Getting Rid of Terrorism

Malik Muhammad Ashraf

General Raheel Sharif visited the Shawal Valley on February 24, to give the military commanders the go-ahead for launching the final phase of Operation Zarb-e-Azb and clear the area of the remnants of the Pakistani Taliban, who have reportedly relocated after their return from Afghanistan.

As per reports, a fierce battle is raging between the security forces and the terrorists, who are deeply entrenched and well-equipped. However, the security forces have cleared the Mangroti area and gained control of it. In this encounter, 19 terrorists were killed and four soldiers, including a captain, embraced martyrdom. The nation feels indebted to the armed forces for their sacrifices and unwavering commitment to take the fight against terrorism to its logical conclusion.

Operation Zarb-e-Azb has been a tremendous success that has been duly acknowledged at the international level. This indiscriminate action against the terrorists has also dispelled the impression at the global level that Pakistan has a soft-spot for certain terrorist outfits. The fact that the final phase of Operation Zarb-e-Azb in the Shawal Valley has been necessitated due to the return of the terrorists from Afghanistan, who had initially crossed over when the operation started, makes it obvious that the ultimate success of the operation depends on cooperation from Afghanistan. There have been several interactions between the security establishments of both Pakistan and Afghanistan, regarding collaborative efforts to police the borders and prevent the cross-border movements of terrorists. This agreement needs to be strictly enforced because it is crucial to both countries in their counter-terrorism efforts.

The success of Operation Zarb-e-Azb has also created space for action against the supporters, sympathisers and sleeper-cells of terrorists throughout the country, as thousands of intelligence-based operations have been successfully conducted in all four provinces. These efforts have reduced the frequency of terrorist attacks and have also contributed immensely to the overall improvement in the law and order situation of the country. While the government can rightly boast of showing the initiative to launch and back Operation Zarb-e-Azb, General Raheel Sharif deserves credit for showing rare commitment, professionalism and leadership in carrying out a military campaign against the terrorists. His frequent visits to the battle fronts, interactions with field commanders, showing solidarity with the families of martyred soldiers and, above all, inspiring narratives, have lifted the morale of the armed forces, which has been the key to success.

This has not only endeared him to the personnel of the armed forces but also the masses, who view him as a national hero. He deserves the unqualified accolades of the nation for what he has done in the line of duty. One can hardly begrudge him the status that he has acquired as a military commander. He will be long remembered in history for eliminating the scourge of terrorism that posed an existential threat to the country.

In the backdrop of the surge in his popularity ratings, calls for an extension in his tenure started resonating in the media and intellectual circles. This debate reached jarring proportions, with the electronic media relentlessly discussing the pros and cons of his scheduled retirement. A sustained campaign was launched, urging that the chief of army staff (COAS) accept an extension to finish the job that he has started. To put the controversy to rest, the COAS issued a statement through the media-wing of the armed forces (ISPR) that he would not seek or accept a second term. However, his categorical statement notwithstanding, this issue remains in the limelight and is invariably the subject of discussion in the media and within political circles. Expressing gratitude for his services and admiring his contribution to the fight against terrorism are no doubt legitimate sentiments. But trying to catapult him to the status of a saviour and advocating for an extension in his tenure, are the wrong notions.

Yes, he has done an unparalleled service to the nation. The honour and respect that he has earned are adequate rewards for his services. He did the right thing by issuing a statement, in an effort to subdue the debate regarding his extension. It is encouraging to note that he does not seem to have wavered in this regard. The extensions of army chiefs have never ended on a happy note; it is against the spirit of building institutions and having faith in their versatility and capabilities. Our army is a well-disciplined and highly professional institution with a proven record. Those who are promoted to the rank of lieutenant generals, are equally competent and capable of carrying forward the legacies of their predecessors.

We as a nation need to keep our faith in the professional competence of the institutions that are ultimately responsible for the continuity and strength of our national causes. The heads of national institutions like the army, who perform a rare feat and make the country safe, deserve to be given a fitting send-off, instead of having their tenure extended and spoiling the positive image that they have worked so hard to earn. Perhaps another categorical ‘no’ from the COAS is needed to put an end to the raging debate. The media, political circles and those who are desperately trying to raise this issue again and again must also behave in a responsible manner. Why should the retirement of a COAS be made so controversial, when there are other pressing national issues that deserve attention from the media, intelligentsia and politicians? The best way is to treat this as the retirement of yet another general, rather than an ultimate end.

The Pakistan Army is, I am sure, capable of producing many more generals like Raheel Sharif and we need to have faith in that institution. Whoever replaces General Raheel Sharif would have to pursue his unfinished agenda. The government and the people are united in getting rid of terrorism at any cost, and fully support the army in accomplishing this task.

The writer is a freelance contributor.  

Courtesy: The News International 

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