Pakistan: Zarb-e-Azb and Rehabilitation of TDPs


Muhammad Nawaz Khan  : –

One year on, a look at the Operation Zarb-e-Azb undertaken by the Pakistani military against the militants in North Waziristan June 15, 2015 marked the completion of one year of the operation. This military action has been widely discussed and praised in the media. In addition, the international diplomatic community and independent Pakistani intelligentsia have termed Operation Zarb-e-Azb categorically as a successful one and the major indicator for the significant drop in acts of terrorism in Pakistan. The figures put out by the Inter Services Public Relations are impressive stating that more than 3,400 terrorists have been killed and around 900 militants’ hideouts and arms factories destroyed and 253 tonnes of explosives recovered. Moreover, around 60,000 intelligence-based operations have been conducted across the country and several terrorist networks busted after the Peshawar Army Public School attack. Also, 347 army officers and soldiers have sacrificed their lives. Since 9/11 the Pakistan Army had lost 4,354 soldiers and officers, while 14,552 have been wounded.

As part of a fresh strategy to prevent incursion of supporters of Taliban and Islamic State through the Afghan border, Pakistan’s armed forces will continue their war against militants in the tribal areas of North Waziristan and South Waziristan until 2019. The civilian and military leadership have also decided to use the military as a backup force beyond 2019 in all the volatile areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa as well as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

Basically, there are three main challenges which Pakistan is facing during Operation Zarb-e-Azb: a) the militants who have survived the Operation Zarb-e-Azb and successfully escaped into Afghanistan. Resultantly, they are reorganising themselves with the funding of RAW and planning to re-launch their offence on Pakistani security forces; b) repatriation of Afghan refugees; and c) repatriation of Temporary Displace Persons (TDPs). The country has launched ten military operations to date, last one being Operation Zarb-e-Azab. The true success of Operation Zarb-e-Azab is not merely dependent upon the destruction of communication infrastructure, and sanctuaries of the militants, which Operation Zarb-e-Azb has already achieved the desired results in FATA but also reliant on the successful completion of rehabilitation process of the TDPs. The TDPs crisis in Pakistan is, by most metrics, the biggest internal displacement in recent history. This is a phenomenon that raises a serious concern to Pakistan. Owing to the lack of attention on the part of media, the TDPs’ issue is not being taken up that seriously. In this regard, the two main questions rise: What will be the future of TDPs of Operation Zarb e Azab? Will it result in a fully functional community who has survived a debacle?

Currently, the rehabilitation of TDPs and reconstruction is being done in two phases. In the first phase, shops, houses, roads, hospitals and schools are being built, whereas, the second phase requires large-scale reconstruction, which can take up to two years. About 40,000 of the total 1.8 million TDPs have returned home. The entire process of repatriation would require approximately Rs 100 billion, of which the federal government has allocated Rs13 billion so far. The government agencies and the army are already working together in reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts. This work cannot be done by one agency or the army alone. Various institutions will have to work together to complete it.

However, local civil administration is not visible; most of the rehabilitation work being carried out by the Pakistan Army. Since, the army is performing the civil administration’s duties and the fear is, the failure of government policy towards the rehabilitation of TDPs will be considered the failure of the army in developmental projects, which will lead to frustration against the government and especially who are directly involve in FATA’s affairs. This frustration can easily turn the human behaviour into extremism and this extremist behaviour will be exploited by non-state actors and external hands, they also may influence this extremist behaviour into violent extremist behaviour; the end result will be terrorism. Consequently, these non-state actors will eventually exploit and use them for their nefarious designs, in return the ripe of the fresh fruit of future generation of terrorists who will again bend upon to destroy the nation.

In fact, the TDPs are suffering in silence. To address the TDPs grievances, the government should have to undertake prompt and concrete measures for their rehabilitation and also to ensure that more are done to address the TDPs immediate needs as well as their long-term welfare. One of the major challenges for rehabilitation process is the proper allocation of resources. In this perspective, the continuous provision of the resources and funds are required for the smooth completion of rehabilitation process in time.

Around 1.9 million people have been dislocated from their houses due to Operation Zarb-e-Azb. Pakistan is facing the challenge of rehabilitation of TDPs. It needs the support of international community to build their houses and infrastructure including roads, schools, bridges, canals, and hospitals, which were built sixty-seven years ago but unfortunately the international community is only paying lip service. Besides, USA spent billions of dollars on war in the region but did not allocate any money for construction and development in the affected areas in Afghanistan and Pakistan rather more focusing on drone attacks resultantly, there would be more collateral damage, which is causing anger among the people. Thus, the international community should pay special attention towards the rehabilitation of the civil populace that got uprooted as a result of military operation in Pakistan against the terrorists.

Tribal people are simple, straightforward and patriotic. The engagement at broader level to protect the FATA’s people is key to isolate the extremists. The roadmap for mainstreaming and pacifying the tribal areas needs to prepare a sustainable policy for the patriots. Furthermore, there is a need to undertake development work to solve the TDPs problems in a bid to win their heats and mind. Empowering the tribal people means durable peace in the region and to build homes, schools and roads mean that the tribes will resist evil influences and create a society based on peace, tolerance and faith.