Operation Zalzala

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Operation Zalzala
Part of the War in North-West Pakistan
Date 24 January - 20 May 2008
(3 months, 3 weeks and 5 days)
Location Spinkai, South Waziristan, Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Pakistan

Pakistani tactical victory

  • Pakistan Army captured the area successfully
  • Failure to kill Qari Hussain
  • Manhunt objectives failed
  • Truce was signed by the Pakistan Army

Pakistan State of Pakistan

 Pakistan Army
Afghanistan Tehrik-i-Taliban
Commanders and leaders
Flag of the Pakistani Army.svg M.Gen. Tariq Khan
Flag of the Pakistani Army.svg B.Gen. Ali Abbas
Afghanistan Baitullah Mehsud 
Afghanistan Qari Hussain
Units involved
14th Infantry Division
9th Army Aviation Squadron
20th Mountaineering Brigade
10-15,000 (possible) Unknown
Casualties and losses
6 soldiers dead 25-55 TTP fighters killed
150,000-200,000 people were displaced
Location within Pakistan

The Operation Zalzala (English: Operation Earthquake), was a Pakistan Army military offensive manhunt and a counter-insurgent operation that was commenced on January 18 of 2008. The operation concluded withmixed results as the army had successfully captured the area, but the army was failed to capture or killed the Qari Hussain, the main objective of the operation.[1]


Spinkai is a small town in South Waziristan, Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Pakistan. Located in autonomous area of Pakistan, the town is mostly inhabited by the Pashtun tribe Mahsud. Since 2004, the South-Waziristan had been a major control and command area of Taliban and Al-Qaida forces since it was cleared by Pakistan Defence Forces in 2009. (See Operation Rah-e-Nijat)


On 15 and 16 January 2008, several pro-Taliban militants had overrun Ludha and Sararogha Fort, which resulted in Taliban victory as they had killed and kidnapped several soldiers. On January 24, the Pakistan Army started a full-fledged operation called 'Zalzala' (earthquake). The operation was led by Pakistan Army’s 14th Infantry Division (normally stationed in Okara and assigned to II Corps) as it was supported by 20th Mountaineering Brigade. Major-General Tariq Khan, General Officer Commanding (GOC) of 14th Infantry Division served the Operation's Officer Commanding.[2] Brigadier-General Ali Abbas, Officer commanding of 20th Mountaineering Division, served as the local commander of his combat brigade.[3]

On January 20, 2008, the operation was launched. The army swept the area through with AH-1 Cobra helicopters, artillery and Al-Zarrar and Al-Khalid tanks that crunched across a parched riverbed.[4] The troops were later inserted in the area and the manhunt operation was later introduced. During the operation, the army aimed to kill Qari Hussain, the chief Tailban chief ideologist who was considered an expert in preparing suicide attacks. After four days of heavy fighting, more than 25 militants and six soldiers died. However, the army was unable to kill or captured Qari Hussain. After months of heavy fighting, an unknown number of Taliban militants were killed, and they had abandoned their positions. Within a first week of February, the army had captured the entire town and the army was in full control of it. The militants were later retreated up the valley. The militants had again launched their attacks on the troops but they were unable to re-gain the control of the town as they had suffered major human casualties.

On May 18, 2008, during the media briefing, the army at Spainkai Raghzai had announced that they had intercepted militants’ wireless communication saying that Qari Hussain had been killed in the several weeks long operation launched on January 24.[5] However,on May 26, it was later revealed that the Qari Hussain had survived the operation, and Pakistan Army was unable to find or kill Qari Hussain during the operation.[6]


During the operation, the town's infrastructure was nearly demolished. More than 200,000 people were displaced. After the operation, the army troops had discovered bomb factories and schools for teenage suicide bombers. The hate literature and CDs were also confiscated by the army. Four months later the villagers were forbidden from returning home.[7] Their wheat was rotted in the fields. But Pakistani military commanders insist they have been merciful in their application of "collective punishment". Bulldozers and explosives experts turned Spinkai's bazaar into a mile-long pile of rubble. Petrol stations, shops, and even parts of the hospital were levelled or blown up. The villagers were forbidden from returning to their homes.

The sporadic fighting continued in the area, and the troops were still fighting the Taliban forces. Following the operation, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) offered a truce and peace negotiations resulting in a suspension of violence. In spite of the victory in the operation, on May 21, 2008 Pakistan signed a peace agreement with the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).[8][9]