Anticipating backlash from the militants in the wake of the killing of a top commander in a drone attack, the Pakistan Army has intensified its ongoing operations in different parts of FATA while the UN has estimated that nearly 60,000 people could be displaced due to the security operations in Kurram Agency.

According to the latest humanitarian update issued by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 7,185 families comprising 43,110 people have been displaced from Kurram Agency by this Thursday.

“Humanitarian partners are registering and providing assistance to families displaced from central Kurram Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), who have fled their homes since mid-May due to the government of Pakistan’s security operations against non-state armed actors. By 30 May, partners had registered 7,185 families (43,110 people) in Kurram Agency. Nearly 60,000 people could be displaced due to the ongoing security operations in Kurram Agency,” the update said on Monday.

Since last week, the military has reportedly scaled up its targeted operations in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) and South Waziristan Agency (SWA) and major offensives in Khyber and Kurram Agencies apparently after the of killing of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s second-in-command Qari Wali-ur-Rehman in a drone strike reported in NWA on Wednesday last.

Two days later, in a deadly encounter between the security forces and military men on Friday, up to 37 militants and 15 security men purportedly got killed in exchange of fierce gun battle in Maidan village of Khyber Agency. While the fight still goes on, the security forces, intelligence sources claim, have secured major portion of the said area.

Contending that the military operations scale-up in FATA was primarily linked to the military’s operational strategy, the officials, however, admitted that the development bore ‘some’ relevance with Rehman’s killing.

“To some extent this is true but it’s not all about Qari’s (Wali) killing. The military’s operational strategies are reviewed throughout the year and priorities are adjusted and readjusted accordingly. Some time, the reprioritised strategy demands urgent action to secure any targeted terrain or to simply augment the strength of the troops already deployed there,” a security official commented.

Talking to The Nation, Political Agent Khyber Agency Mutahir Zeb Khan said that the security operations in Khyber Agency and other parts were being carried out in coordination among the military authorities, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s provincial machinery and FATA political administration.

To a query, he agreed to the perception that there was a visible surge in the military operations in FATA following Wali-ur-Rehman’s killing. “Yes this might be the case, I believe. You know, given that Qari Wali was taken out in a United States-administered drone-hit, it could simply trigger a backlash from the militants in any part of FATA or elsewhere. There is a deep-rooted perception in extremist elements that Pakistani security forces have joined hands with the US against them. Which is why, the chances of any backlash run high after the killing of every high-profile militant commander here,” he said.

The Pakistan Army, Frontier Corps, Frontier Constabulary and Levies Force were jointly engaged in the drive against the militants, the PA Khyber Agency said adding that the local police was mainly tasked with maintaining law and order and it was not involved in counter-terrorism operations in Khyber Agency and other parts of FATA. 

In addition, according to the security source, the targeted operations in NWA are slightly intensified but mostly continued as per routine. The operation’s scale-up has been done in parts of Kurram, Khyber and SWA.

“At this time, the threat perception is greater in other tribal agencies compared to NWA because militants are dispersedly operating in those areas in groups. If you talk about NWA, the military activity is mostly normal, slightly intensified, though. The targeted pursuits are going on like they were in the past. The targeted hunts are stretched in some parts of SWA but the scale-up is largely followed in Khyber and Kurram,” he said adding that TTP and Ansar-ur-Islam, were the two rival networks actively operating in these agencies. Based in Khyber Agency, AI, a rival group of TTP, has also started attacking security forces in Kurram Agency, the source said.    

The security situation in the NWA and SWA, he said, is challenging in terms of the tough terrain and difficult proximity. “But militants are concentrated or you can say confined to specified areas in NWA and SWA due to targeted pursuits. Now there’re some runway militants and fighters of TTP or AI launching attacks on the security forces in Khyber and Kurram,” he said adding that the military operations would be surged in Bajaur and Mohmand Agencies after clearing the areas the security forces were presently engaged in.