Pakistan marks a year after army school massacre 

Islamabad, Dec 16 (IANS) Pakistan on Wednesday solemnly marked the first anniversary of the bloody terror attack on an army-run public school in Peshawar.

The December 16 attack last year on the Army Public School, which claimed over 150 lives — mostly of school children, prompted the launch of a National Action Plan (NAP) to combat terrorism that would virtually eliminate the Taliban in Pakistan.

The 20-point plan expanded the powers of the law enforcement agencies to carry out thousands of intelligence-based operations in urban areas against the militants, their financiers and sympathisers. The action drew unprecedented support from all mainstream political parties.

Defence and political affairs experts believe the post-NAP actions delivered a heavy blow to the Tahreek-e-Talian Pakistan and other militant groups who had already been targeted by a major anti-terror offensive code-named “Zarb-e-Azb” in their stronghold of North Waziristan tribal region.

Highlighting the achievements, the army said last week that the security forces have killed 3,400 militants so far during the almost 18-month operation.

Military spokesman Lt. Gen. Asim Bajwa said a total of 837 hideouts of the militants have been destroyed and a few last pockets close to Pakistan-Afghan border were being cleared.

The TTP and other armed groups are now fighting a last battle for their survival in rugged mountains as they have lost ground to the security forces.

Security experts said the post-NAP operations have undermined the capability of the TTP and other armed groups to launch any major attack.

“As the NAP delegated more powers to the law enforcement agencies they carried out vigorous campaign against the militants across the country. The actions were also effective to go after those who had sheltered fleeing militants in cities,” said Syed Nazeer, a former army brigadier.

Nazeer told Xinhua that positive aspect of the NAP was that it received across-the-board support in the country and the actions had decreased violence, suicide attacks, mass killings and serious threats.

Ayaz Wazir, a former diplomat, said the security situation has improved and the Taliban have almost vanished following the NAP.

“The actions have undermined, to a great extent, the capability of the Taliban to carry out any major operation,” he said.

The government statistics this year show major terrorist attacks have declined by 70 percent.

The TTP and its allies have been ousted from their sanctuaries in the lawless tribal regions and their top leaders have fled to neighbouring Afghanistan.

This will remain a challenge but experts said cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan could help in countering this threat.

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