Geo strategically, Pakistan is located in such a region which provides both challenges and opportunities for it. For instance, it is the shortest possible route for China towards middle east and central Asian Republics. The China has a major part in economic globalization in the shape of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) thus, these both regions hold immense importance for the raising global economic power. Similarly, Pakistan is located in a region which is constantly impacted by the rivalries of regional and major powers such as that of China and India boarder disputes, China-US trade war and Russia and the US political tensions etc. Keeping all of the above facts in mind, it is stated that Pakistan has a number of economic and political opportunities in the region.
However, despite all these opportunities, there are several constant issues and challenges to Pakistan which greatly impact foreign policy, economy and national security of the country, over the years. The long conventional rivalry with the neighbor like India, instable Afghanistan and security challenges on the Iranian Boarder in Baluchistan have been brought Pakistan to troubles, majority of the times. For instance, after the incident of 9/11, the United States of America invaded Afghanistan, which provoked a series of insurgencies in the western areas of Pakistan, as the later shares a long border with Afghanistan. Several terrorist groups came into being in the former FATA region and especially in Malakand division, which presented drastic security challenges to the country. Such insurgencies not only weakened the already struggling economic conditions of the country, but brought severe security, social, psychological and political hurdles as well.
Throughout these years, the security forces irrespective of caring for their lives; greatly fought in these regions, in order to eradicate the evil of terrorism. For instance, back in 2007-10, the Malakand Division and Swat valley was greatly suffered due to the presence of insurgents. The late Fazlullah and his followers managed themselves under the umbrella of TTP and kept control in the Swat valley for several years. These terrorist outlets not only imposed their strict self-interpreted laws in swat but also extended their activities to the other parts of Malakand Division such as Dir Lower and Upper, Bunir and Bajour etc.
During these years from 2007-2010, these terrorists kept hostile the whole region of Malakand division and targeted almost every sect of those who opposed their way of doing things. In the meantime, the local administration and even provincial government writ was Paralyzed and surrounded by the Taliban. The extremist elements not only negatively impacted the governance of the region but produced immense hurdles in other sectors such health and education. They prevented young children especially girls from getting the modern knowledge. Similarly, they constantly targeted women staff of various hospitals as such staff was behind the anti-polio campaign. Who can forget the attempt of assassination of Malala Yousafzai, a young girl who openly criticized Taliban’s behavior towards education and raised her voice for women education in the valley. At the time when there was a blood game, lack of law and order a sort of chaos in Malakand division, the security forces launched several successful military operations in the region; in order to secure peace in the region. For instance, operation Rah-e-Haq and Rah-e-Rast was conducted between 2007 and 2009 in order to eliminate the outlawed Terrorist groups. Such military operation was launched at a very critical time as Pakistan was facing high hostility on the eastern border with the India and upraising insurgency in Baluchistan. But the armed forces showed great enthusiasm, professionalism and unity; and they not only got rid of terrorism in Malakand division but also kept both borders with Iran and India secured. The armed forces lost hundreds of their personals in order to fulfil such a huge responsibility of restoration of peace.
More importantly, the more difficult task was to sustain the reestablished peace and restoration of people’s confidence. In this regard, the security forces played a tremendous role. For instance, they not only made arrangements for meeting the needs of the public, but organized recreational activities for the local population as well. For instance, activities like Kalam sports Festival, Malam Jaba skiing competition and sports gala were arranged time to time in the post-insurgency era, due to the support and sacrifices of the armed forces.
This region was famous for its tourist attributes and greenery. Moreover, local economy and development is greatly linked with the tourism which was reduced to a large extend due to the terrorism in the region. Once the security forces have restored peace and stability in the region, the economic condition and development of the region is again climbing, which shows an indirect but major role of the armed forces in this sector as well. Thus, it can be concluded that despite all economic limitations and hurdles, the armed forces show great professionalism and sense of responsibility to preserve peace in the country in general and in Malakand division in particular.
The Writer currently works as a Research Associate at the International Parliamentarians’ Congress Islamabad. He has a wide experience of writings for various newspapers and can be reached at [email protected]