Channel NewsAsia

The cost of Pakistan’s delayed action against militants

Pakistan's offensive campaign against militant strongholds in North Waziristan has resulted in the purging of elaborate terrorist cells, but it also reveals the cost the government has paid in making deals with militants and delaying a necessary purge.

BANNU: Pakistan's offensive campaign against militant strongholds in the tribal region of North Waziristan has resulted in the long-awaited purging of elaborate terrorist cells. The government says it wants to eradicate breeding grounds for extremism in what has been billed a "decisive battle" against religious militancy.

Hundreds of terrorists were killed, arms and ammunition were seized and torture cells were unearthed, while facilities dedicated to producing explosives and propaganda were captured. The offensive has reaped dividends for Pakistan's military in an area that has long been known as the hub of international terrorism.

Until recently, the international community was repeatedly calling for Pakistan to take action, clear the area of radical outfits and bring it back into its administrative control. The government has been forced to defend the delay in taking action.

Siddiq-ul-Farooq, chief coordinator of the ruling PML-N Party, said: "We are following a very objective and result-oriented policy. We tried to engage the TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan) leaders in a dialogue process, and they also supported it. However, that attempt failed. Now, we can distinguish between those who want dialogue and those who want war. We are fighting against those who are against peace."

The operation was triggered by the army in response to a brazen attack on the Karachi airport on June 8. However, weeks earlier, a top militant leader in North Waziristan, Hafiz Gul Bahadar, was already asking residents to leave their homes and move to safer locations, claiming he had "credible information" the government was planning to launch a full-scale operation in the area.

Sources claim the government allowed hundreds of militants to leave ahead of the offensive. Gul Bahadar had a peace agreement with the Pakistan government, yet, he targeted its security personnel, harboured foreign militants and built elaborate terrorist infrastructure in the area.

Ejaz Haider, from Capital TV’s National Security Affairs, said: "Now that we look back, we realise that that deal didn't really work to the state's advantage. But the fact is that at the time the deal was made, the thought was that it would allow some kind of stability in the area."

There are reports of civilian casualties in North Waziristan. However, the government has strongly denied these claims and the media cannot confirm or deny them since they cannot move around the conflict zone independently.

Pakistan's experience in North Waziristan reveals the cost the government has paid in making deals with militants and delaying what has become a necessary purge.