On February 22, 2021 Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad (Op RuF) completed its four years, a highly successful counter terrorism operation that has helped bring back peace in Pakistan.
The army leadership’s remarkable success in practically wiping out terrorism from Pakistan is no ordinary feat. It has been achieved through a remarkable combination of well-thought-out policies, sound intelligence and efficient execution. Above all, it is the result of a high level of dedication, professional excellence and sacrifices of the armed forces. It was launched after Operation Zarb-e-Azb that focused on kinetic based operations that had hit the terrorists hard. Operation RuF was launched on February 22, 2017 to wipe out terrorists, their abettors and sleeper cells of terrorists that had spread their network in several areas of the country. It was intelligence-based operations meant to neutralize terrorist groups before they could be in a position to inflict any damage. It successfully eliminated terrorist elements in Karachi, Lahore and other cities of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and in many other cities and towns across entire country. Operation Raad-ul-Fasaad has brought about a significant decline in terrorist activity throughout the country. Peaceful environment prevailed in cities and suburbs giving people the opportunity to engage in development activity and return towards leading a normal life.
Fighting the terrorists within the country is no easy task. For the terrorist mingle with the population or take cover in densely populated localities. Despite these challenges the army has executed its mission with exemplary zeal and high level of professional competence and succeeded against heavy odds. It now justifiably expects that the society would forcefully tackle against the evil of extremism and hate.
Moreover, Radd-ul-Fasaad’s importance lies in achieving three major objectives. One was to ensure that the use of force is only the prerogative of the state. And the stability and peace of Western zone largely depends on efficient border management. The other objective was that Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad will contribute in bringing peace to the cities and suburbs. Third core objective of the operation aimed at eliminating support base for terrorists in the entire country. Above all, it was to restore the confidence of the people in the armed forces in which it succeeded brilliantly and won their deepest admiration.
People's memories are generally short, but if one would recall four years back when Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad was launched, the militants were still active and the people were wary of terrorist activities in different parts of the country. The objective was to neutralize and if necessary, eliminate the terrorist groups that were taking shelter in various parts of the country. This was a monumental task and according to the statistics released by the Director General Inter Services Public Relations (DG ISPR) Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar, as many as 3,75000 operations were undertaken by the military. And as many as 353 terrorists were killed and all types and calibers of weapons and ammunition were seized. Peace was largely restored in the country and Karachi that had experienced the worst law-and-order situation returned toward normalcy. This contributed in resumption of business and other activities with people taking a sigh of relief.
As a responsible member of the international community, the rationale for Pakistan joining the global war on terrorism was dictated by geo-strategic imperatives and in support of the international community. Pakistan has been one of the principal victims of its involvement in this war but there has been little realization by major powers of the extent that it has suffered as a consequence. Unfortunately, the sacrifices and effort of Pakistan in counterterrorism was not appreciated by the international community and especially by the U.S. to the extent it deserved.
The law-and-order situation and the economy of the country were badly hit after 2001. Radical Islamist groups found space to expand their influence first in the tribal belt and then in rest of Pakistan. This had equally long-term political impact in terms of creating instability. The other damaging aspect was it perpetuated military rule and democracy suffered badly. U.S. and Western powers that had imposed sanctions and were antagonistic toward dictatorship changed their stance overnight to pursue their global goals. However, Pakistan’s efforts and sacrifices resulted in appreciable decrease in terrorism in Afghanistan and the region as a whole.
There is a need to analyze Pakistan’s extraordinary experience of dealing with terrorist groups especially with major one’s like Al-Qaeda, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban. What gives them the strength and capacity to challenge states and what causes their decline. The capture and subsequent death of Osama bin Laden (also known as OBL) was a significant event. The U.S. had focused on capturing and killing him. Obviously, the killing of OBL was a huge setback for Al-Qaeda but it did survive the shock, although considerably weakened and has acquired a life of its own. It is still active in several Muslim countries, especially of the Middle East and those that have weak governance like Afghanistan. Pakistan has dealt very effectively against Al-Qaeda; only a few cells of theirs emerge at times in remote parts of the country or reside in ungoverned parts of Afghanistan. With Al-Qaeda there is no question of any negotiations to bring their acts of terrorism to end. Because it has non-negotiable, apocalyptic demands and a few parallels to draw experience of dealing with them.
