participants of the briefing were told.
Troops morale given the abductions and the seeming lack of central authority and the writ were the issues raised a number of times during the briefing. While the participants were reassured of the willingness by all those in the field to carry out the orders diligently, it was conceded that there appears no central agency in the affected areas.
"What can you do if the police or levies give up arms?" The local administration is too threatened to man the posts, exacerbating the already poor law and order situation. About the troops' surrender at Wana there was no excuse given. "It was shameful for us that people decided not to fight." It will take us a long time to come out of it, participants were told. Interestingly, the recently amended Army Act, that includes court martial of civilians, did not elicit much enthusiasm or confidence by the MO personnel.
Online adds: More than 600 security personnel and 1,300 civilians were killed in at least 28 suicide attacks after the Lal Masjid operation. The high-ups at GHQ admitted that the incidents of extremism and terrorism were on the rise after the operation. The extremists in North Waziristan have ended the peace agreement, the meeting was told.
The security personnel were ambushed for at least 192 times, 39 bomb blasts and 28 suicide attacks occurred in the country after the Lal Masjid operation. The military is strengthening its positions in the Swat valley. The top officials said that situation in North and South Waziristan was not satisfactory, and a priority of the security forces was to narrow the noose around Baitullah Mehsud.
From 2001 to date, at least 966 military men were martyred and 2,259 others were injured; 488 foreign extremists were killed, 24 others were arrested and 324 foreign extremists were injured, it was said. The military official said the elements released by the Supreme Court were attacking the security forces and targeting national installations. "We have irrefutable evidence those who were set free under the directives of Supreme Court are attacking the security forces, targeting national installations and worsening the situation.
"We will not allow extremism to spill into other parts of NWFP. However, more measures will be taken to crush it," they vowed. The Army has fortified its position in Swat and 100,000 troops are participating in war against extremism in Balochistan, tribal areas and other parts of NWFP," the officials said. "We are cooperating and coordinating with the international forces, engaged in operation in Afghanistan. Different targets in NWFP have been hit due to this cooperation."
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