Residents Protest Planned Military Offensive In Pakistan’s Swat Valley, Orakzai District

Residents of Pakistan's Swat Valley protest against a planned operation by the nation's military.

Hundreds of residents in Pakistan’s Swat Valley and Orakzai tribal district rallied to condemn a newly announced military operation by the federal government, with one movement calling for a nationwide protest on July 7.

The Ulasi Pasoon (Public Revolution) and Orkazai Peace Movement organized the protests on July 5 in which political workers, rights activists, and students carried placards demanding peace and security in their areas and denouncing the planned military operation.

Residents have long opposed the national government’s military operations in the region, claiming they have driven millions of people from their homes and disrupted businesses and other activities of ethnic Pashtuns in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.

They have also protested the lack of overall security provided by the national authorities.

The protesters in Swat and Orakzai demanded peace and asked the military forces to target the terrorists’ hideouts rather than conducting operations in civilian areas.

Pakistan’s top leadership on June 22 approved plans for the Resolve For Stability military operation designed to combat escalating extremist violence and terrorist attacks in the region. The operation has not yet started.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a remote northwestern province near the Afghan border, has seen an increase in deadly attacks in the past two years, mostly blamed on Islamist extremist groups, including Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan and affiliates of Islamic State.

Islamabad has accused neighboring Afghanistan of providing safe havens for the groups operating in Pakistan, something Kabul has denied.

Pakistani security forces have said they have been conducting targeted operations against militants in several parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.

Citing the effects of previous military operations, local residents and political activists in several districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa launched the protest rallies and other actions after plans for Resolve For Security were announced by the government in Islamabad.

The Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) rights group has announced plans for countrywide protests against new military operations on July 7.

The office of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had stated that the new operation would not be a full-scale military campaign displacing a large number of people like the previous operations.

The Pakistani military on July 5 said in a statement that the new operation is aimed at “harnessing the national counterterrorism efforts in a synchronized manner to dismantle the nexus of terrorism and illegal spectrum in the country for enduring stability and economic prosperity.”

source : Radio Free Europe

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