With consecutive reports of two top Al Qaeda commanders being killed in South and North Waziristan by the Pakistan army and a US drone strike respectively, it seems the “comprehensive” operation against militancy is bagging some trophy targets. This serves a number of purposes. First, the feeling that justice is being served. Umer Farooq alias Ustad Farooq killed by a drone strike on Sunday was the operational in charge for Al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and at the helm of numerous incidents of violence. In the same way, Adnan Shukrijuma, killed in a raid by the Pakistan army in South Waziristan was the head of Al Qaeda’s global operations and thought to be the mastermind behind a 2009 plot to attack the New York subway. The second purpose these high profile killings fulfil is credibility. They grant legitimacy to the US and Pakistan operations, making them sound credible. In the case of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, the Pakistan army claims it has almost completely cleared the targeted area of militants, having killed about 1,100 of them. Skepticism is beginning to emerge because of the black hole of information and only the ISPR to trust. In the face of this, a few big names under their belt go on to prove, at least on paper, that all is going well and that the collateral is worth the kill. However, the fact remains that we have no idea how many innocent people have been killed, how precise these “targeted operations” are, and what the quality of intelligence really is. In the case of drones, it is largely known that thousands of innocent people have lost their lives in so called precision strikes. It is for this reason that many reports of drone attacks, including the attack that killed Umer Farooq on Sunday, are never confirmed. So realistically speaking, how can it be true that US intelligence gets it wrong so many times, and Pakistan intelligence never does? No matter how many refugees have filled the camps at Bannu, there must be families, children, elderly people who couldn’t leave. And though a time of war leads inevitably to some collateral, at least those figures should be documented with the dignity accorded to other innocent Pakistani lives.

It is laudable that Operation Zarb-e-Azb has successfully eliminated a number of notorious and violent militants; but in order to truly prove its credibility to the Pakistani public, it must allow for some more information on who the eleven hundred people so far killed, really are. Are a majority of them Pakistani nationals? Are they foreigners? Are they all militants, or did some of them just happen to be in the wrong place? The truth will not harm the operation. The country will continue to stand behind the armed forces.