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Thursday, May 23, 2024

The pandora box of Swat’s problems

The residents of Swat are no strangers to incidents of terrorism and its spillover effects. At least two million people were displaced from the area in 2009 when the Pakistan Army initiated Operation Rah-e-Rast in a bid to clear the area of militants.

Swat is a beautiful valley with deep historical roots from the Buddhist time period. Once a land of Buddhist spirituality, full of monasteries and monks, it shifted to Islam due to the conquest of Mahmud of Ghazni, who defeated the last “Hindu Shai king Jayapala” in an epic battle near modern Charsada, thus laying the foundation of Islam in Swat valley. Swat was among the most peaceful princely states during the time of the British Raj with a variety of ethnic populations including, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs.

The state continued even after independence till 1969, when it was formally included in Pakistan due to the political movement of SLM (Swat liberation Movement) against autocratic rule. After inclusion in Pakistan, the local population soon became annoyed with poor administration and the absence of governmental authority. The local population used to cherish the days of “Wali-i-Swat”, who gave justice to its subject irrespective of their creed, ethnic background and religion. This resulted in subsequent political and militant movements within Swat often challenging the authority of the government at times.

Read more: Flash floods wreak havoc in Swat, emergency declared

Understanding the matter better

Sufi Mohammed a religious cleric, used the situation to his advantage and manifested slogans of “Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi” to attract the attention of the local populace. He also managed to start a militant movement in Swat led by his son in law Maulana Fazlullah. Supported by foreign funding and fighters, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) got control of Swat valley in early 2009 and subsequently forced the then government of Pakistan People’s Party (PPPs) to enforce Nizama-i- Adil. During these times of extreme anarchy and lawlessness, sufferers were people of swat who were looted, prosecuted and executed by the Taliban.

Thousands of people migrated from Swat to lower districts to save their lives. Under Such odds, Pakistan Army responded by undertaking a massive operation to remove Tablian and restore peace. As it is said that peace never comes without sacrifices, and that was the case here. Many precious lives were lost including both civilians and soldiers and it was only then that peace started to come in swat in 2013. Things improved year by year and in 2016 tourism started within the valley and life returned to its normalcy.

In 2013 Pakistan Tehrik Insaf (PTI) participated in the National Election to challenge the traditional mindset of local voters by bringing the slogans of change, “Naya Pakistan” and “Tabdeeli”. Unfortunately, the “tabdeeli” that was promised never came as the same old faces of Pakistani Politics under PTI cover returned to power and yet again the aim was to plunder.

The PTI government in KPK failed to deliver in every aspect of governance

Even the law and order situation never improved. However, our brave forces through their extreme sacrifices brought back Swat from becoming a Terrorist hub to zero militancy. The unfortunate part was that the PTI’s government in KPK turned a blind eye toward security and administrative aspects and focused more on political gains that resulted in Swat once again becoming a victim of instability. Recent incidents of terror in Swat valley highlighted the KPK government’s inability to handle the security situation.

These activities as indicated through intelligence reports showed a connection between TTP leadership in Afghanistan and local militants. Although the activities are not of a similar scale as back in 2009, they have raised questions about the priorities and competence of the KPK government.

Read more: Who is responsible for Swat’s deteriorating security situation

On 7th October 2022, thousands of residents from across the Swat district staged a protest against the bomb blast and imminent threats to peace and tranquility. The protestors were carrying white flags and placards inscribed with slogans such as: “We want peace in Swat” and “We will not allow anyone to cause unrest in the valley.” The protestors demanded that the provision of a peaceful environment was their basic right and it was the responsibility of the state to take immediate practical steps to establish lasting peace. The rally was organized by Swat Olasi Pasoon and Swat Quami Jirga against terrorism. The speakers said that the return of militancy in Swat, despite the presence of law enforcing agencies raised questions.

The 2022 Swat is different from the 2007 Swat as we will no longer be deceived by the fake slogans raised by the militants in 2007. This time we will not only condemn terrorists’ activities, but we will resist them”. The deteriorating security situation in KPK, especially in Swat is a clear indication that the KPK government is incapable of handling the security situation. It seems as if the KPK government has some other important political priorities rather than containing the security situation of the province.

PTI officials like Murad Saeed blaming the state for the security of schools and other areas in the city is somewhat unreasonable. It is the responsibility of the civilian government to provide security and protection inside the province. It should also be noted that the Chief Minister of KPK, Mehmood Khan has not even, once visited these areas after terror activities.

The current security situation in Swat and KPK is not encouraging however, it can easily be averted. To cope with the situation the KPK government needs to be effective and should try to improve the security situation by using the police force and Counter Terrorism Department. They also need to streamline their political priorities by focusing on issues of national security rather than spending public funds, resources and government machinery in facilitating PTI jalsas and political campaigns. Security precautions must be exercised timely with close coordination with the military rather than criticizing them for hiding their failure to govern effectively.

Read more: Reports claim militants returning to Swat

Military operations can easily avert the security situation but they should be exercised as a last option. The army has always been successful in flushing out terror groups from troubled areas. In the past successful military operations have helped the state to restore her writ in these troubled areas. Pakistan army successfully eradicated terror outfits from Swat during operation Rah-e-Haq in 2007 and the Rah-e-Rast operation in 2009.




The writer is an MS in Political Science and a Ph.D. Scholar of Middle East History at Islamic International University, Islamabad – Pakistan. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.