On June 15, 2014, a week after 10 Pakistan Taliban attacked Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport, killing 26 people, the Pakistan Armed Forces launched a fullblooded assault on the rash of terrorist groups active in North Waziristan, including the TTP, al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Jundallah, the Haqqani Network, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement. Upto 30,000 soldiers took part in Operation Zarb-e-Azb, or a ‘Sharp and Cutting Strike’, and in September 2016, Lt Gen Asim Bajwa, then the Pakistan military’s top spokesman, said that 3,500 terrorists of all stripes had been killed in the operation.
State of play
Radd-ul-Fasaad aims at “indiscriminately eliminating residual/latent threat of terrorism, consolidating gains of operations made thus far and further ensuring security of the borders”, the ISPR said on February 22. Pakistan’s Air Force, Navy, civilian armed forces and other agencies would “actively participate/intimately support the efforts to eliminate the menace of terrorism from the country”, the release said. Rangers in Punjab would carry out “Broad Spectrum Security/Counter Terrorism operations”, and there would be increased focus on border security management. “Countrywide de-weaponisation and explosive control are additional cardinals of the effort”, and “pursuance of National Action Plan” would be the “hallmark of this operation”, ISPR said.
ISPR said the Air Force had killed “many” terrorists and destroyed hideouts in Rajgal area of Khyber Agency late on February 21. On February 26, it said the Army had responded to a terrorist raid from across the border in South Waziristan Agency, and had, during sanitisation of village Shirrani in Datta Khel, North Waziristan Agency, recovered a huge cache of arms and ammunition left behind by terrorists.
On February 22, the Frontier Constabulary and intelligence agencies carried out a joint operation against the “TTP/JuA network led by Wahab Zakhbail” in Killi Shah Karaiz near Loralai, Balochistan, the ISPR said in a release the following day. Twenty-three IEDs, reportedly intended to target vehicles of local law enforcers and Loralai University buses carrying students, were recovered and a “major terrorist incident” averted, the release said.
The Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) is a faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which has claimed responsibility for the February 13 bombing in Lahore. The Frontier Constabulary is a paramilitary force in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
On February 25, ISPR said the Punjab Rangers had carried out over 200 searches of homes, madrassas and shops in Punjab, including in Karor, Layyah and Rawalpindi. Four terrorists were killed in exchange of fire, “over 600 suspects including (a) few Afghans” were held, and “jihadi material & weapons (were) recovered”. Some “facilitators of Jamat-ul-Ahrar were also arrested.
What, where, why, how, what now?
What is Radd-ul-Fasaad?
The latest in a string of Pakistani counter-terrorism operations, directed at dismantling jihadist infrastructure within the country. It marks an official acceptance of the well-known fact that terrorists are active in Northern Sindh and Punjab, and that there’s a need to act against them if terrorism in the country is to be defeated.
How is it different in tactically from the earlier operation, Zarb-e-Azb?
Zarb-e-Azb focussed on massive force operations against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and other jihadist groups in one region, North Waziristan. Radd-ul-Fasaad is nationwide, and doesn’t seem to involve conventional military operations.
Has Zarb-e-Azb been called off?
Not officially yet. But the Pak Army claims it has eliminated terrorists from all but a tiny sliver of North Waziristan.
How successful was Zarb-e-Azb?
It’s hard to say. The only source of information is the Pak Army, which claims several thousand terrorists have been killed. In strategic terms, though, it’s clearly been a failure, with the TTP and other terror groups relocating their infrastructure across the border into Afghanistan.
How successful has Radd-ul-Fasaad been so far?
It’s only been a week, too early to say.
Where is the operation headed in the coming weeks and months?
A key test will be whether the Army or government actually goes after key pro-jihadist seminaries and institutions — a stated objective of the National Action Plan against terrorism. So far, nothing has happened. If that continues, there’s unlikely to be major success.
Over the years
Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad across the country
Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan along Pak-Afghan border
Operation Rah-e-Haq-III in Swat valley and Shangla
Operation Black Thunderstorm in Buner, Lower Dir and Shangla district
Operation Brekhna in Mohmand Agency
Operation Rah-e-Rast, commonly known as Swat Operation
Operation Rah-e-Nijat in South Waziristan
Operation Rah-e-Haq-II in Swat valley and Shangla
Operation Sirat-e-Mustaqeem in Khyber Agency
Operation Sherdil, Army-Frontier Corps joint ops in Bajaur Agency
Operation Rah-e-Haq-I in Swat valley and Shangla district
Major terror attacks in 2017
Jan 21, Parachinar
At least 25 people were killed in blast in a market in the Shia-dominated administrative HQ of Kurram Agency in FATA. The Sunni terrorist Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and TTP’s Shehryar Mehsood group made claims of responsibility.
Feb 13, Lahore
A suicide bomber killed 13 people at a protest by pharmacists on the city’s Mall Road. More than 100 were wounded. The Jamaat-ul-Ahrar faction of the Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility.
Feb 16, Sehwan
At least 90 people were killed and more than 300 injured in the suicide bombing of the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sindh’s Jamshoro district. The Islamic State-Khorasan Province claimed responsibility.
Feb 21, Charsadda
Three suicide bombers attacked a sessions court in Tangi in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Charsadda district, killing at least 7 people, including a lawyer, and injuring 20. The Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility.