On Tuesday, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Raheel Sharif presided over a Corps Commanders conference at the army’s General Headquarters in Rawalpindi. The primary topic for discussion was the progress of Operation Zarb-e-Azb and other counterterrorism operations in the country. The COAS seemed optimistic that the military’s counterterrorism efforts would be successful and was confident that the army would bring “this war to its logical conclusion”. A statement from Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) said that the COAS emphasised the “continued precision targeting of terrorists squeezed in isolated pockets” in FATA and “directed all concerned to intensify intelligence based operations against criminals, terrorists and their abettors in urban areas for enduring peace in the country”. From what little news filters out from North Waziristan, it appears that Operation Zarb-e-Azb is an intense military offensive and that the terrorists caught in the “isolated pockets” of FATA have been cornered by the army. The media does not have access to the region and the military has not issued detailed reports about the progress of the operation for public consumption. In these circumstances, the success of Operation Zarb-e-Azb can only be judged after the operation is over and the facts come to light. Although it is necessary to withhold sensitive information in such operations, the Pakistani public are stakeholders in this fight and should be better informed about its developments. Targeted operations require a significant amount of intelligence gathering and the ISPR has requested the “general public” to report any “suspicious activity” to them from all provinces, yet the public would be more helpful in providing this essential information if they were kept abreast of developments. That might provide the opportunity to allow the public to act as the ‘eyes and ears’ of the authorities.
The Corps Commanders expressed concern that India’s primary intelligence agency (RAW) is “whipping up terrorism in Pakistan”. The military has been suspicious of RAW’s involvement in the past but it is the first time that that they have formally named a foreign intelligence agency for supporting terrorist organisations in Pakistan. Such statements and accusations always increase conflict between Pakistan and India and derail peace and normalisation efforts. 2014 was a year of incredibly tense relations and extreme cross-border violence between India and Pakistan. The claim that RAW is inciting terrorism in Pakistan can neither be proved nor refuted, but it is not certain whether it is beneficial to the fight against home grown terrorism and may only sour relations between the neighbours without necessarily reaping any benefits. The leaders of both Pakistan and India tend to blame each other for the problems in their respective countries, particularly in times of crisis — a cycle that both countries will have to break at some point if there is to be peace in the region…*