Tribal leaders declared Azm-e-Istehkam as “No Stability”


The head of a prominent religious party in Pakistan, Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, on Thursday chaired a meeting of tribal elders in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, after which he refused to back the government’s new anti-terrorism operation.

The operation titled “Azm-e-Istehkam” (Resolve for Stability) was approved by the National Action Plan’s apex committee, which includes key civilian and military leaders, during a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif last week.

Pakistan’s opposition parties, mainly those based in the militancy-wracked KP province, have expressed reservations over the operation and have called on the government to take parliament into confidence before taking action.

“All agencies of [erstwhile] Federally Administered Tribal areas or as you may call them districts today, have declared Azm-e-Istehkam as “No Stability” and have expressed no confidence in it,” Rehman, leader of the Jamiat Ulama-e-Pakistan Fazl (JUI-F) party told reporters at a news conference.

Fazl was speaking to reporters after chairing a meeting of Pakistani tribal elders from the erstwhile FATA area to discuss security and other matters related to the region.

“The situation regarding peace in the region is very serious,” Fazl noted. “People belonging to armed groups have spread to several areas compared to the past and are controlling traffic and even collecting tolls from passengers at checkpoints,” he added.

Thousands of people in Pakistan’s tribal areas were displaced during the late 2000s when the Pakistan Army launched operations to clear the area from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) or Pakistani Taliban militants.

Rehman said past military operations in tribal areas had destroyed people’s lives, adding that they were forced to beg in marketplaces after their homes and businesses had been destroyed in the conflict.

Pakistan has blamed the recent surge in militant attacks in its territory on neighboring Afghanistan, which it says allows Pakistani Taliban militants to hold camps and train insurgents.

Kabul denies this. Since last November, the Pakistan government has also launched a deportation drive under which over 600,000 Afghan nationals have been expelled from Pakistan.

Rehman urged Pakistan’s government to proceed with caution in its relations with the Afghan Taliban lest they deteriorate further.

“If your relations stay the same, then you won’t either have a friend in the East nor in the West,” he warned.

Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khawaja Asif on Tuesday brushed aside the opposition’s worries, clarifying that the government would build consensus in parliament over the military operation before enforcing it.

“The opposition parties and the government’s allies will be given a suitable amount of time to debate it and their questions and reservations will be answered,” Asif told reporters at a news conference.

The minister said the government did not want to achieve any “political objectives” through the operation. Rather, he said it wanted to combat the surge in militancy in the country and eliminate it for good.

Separately, Sharif clarified that the government was not considering a large-scale military operation that would displace people within the country.

He said the Azm-e-Istehkam would mobilize military operations that have already been launched against militants and aim to eliminate them from the country for good.