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By Ashfaq Yusufzai
PESHAWAR – After the May 13 suicide attack in Shabqadar, Charsadda District, analysts and ministers have started calling for a full-scale military operation against the militants.
The attack killed 80 people – mostly Frontier Constabulary recruits – and injured more than 100.
“We have long been demanding ... a massive crackdown against militants in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), where the attacks are planned,” Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Senior Minister Bashir Ahmad Bilour said.
FATA lies between KP and Afghanistan and is directly administered by the federal government. KP, which borders FATA, has suffered bombings and suicide attacks since 2005 and is looking to Islamabad to purge the militants.
“We don’t have jurisdiction in FATA,” Bilour told Central Asia Online. “It is up to the federal government to start action against militants based there.
All groups of militants orchestrated terror plans in FATA and destroyed peace not only in KP, but in the entire country.”
Brig. (ret.) Mehmood Shah, a former secretary of security in FATA, agreed.
Bin Laden’s death a blow to terrorist morale
“I think Osama (bin Laden)’s death has sent a chill down the spines of the militants,” he said. “They can carry out more devastating attacks, like they did in Shabqadar May 13, because they are like a wounded tiger and their response could be far more dangerous if they are not stopped.”
The May 2 death of the world’s top terrorist has demoralised the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan to such an extent that a full-fledged military offensive could be the last nail in its coffin, Shah said.
Senior defence analyst Brig. (ret.) Masood Khan agreed that a military operation would destroy the terrorists. “An operation in FATA is a hard decision because it would require displacement of 3m (people), but the long-term benefits are matchless,” he said.
FATA-wide offensive recommended
Militants have traditionally retreated to adjacent agencies during military crackdowns, but a FATA-wide army operation would give them nowhere to run and would force them to concede defeat, said Kashif, a resident of Madakhel in North Waziristan.
Muhammad Javid, secretary of the Waziristan Students Federation, said his group would urge the public to prepare for displacement if the military begins an aggressive campaign in FATA.
“We can tell our people that it (the operation) is an effort to eliminate the Taliban, who have made their lives worse,” Javid said. “People are sick of militancy, and they would definitely co-operate.”
“We suggest an operation on the pattern of Malakand Division, where the Taliban had broken all previous records of terrorism between 2007 and 2008,” KP Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain told Central Asia Online. “Now there is complete peace (there).”
Pakistani Army offensives in South Waziristan, Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber and Orakzai agencies have enjoyed some success but have failed to completely eradicate militancy in any FATA area.
“A Malakand-style operation will kill militants or at least force them to run away or quit the militancy and surrender,” Iftikhar said. “The government should shift the population from FATA to KP for a couple of months before a large military action.”
“An operation on Malakand’s pattern is the last option to eliminate terrorists once and for all,” Kashif Alam, an economics student at the University of Peshawar, agreed.
The population, he said, would welcome such a move if it had assurances that the military was conducting a full-fledged operation to bring about sustainable peace.
“Militants kill innocent people because they are paid to do so,” Iftikhar said. “It is obvious to everyone that the Taliban are mercenaries of those who want to terrorise the people.”