by Muhammad Tahir
ISLAMABAD — A military offensive in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal region has blown apart the network of the Pakistani Taliban and foreign militants as the country has seen a substantial decrease in attacks and fatalities.
Taliban’s continued deadly attacks forced the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to go after the Taliban insurgents in North Waziristan, their biggest sanctuary, in June this year after they ended a temporary ceasefire. They had declared a 40-day ceasefire in March as the government had given a last chance to peace and had started talks with the Taliban.
Nawaz Sharif had received widespread support among the major political parties and the parliament for the military operation that was needed to make it a success. General public also threw weight behind the decision because the Taliban’s violent extremism had brought large scale killings and huge economic losses.
Top military leaders are satisfied at the outcome of the operation over the past three months as security forces have cleared most of the areas in major towns from the Taliban.
The military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Asim Saleem Bajwa says about 1,000 militants have so far been killed and dozens of their training centers and bomb-making factories destroyed. Most of the main towns including Miranshah, headquarters of North Waziristan, and Mir Ali, the militants’ stronghold have been cleared and the forces have consolidated positions.
Some Taliban are thought to have either fled to neighboring Afghanistan or moved to nearby tribal regions.
The main achievement of the operation is a substantial decrease in suicide attacks and bomb blasts in the country since the operation had been launched three months ago. The Taliban threat has subsided but not completely ended.
They have carried out several attacks on the country’s three airports in this period to take revenge of the military operation. However a sense of fear among the general that had gripped Pakistan due to the Taliban attacks now falls down.
The much-anticipated operation has now denied what was previously described “safe heavens” in North Waziristan. Many Taliban have either been killed or fled the region. The Pakistani army chief, General Raheel Sharif, who twice visited North Waziristan, has vowed not to allow the militants return to the region.
The operation also led to cracks within the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan as the banned group is now divided in at least four groups. The internal rift has weakened the outfit and it is not in a position to pose a serious challenge to the security forces.
The TTP leaders had been involved in infighting in recent weeks. A splinter group has allegedly claimed lives of nearly 200 Taliban militants including several senior commanders.
A senior Taliban leader, who was heading the group in the biggest province Punjab, announced on Saturday that he has ceased militancy and will now preach a “peaceful Islam.” Political watchers described the dramatic announcement by Asmatullah Muaweya to return to peace as the outcome of the operation.
Muaweya group had been blamed for several high profile attacks in the country.
The Pakistani Taliban, remnants of al-Qaida and dozens of other foreign and militants groups had been using North Waziristan as their biggest sanctuary for training and planning attacks in the country, across the border into Afghanistan as well as in other countries.
The majority of the foreign militants had arrived in the region after the U.S. launched military operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan in late 2001.
Several suicide bombers arrested alive in Pakistan have admitted that they had received training in North Waziristan. A Pakistani-born U.S. citizen, Faisal Shahzad, who was arrested in connection with the 2010 Times Square car bombing attempt in May 2010, had disclosed that he had received training in North Waziristan.
A Jordanian national, who had attacked the CIA center in Afghanistan’s Khost province in December 2009, appeared in a video along with then Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud. Mehsud was killed in a U.S. drone attack last year.