Book: Operation Sherdil: Battle Of Bajaur
Author: Major General Abid Mumtaz, HI (M)
Publisher: Hilal Publications, ISPR Directorate
Publication Year: September-06-2019
Reviewed By: Asma Ishaq
The terrorism that hovered the dark shadows over Pakistan for a decade almost was a result of infiltrated violent actors installed by the proven foreign aids with the prime objectives to throw the country in the deep wells of economic emergencies, socio-political turmoil and also sectarian division to create the religious rift among the country fellows.
The response was much imminent from the Pakistan Armed Forces. Operation Sherdil, commenced on August 06-2008 was one such response. It was not only a ‘say’ to be called ‘Battle for Pakistan’ but it proved to be the ‘watershed’ military resilience to break the backbone of the terrorists and to bring life back to Pakistan. It was an operation that flagged and later on helped to plan the next stage of operations to be carried.
Major General Abid Mumtaz has the honour of successful conduction of Operation Sherdil, and now he has provided a very comprehensive account of the operation in his memoir. He has sub-titled it, ‘The Battle of Bajaur.’ It is a well-documented description of the planning, preparation and conduction of the operation. In his own words, “This book is more of a first-hand narration of events that were experienced personally and also about the emotional attachment that was there with me for those fellow comrades instead of meant only for glorification.” The content of book has been specified in the four chapters that makes quite easier for the readers to read and understand the background, planning, stages, analysis and lessons of this operation. There are Acknowledgements, Epilogue and the Roll of Honour. (Shaheeds) The book has maps and pictures that add support to understand the area of operation.
At first, this book provides a detailed information of the Bajaur Agency. This agency Bajaur is located at the Northern limb of FATA and it had been much a desired route for the invaders due to its geostrategic importance since long from the history too. From Alexander to Mughal Emperor Babur, the invaders used this route to enter into the region. After independence prior to 1960, it was under the dominance of Malakhand Agency ruled by the Khanates along with the two local tribes one Tarkhai and other Uthman Khels; off-shoots of Yousafzai Tribe. The post 1973, it got federated with the FATA. The Soviet Union’s invasion 1979 over Afghanistan brought the militancy-elements on account of the geographical proximity with Afghanistan making it the centre-stage for the Afghan Mujahedeen. The event of 9/11 brought the Al-Qaeda and Afghan Taliban militants and taking the conspicuous charge of the area. There was a strong challenge observed against the writ of State that produced a power-shift to be given to Maulvi Faqir Muhammad proclaimed by the TTP Shaura. In 2007, TTP violated the Peace Agreement in Swat and it was the similar response from them in Waziristan too where two Peace Agreements were revoked. Thus, Bajaur became a safe haven for the TTP terrorists and the most critical component during the time of the Tahrik E Taliban Pakistan control in the area. The weak administration of governance and socio-economic drawbacks became the favorable conditions for these people to augment the insurgency. The US drone attack near Damadola against a seminary in 2006 highlighted Bajaur in the international media.
Operation Sherdil was indeed one of the toughest missions, Bajaur is a mountainous terrain and crisscrossed by the ravines. In the first two phases of operation, the advancement and clearance of Rashakai onto Loe Sum met all the obstacles. The plans for clearance the routes and later on of the valleys took episodes, even lingered on in wait for a favorable point to advance ahead and many nights were spent in the long fights. The enemy was well equipped, also fully aware of the crisscross of the hills and nullahs whereas the Forces with the preparation, planning, ammunition and training was there to fight. The author wrote at one place that there was a time when the soldiers were fatigued due to sleepless nights yet they stood in the face of all odds.
The 26 Brigade in the Command of Maj. Gen. Abid Mumtaz performed the exemplary valour and services to clear the areas full of dangers and challenges. This Brigade was comprised of 25 Punjab, 34 Baloch and 7 Sindh. From the planning, preparation and training of the operation in the arduous conditions, yet it was made sure to make the 26 Brigade an invincible force against the hardcore terrorists who definitely had few advantages for being the accustomed with the extreme weather conditions of the both cold and hot nature, routes, valley, alleys and mazes etc. The General in Command remained a clear-headed instructor throughout the course. Later, the clearance of valleys gave access to those nasty dens. These hideouts were equipped with the greater defence system than estimation, laced with inter connected tunnels, fortified bunkers, mouse holes and the IEDs. Similarly, the training material and literature were also recovered from the local seminaries. All this was a testimony that it had been a result of TTP’s long time strong hold in the area.
It is not just a myth but the proven-reality now that the Pakistan Armed Forces are the only Forces that have won the war against hardcore terrorists. The Operation Sherdil is apt to be called the ‘Lionhearted Expedition’ as it is the full length of kinetic force engagements utilized by the Armed Forces to eradicate the terrorists. The martyrdom stories in the book from the operation are there for all the country men that this peace is due to all those heroic sons.
The gains of this operation must be analyzed further in particular to end all those conditions, causes and also to keep a check over all. These were the socio-economic compulsions that gave rise to the insurgency. There should be some mechanism to address those individuals who are ‘haves-not’ of the society and they get trapped in the hands of religious militants who only know to meet their criminal objectives while presenting a false interpretation of religious doctrine. They exploit the needs and grievances of these sturdy young men who consider it ‘an auspicious escape’ from the realities of life. The Political Administration should be actively involved to maintain the progressive societal framework of the area for always.
Blessed the fallen-honoured-souls in the line duty!