The Pakistan Army was established in 1947, since then it has been involved in four wars with neighbors India and several border skirmishes with Afghanistan. The Pakistan Army has had to battle the terrorists within Pakistan for a long time. After the September 11 attacks in the United States of America, Pakistan joined hands with the US-led War on Terror and helped the Us forces by severing ties with the Taliban. There is a long list of military operations in Pakistan, all of which have been succesful.
In recent years the army has undertaken many joint operations that include Operation Al-Mizan, Operation Rah-e-Haq, Operation Sher-e-Dil, Operation Zalzala, Operation Sirat-e-Mustaqeem, Operation Rah-e-Raast, Operation Rah-e-Nijaat, Operation Koh-e-Sufaid, Operation Zarb-e-Azb.
Operation Al-Mizan (2002-2006)
This was the first major operation of Pakistan Army against the militant groups working against Pakistan. At that time the Army Chief was General Pervez Musharraf, who deployed forces in FATA of around 70,000-80,000 men. The loss security personnel’ was around 1200-1500 soldiers as it was the first major operation inside the country and the army faced a huge loss due to lack of information about the methodology of the enemy, their hideouts and barely know-how of the terrain. Full convoys were targeted by the Taliban militants in the initial stages causing many casualties. Besides the basic infantry, Special Force units of the Pakistan Army, the elite SSG (Special Service Group) were also directly engaged in fighting. This operation comprised of many small operations too such as Operation Kalosha II, which took place in South Waziristan. Lack of public and national support at that time created hurdles in the smooth progress of the operation.
Operation Rah-Haq (November 2007)
In May 2004 clashes erupted between Pakistan Troops and Al- Qaeda and the other militants joined by local rebels and pro-Taliban forces. The offensive was poorly coordinated and the Pakistan Army suffered heavy casualties. After a two-year conflict (2004-2006) The Pakistan Military negotiated a ceasefire with the tribesmen from the region where they pledged to hunt down Al-Qaeda , stop Talibanisation of the region and to stop attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan. However, the militants did not keep their word and started to rebuild and took over Lal Masjid in Islamabad. After a six-month standoff, a fight erupted in 2007 when the Pakistan Military decided to use force to end the Lal Masjid threat. Once the operation was over the newly formed Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an umbrella group of militants based in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) vowed revenge and launched a wave of attacks and suicide bombings in North-West Pakistan and major cities. The militants expanded their base of operations and moved to the Swat Valley. The first phase of Operation Rah-e-Haq commenced in November 2007 in collaboration with the local police against Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) in the Swat Valley. The militants however gradually infiltrated into key cities. The second phase began in July 2008 and continued throughout the year. This operation resulted in the deaths of 36 security persons, 9 civilians’ and 615 militants. The third was launched in January 2009, which ended after a peace accord, known as Malakand Accord that was signed between the Government and TNSM.
Operation Sher-e-Dil ( September 2008)
The Pakistan Army launched Operation Sher-e-Dil on September 9, 2008 in Bajaur Agency to target all the militant groups that threatened the security of Pakistan. By early December over 1000 militants and 63 security personnel had been killed.
Operation Zalzala (2008-2009)
This operation was launched in South Waziristan Agency in January 2008 against Baitullah Mehsud and his supporters. Around 200,000 locals are estimated to have been displaced, though it cleared most of SWA and security forces destroyed over 40,000 houses.
Operation Sirat-e-Mustaqeem (2008)
Commenced in June 2008 but was halted by the Army on July 9, 2008 in Bara Tehsil, Khyber Agency- FATA. It was launched by Pakistan Army’s 40m infantry Division. PM Yousuf Raza Gillani’s government ordered the Army against the Taliban forces in Khyber Agency. The immediate trigger for the operation was two kidnappings in Peshawar of six women and a group of 16 Christians by the Islamic group Lashkar-e-Islam. Two militants and one soldier were killed in this operation. However, the major leader managed to escape to an unknown location. Soon after the capture of Bara Tehsil the operation was put to a stop.
Operation Rah-e-Rast (May 2009)
In May 2009 an operation in Swat was launched after the accord failed to ensure peace in the region. Major offensive took place in Mingora in the last week of May and by the end of the month, Pakistan Army regained its control over Mingora.
Operation Rah-e-Nijaat ( October 2009)
October 2009 the army launched a combat against militants in South Waziristan with the help of gunship helicopters and aircraft. The major objective of this operation was to destroy the militant stronghold in the region.
Operation Koh-e-Sufaid (July 2011)
July 4, 2011 the Pakistan Army launched another operation against the militants in Kurram Agency located within the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Operation Koh-e-Sufaid (White Mountain) targeted militants in Kurram with the principal objective of securing and re-opening Thall Parachinar road which had been repeatedly under attack by Sunni Militants.
Operation Zarb-e-Azb (2013)
In 2012, the Pakistan Army was able to take control of major towns of the Malakand Division and many tribal agencies. Only swamp left was North Waziristan. Even though Chief of General Staff (CGS) and Corps Commanders gave a nod for the operation COAS General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani didn’t give the final go. The reason for this was that the general public wasn’t in favor of military operations and also that the army wasn’t well trained for the major task and difficult terrain. When General Raheel Sharif succeeded Kayani in November 2013, he gave the final order and by June 2014 the operation was underway.
Operation Zarb-e-Azb was conducted against the following militant groups: Tehrik-i-Pakistan (TTP), Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, East Turkestan Islamic Movement, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Al-Qaeda, Jundallah and the Haqqani Network. The military strategy used for this was SEEK-DESTROY-CLEAR-HOLD. Seek and Destroy component is from the Vietnam War, while Clear and Hold component is from the Iraq War. Pakistan military combined the two doctrines as one for the operation to be successful. The way forward for this would be that the military will seek the target, once found it will be destroyed then the infrastructure, bodies and weapons would be cleared and the area will be held both during and after its completion to ensure post operation and infrastructure rebuilding or rehabilitation doesn’t take place. After one and a half years of Zarb-e-Azb phenomenal success was achieved. The terrorists’ backbone was broken and their structure dismantled. Nexus sleeper cells largely disrupted and with the Intelligence Based Operations (IBOs) the remaining sleeper cells were busted. 3400 terrorists were killed, 837 hideouts destroyed from where the activities were being conducted. And another 183 hardcore terrorists killed, 21193 arrested. However this success came with a high price, 488 valiant officers, men of Pakistan Army, Frontier Corps KPK, Balochistan, Rangers Sindh sacrificed their lives and 1914 were injured.The result of this was the overall improved security situation and the terrorist attacks in Pakistan had dropped to a six-year low since 2008.
While comparing the first operation to the last, there is a huge learning process for the Pakistan Military as well. Besides being trained as a force for conventional warfare, presently the military forces have become well equipped and trained to fight unconventional warfare effectively. The ground forced are now well acquainted with the terrain, surrounding areas’ and local tribal population. The last decade, though witnessed a huge loss of civilians and military personnel, but was the hardest and most effective training the Pakistan Army would or could undergo. More sophisticated and precise weapon have been used by the Pakistan Army in the recent combat missions.
Among all major military operations in Pakistan, Operation Rah-e-Rast and Zarb-e-Azb have been the most successful in eliminating terrorists. As per Director Major General Asim Bajwa of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) states, ‘Operation Zarb-e-Azb is the biggest and most well-co-ordinated operation ever conducted against terrorists.’ And that it is a ‘war of survival’ hence this operation holds greater significance among all the operations conducted so far.