[stextbox id=”info”]Major General Athar Abbas belongs to Pakistan’s top most media family. Brother of astute Pakistani journalists Mazhar Abbas and Zaffar Abbas, the military officer manning public relations of Pakistan Army uses words with political and diplomatic acumen. In his first ever interaction with Indian journalists he talks about Pakistan Army’s operations against Taliban.[/stextbox]
Q: Can you give us an overview of our operations in areas bordering Afghanistan?
A: We moved in Swat areas in 2007 and the area was cleared in six weeks. Most of militants escaped to North. A deal was struck with Swat Taliban after elections. They recaptured areas. Those who sided with state were brutally murdered. So in the second phase of operations we faced numerous difficulties. Operations resulted in overall displacement. There was an offer by Swat Taliban through Sofi Mohammad. Government accepted that. But they expanded their bases to Dhir, Boneer… So this operation took us five months. Some 2.2 milllion people were displaced.
In South Waziristan, there are two tribes Wazirs and Masoods. Tahrik Taliban Pakistan had expelled the state from the area. The operation started on October 6. This was hardest ever battle. Masoods are fierce fighters.
Bajaur, barring its headquarters Khar, was totally lost. Army started operations in September 2008, then it was halted and then started again. Pakistan Army has taken 9504 causalities, averaging 10 a day. Amongst them, 2443 were killed and 7061 injured. Pakistan army has 821 posts along Afghan border and coalition forces have 112 posts. Military response is clear, to hold, clear and transfer territory to civilian administration.
Q: Are you coordinating these operations with coalition forces across the Durand Line? We see many drone attacks on your soil.
A: US drone attacks have harmed our plans and operations. There have been 2800 Pakistan Air Force attacks against 117 drone attacks. But they create public reaction. It touches fundamentals of success. Fundamentals of our success were army, public opinion and media. Our air strikes do not create backlash as US led drone attacks create. It is seen as breach of sovereignty.
There was divided public opinion in the past. But then it turned fragile and now supportive but anti-America sentiments do exist. We are at war. Military is there to create a political space for leadership to move in. Earlier, public was in double mind. They were moved by the rhetoric of Sharia. But it then turned out their aim was to gain power.
You need to understand the border as well, it is not marked. Durand line is divided into tribes and they have right to come and return. Fencing and plugging is resisted by tribes. One can laugh at western arm chair analysts judging us from their cozy environs.
Q: Pakistan has been leveling all kinds of allegations against foreign governments creating trouble. Is there any proof of any such involvement?
A: Hostile intelligence agencies in FATA and Balochistan, and hate literature is a problem. It is not possible for such movement to continue without sanctuaries. Intelligence agencies don’t leave signatures. Anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns and constant target killings in Balochistan tells all.
Just to draw your attention when US was looking for a kidnapped polish engineer John Saluke working at the UN, we gave them clues. It was a Balouch tribal leader Brahm Dag Bugti based in Kabul who was responsible for this kidnapping. The engineer was finally rescued.
Last three decades in this whole area is subjected to violence right from Iran revolution to Kashmir struggle. Youth in these areas have seen nothing but violence. They don’t have any serious employment, but weapons and money. In past it was official, but now it comes though charity and drug money. Militarily we can only stabilize and it is for government to go for basic reforms.
South Waziristan was completely lost. In North Waziristan we have five brigades and there are tribes who are not with militants. Operations are still going on in Bajur. Unless we are confident we cannot leave Bajaur.