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UPDATED: July 3, 2014 Web Exclusive
A Sword out of its Scabbard
Pakistan launches intensive military operations against terrorists in its north
By Pan Xiaoqiao

GO AFTER TERRORISTS: Pakistan's army pushes forward an intensive military operation, dubbed Zarb-e-Azb, in the country's North Waziristan tribal area. Launched on June 15, the Pakistan army claims that it has so far killed hundreds of militants (XINHUA/AP)

Following the ferocious terrorist attacks at the Jinnah International Airport in Pakistan's southern port city of Karachi on the night of June 8 that killed 19 people and injured 23 others, the Zarb-e-Azb operation was launched by the Pakistani army to wipe out terrorists, mainly Taliban and other militant extremists, in the country's North Waziristan on June 15. The Taliban attempted to destroy the airline system in Pakistan, of which Karachi is a hub airport, with more than 40 international airlines operating there.

"The operation is going smoothly as planned and there is no doubt that the terrorists have been surrounded. All those who surrender will be detained and all those who still choose to fight will be eliminated," Major General Asim Saleem Bajwa, director general of Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), told Beijing Review after the initial stage of the military operation. "There is no doubt the state has a monopoly on the use of force and the upper hand here."

An iron fist on terrorism

Pakistan has long been under the specter of various terrorist attacks and has likely invested more in counter-terrorism than any other nation in the world.

In the past 10 years, the country has suffered around 50,000 civilian casualties and lost nearly 5,000 soldiers. About 14,000 soldiers have been injured, and the damage to infrastructure has been extensive.

Terrorist attacks are a continual concern in Pakistan, particularly when it comes to foreign investments within the country. Militant groups are not just operating in tribal areas, but also in urban centers. With multinational corporations pulling out of the country, canceling funds, and delaying talk of future business opportunities, a financial loss of around $100 billion has been incurred in the past decade or so due to security concerns.

The Pakistani Government is thus willing to take forceful military action to eliminate, if not entirely then at least substantially, the militant elements that remain not only along the border area, but also within urban centers.

Current military operations target the Taliban and other militant groups settled in tribal areas, particularly in North Waziristan. The country's political leadership intends to carry out a series of dialogues with the militants, though talks thus far have been fruitless and led nowhere. Thus, the current operation against militants is being carried out in the hopes that terrorists will have a decidedly looser hold over Pakistan in the future.

This is truly a war of different nature, as the enemies hide among the masses; militant elements regularly infiltrate large urban areas. These groups operate insidiously. No absolute security can be guaranteed at present, but the Pakistani Government has taken serious measures to curb terrorist attacks. The army is now granted the control of security, with forces patrolling larger cities like Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore.

"They (terrorists) pick up arms here and wage terror everywhere. We will not let anyone do this inside Pakistan. We want them to leave or we'll have to kill them," said Major General Bajwa.

"We know they can come and attack innocent people, but we are ready for them. We've already paid such a high price. We are willing to pay more, but only to eliminate them once and for all."

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