Our rich experience in dealing with terrorist organizations resulting in their decline and even demise has prepared us to deal with similar threats more effectively in future.
Pakistan’s history of the interplay of external and internal forces in the evolution of terrorism has been a crucial factor. Just like any other emergence of a group terrorism and terrorist groups follow a pattern. It started from a form of political awareness, although skewed and terrorist propaganda asserted that the state was a party to the dictates of America and had lent its territory to the Americans to support its invasion of Afghanistan. The ungoverned or weakly governed tribal areas, bordering a chaotic Afghanistan became an attractive area for refuge and training of militants.
The areas of KP bordering Afghanistan, which is erstwhile FATA, still remains a region of high unemployment where the 15–30-year-old age group accounts for 70 percent of the population. Despite the government's efforts to create jobs and the army's several initiatives there are not enough resources for engaging the youth in productive activity. With the integration of former FATA with KP and pouring more resources in less developed areas, the economic conditions of the people should improve. This effort has to be stepped up. In the past terrorist organizations have been exploiting the unemployed youth by offering them the lure of good money and false hopes.
The spillover from Afghanistan’s chaotic conditions continues to adversely impact on the security situation, especially of North and South Waziristan. Pakistan’s military leadership has been working earnestly toward reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Taliban leadership. There is a need for both parties to be more accommodative in the larger interest of their country and the region.
Hopefully, the completion of border fencing with Afghanistan and improvement in job opportunities brings in a meaningful future for the youth of KP and Balochistan and counter any fissiparous tendencies.
The federal government in collaboration with the provinces has been engaged in reforming the public education system. It included improving the curricula and ensuring that teacher training programs are introduced. Faithful implementation of these reforms is the key to improving the quality of education in the country.
It is important that educational facilities are available to the youth. The army again has been in the forefront of reviving and setting up new schools in the erstwhile tribal belt. Hopefully the KP government will give its full attention to expanding and improving educational facilities. Similarly, in other provinces especially in remote and less developed areas of Balochistan, Sindh and Punjab education facilities and job opportunities should be expanded. Great responsibility rests on the political representatives in working toward altering the economic and social landscape of the country by focusing on education and development activity and countering the influence of militant outfits.
The role of madaris is crucial as they are filling the void due to absence of sufficient government schools in the region. In addition to increasing the government run schools and improving their quality, the madaris need to be financially and academically supported and guided where necessary. Government’s effort in the past to reform and mainstream madaris have gone only that far. In the interest of future generations, it is crucial that sufficient attention be paid to their upgradation by reforming curriculum, removing hate content and introducing additional subjects of mathematics, science and Information Technology. Implementation of these reforms are only possible if the religious parties controlling these madrassas are prepared for the change.
History bears witness to the fact that war and insurgencies are only won when there is support of the people. The reason for the success of Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad is that the military leadership enjoyed the full backing of the local people and the entire nation. Terrorist organizations whether be TTP, Daesh or any other their justification for violence have been totally discredited. The army also ensured that illegal FM radio stations or any other means of churning hate propaganda were strictly banned. Government-owned radio stations are more authentic, propagate true Islamic values and address local issues and discredit the terrorist organizations by exposing their bankrupt and dangerous ideology.
Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad has been a great success. It has contributed in largely wiping out terrorist elements from the country and given renewed hope to the people for a better and more peaceful life.
The writer is a retired Lieutenant General from Pakistan Army and an eminent scholar on national security and political issues.
E-mail: [email protected]
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