Saturday July 20, 2024

Federal cabinet 'okays' Operation Azm-e-Istehkam

PM, as quoted by sources, says intelligence-based operations to be carried out against terrorists

By Ayaz Akbar Yousafzai
June 25, 2024
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chairs a meeting of the federal cabinet in this undated photo. — PID/File
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chairs a meeting of the federal cabinet in this undated photo. — PID/File

The federal cabinet Tuesday okayed the Azm-e-Istehkam military operation as well as other decisions of the Central Apex Committee, Geo News reported citing sources.

According to the sources, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif assured that common people would not be troubled during the operation, neither their houses would be raided. 

The PM, as quoted by the sources, said intelligence-based operations would be carried out against terrorists only.

The decision has come after PM Shehbaz last Saturday gave the go-ahead to the newly-launched military operation despite the opposition parties’ grievances against it.

During a meeting of the Apex Committee, PM Shehbaz had approved Azm-e-Istehkam, a reinvigorated and re-energised national counter-terrorism drive, to turn up the heat on militants targetting the state of Pakistan.

The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said the new counter-terrorism push has been approved with the consensus of all stakeholders including provinces, Gilgit Baltistan (GB) and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).

"The approval of the operation symbolises the national resolve to eradicate all forms of extremism and terrorism from the country," the PMO said.

The opposition parties including the PTI, Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam Fazl (JUI-F), Awami National Party (ANP) and others have voiced concerns over the launch of the new military operation, demanding that parliament must be taken into confidence before taking any such decision.

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Tuesday said the government would satisfy the PTI over the military operation.

Asif said that the federal government would ensure to provide satisfactory answers to the concerns of the PTI over the anti-militancy operation.

"We will create a consensus among the [parties]. The opposition parties and allies. We will give them ample time to discuss this issue. Whatever their questions or concerns, it will be responded to in a satisfying manner."

Meanwhile, as per the Prime Minister’s Office, Shehbaz took members of the federal cabinet into confidence over misunderstandings and speculations about the vision of Azm-e-Istehkam.

"Azm-e-Istehkam is a collective multidimensional operation and national vision of the entire state system, which will be carried out with the security institutions' cooperation,” the prime minister said during the federal cabinet meeting in Islamabad.

PM Shehbaz said under this, intelligence-based operations would be intensified, instead of launching a new organised armed operation.

The PM said the perception of launching of a new operation for which displacement would be required was a misunderstanding.

“The aim of the operation is to uproot remnants of terrorists, crimes and terrorist nexus,” he said adding that the operation would also target to root out violent extremism from the country. 

Govt presents clarification about operation

The PMO had late Monday clarified that "no large-scale military operation is being launched" in the country.

“The recently announced vision for enduring stability named Azm-e-Istehkam is being erroneously misunderstood and compared with earlier launched kinetic operations like Zarb-e-Azab, Rah-e-Najaat etc,” read a statement issued by the PMO.

It said the previous kinetic operations were conducted to physically dislodge terrorists from their known locations which had become no-go areas and compromised the writ of the state. “These operations required mass displacement of the local population and systematic clearance of affected areas.”

The federal government has stated that there are no such no-go areas in the country since the ability of terrorist entities to carry out large-scale organised operations inside Pakistan was decisively degraded by earlier kinetic operations.

“Therefore, no large-scale military operation is being contemplated where displacement of population will be required,” the PMO said.

It said that Operation Azm-e-Istehkam is a multi-domain, multi-agency, whole-of-the-system national vision for enduring stability in Pakistan. 

Raza Rabbani calls for constituting committee to review Azm-e-Istehkam

Meanwhile, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Raza Rabbani Tuesday demanded the government to constitute a Parliamentary Committee on National Security, with representation of all political parties in both the houses, to review Azm-e-Istehkam.

Noting the clarification by the federal government that it was neither a kinetic large scale military operation, nor would it entail mass displacement of the local population, the former Senate chairman demanded the government to summon a joint in-camera sitting of the parliament to take the lawmakers into confidence over the internal terrorism situation, foreign involvement of intelligence agencies and the steps being taken under Azm-e-Istehkam. 

He said all legislation to be initiated, to cover legal voids that hinder effective prosecution, should be through the Parliamentary Committee on National Security. 

The government had to be mindful, that under the grab of effective prosecution, draconian laws in violation of the fundamental rights envisaged in the Constitution, 1973, were not enacted, he maintained.