Federal cabinet 'greenlights' Operation Azm-e-Istehkam

PM says people will not face trouble during operation and neither will their houses be raided: sources

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Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif (left) chairs a federal cabinet meeting in Islamabad on March 28, 2024. —PMO
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif (left) chairs a federal cabinet meeting in Islamabad on March 28, 2024. —PMO
  • PM Shehbaz says citizens will not face any trouble, as per sources.
  • Their houses will not be raided during operation, says prime minister.
  • Operations will be carried out against terrorists only, he assures.

ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Tuesday approved the decisions taken by the National Action Plan's Central Apex Committee, including the Operation Azm-e-Istehkam, sources told Geo News.

As per the sources, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said citizens would not face any trouble during the operation and neither would their houses be raided.

"Only intelligence-based operations would be carried out against terrorists," PM was quoted by the sources as saying.

The decision has come after the Apex Committee last Saturday gave the go-ahead to the military operation, which is a reinvigorated and re-energised national counter-terrorism drive, to turn up the heat on militants targeting Pakistan.

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

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

To resolve the issue, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif has said the government would satisfy the PTI and other opposition parties over the military operation.

Asif said that the federal government would ensure providing 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 clears air on 'misconceptions'

With much criticism from the opposition, the PMO had issued a detailed late Monday, clarifying 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 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.