After two weeks of aerial and artillery bombing, the Pakistan Army began its ground offensive in North Waziristan Agency (NWA ) on Monday, as troops moved into Miranshah along with tanks and armored vehicles. For some years now, the region has served as a safe haven for different terrorist groups including the Haqqani Network, the TTP, IMU, al-Qaida and other foreign and local militant factions. The good and bad Taliban were operating in harmony in NWA, and making things worse for the rest of Pakistan. Despite pressure from the US and allies, and worsening internal security situation, the military thought fit to delay the operation for as long as possible. To be fair, the political leadership too has remained hesitant towards building consensus and taking ownership of action against militants. However, if one is to go by what former DG-ISPR Maj-Gen Athar Abbas has said with regards to former COAS Ashfaq Pervez Kayani’s personal “reluctance” towards conducting an operation, it is fair to say that the PPP government was perhaps not entirely at fault for inaction in relation to NWA during its rule. That delay, Maj-Gen Abbas and many others complain, allowed militants to spread their network and gain power.
Now that action has begun, there are certain reports which suggest that several militants have already abandoned the area. Allegedly, some have fled to Afghanistan in anticipation of the action, while others have spread across FATA. The large number of IDPs coming out of North Waziristan may also have been used for cover by terrorists as in the case of the Swat operation. How effective is the current registration process which is supposed to prevent infiltration? Does it cover all IDPs coming out of NWA and how helpful is it in identifying militants? The success of Operation Zarb-e-Azb is not solely dependent on the military’s performance in NWA. During a war, all institutions of the state and the common people have to spring into action and take on their roles to ensure success. Perhaps those who require most immediate attention and efforts are the thousands of Internally Displace Persons (IDPs) of NWA. We must learn from previous mistakes. Where are the countrywide fundraising campaigns? Who is going to mobilise the people and state machinery? We haven’t seen a single clear plan being put forth by either provincial or federal government. It should be clear that unless they do not co-operate and focus, the IDPs will remain deprived of shelter, food and other basic necessities. Did the PM even visit a real IDP camp when he went to Bannu? How we treat the IDPs today, they will remember for the rest of their lives.