In the late hours of Tuesday 20 December, DG ISPR Major General Ahmed Sharif Chaudhry told a private news channel that the security operation in Bannu cantonment, where a CTD facility was overrun by detained militants, had concluded. Defence Minister Khawaja Asif made a similar statement on the floor of the house at the National Assembly earlier on Tuesday afternoon.
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Tuesday confirmed that “all the terrorists” of the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) who had taken hostages at a Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) centre in Bannu were killed in an operation conducted by the Pakistan Army. pic.twitter.com/vMAbwDTEll
— The Correspondent PK (@correspondentPk) December 20, 2022
But independent sources are reporting that the engagement between security forces, including elite SSG commandos of the Pakistan Army, and TTP-affiliated militants was still going on during Wednesday morning. Intermittent gunfire could be heard in the vicinity of Bannu cantonment, according to some reports.
بنوں کینٹ کی جانب ابھی تک وقفے وقفے سے دھماکوں اور فائرنگ کا سلسلہ جاری ہے۔ #TTP #Bannu #BannuCanttAttack pic.twitter.com/ZblXs1yBJM
— Shabbir Hussain Turi (@ShabbirTuri) December 21, 2022
The CTD “internment” facility in Bannu Cantt was reported to be under attack by militants on Sunday; the ‘attack’ reportedly took place during the afternoon but was only reported by media in the evening. There is confusion as to whether only the detained militants overtook the CTD facility, or if there was an attack from the outside that resulted in the facility being overrun.
In a security operation yesterday (Tuesday), at least two SSG commandos were martyred in the effort to wrest control of the CTD facility from the militants. Official sources had also said that the operation in Bannu had concluded sometime in Tuesday evening; some clarified that “search and clearance operations” were still being carried out in the vicinity.
Tight controls on the Pakistani media, especially in terms of reporting on security affairs and matters related to terrorism, have prevented a clear and transparent understanding of what really went on in Bannu during the past few days.
As per our editorial policy we will not be updating any information that could be counterproductive to the ongoing hostage situation in Bannu District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa till the situation is cleared.
Team Khorasan Diary
— The Khorasan Diary (@khorasandiary) December 18, 2022
We will not be updating on the incident at Bannu due to security concerns, as this is an ongoing hostage situation.
Keeping in view the safety and security of the security personnel and hostages in an ongoing operation, we will only provide an update once the situation is over.
— The Intel Consortium (@INTELPSF) December 18, 2022
In the absence of timely and reliable inputs from official sources, or of any credible and consistent reporting by the mainstream media, it has been observed with concern that people – especially on social media – are turning to updates in the form of “terrorist propaganda” and spreading that “to the detriment of Pakistan”.
The operation that begun at 12:30 PM is still continuing at 4:45. There are no exact numbers casualties fatal or injuries known in totality . What you hear and see on social media is only the bit from the cleared area. https://t.co/SlqJVC36St
— Iftikhar Firdous (@IftikharFirdous) December 20, 2022
However, this also points to the state’s failed policy of attempting to “control” the narratives discussed on mainstream media, and how it has polarized public opinion across Pakistan in the age of disinformation, misinformation and social media hype. The Pakistani public remains fixated on politics and the country’s economic troubles, as the spectre of terrorism has re-emerged across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during the past year.