Why Army was sent to Swat?

Letter to Editor

What exactly comes to your mind when you think of Swat? Yes, apples, green meadows, lakes, natural beauty, peace, serenity and the “the Switzerland of the region.” It was a dreamy place for me too, till 2009. It was the year when for the first time I heard about army operation against the Taliban in Swat valley. I was shocked. News like “105 killed in Swat clashes”, “Inside rebel Pakistan cleric’s domain”, and “Taliban militant responsible for flogging woman arrested from Swat” were on every TV channel.

The only bright part of the picture was the presence of Pakistan army there. It was a ray of hope for the civilians in other parts of the country that army would definitely handle the situation and bring it to normal. A question in everyone’s mind was that what really happened there? What turned this place, a synonym for calmness and tranquility, into an area of horror filled with obnoxious sites? Even today in 2012, every nook and corner of this valley has different heart breaking story to tell. There is never ending list of losses, fears and depravity being spread all around. What was the cause? And the answer is ‘Talibanisation’.

The attempt of the Talibanisation of these areas led towards a collapsed state of governance. Talibanisation is an enforcement of the Taliban’s own version of Islam, which resides far away from the realms of real Islam – a religion of peace, forgiveness and tolerance. Taliban took the law in their hands and used force with the stated intention of instituting a form of Shariah in their region which they believed to be the genuine system of Islamic government. Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM or Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Law) was the main culprit of this inspiration to make a state with in state. Swat that used to be a popular summer destination for a large number of tourists and an ideal honeymoon spot for newly married couples, turned into rubbles.

The problem of Swat valley has not sprouted in a day but it has its deep roots in socio-political and economic issues. The long ignorance of government to address the deprivation of the people has added fuel to the fire and made this area more vulnerable for the ones who are good enough to exploit the situations in their own favor. Swat is the open precedent for the too little too late by the government till the ultimate arises.

Reason for Swat problem has dual dimensions. Firs problem is not new as the seeds of this sowed back in 1977 when Shariah law has been insurrected. Second problem is of geo-strategic and geo-political nature because of the American occupation of Afghanistan and the New Great Game in the region. Swat in this regard can be the strategic base for the Islamist, according to the calculations of American experts.

This problem worsens in 2007, when Tehrik-i-Taliban-Pakistan, gathered 40 Taliban leaders, who selected Baitullah Masood as their Ameer. Their vital purpose was to fight against the NATO forces in Afghanistan and defend themselves from Pakistan forces too. This a-state arrangement led to the operation Rah-i-Haq as the valley had become a base for all extremists to launch their actions against Pakistan. Operation Rah-i-Haq had three phases that took place in 2007, 2008 and in 2009 but was unable to restore the governmental authority; rather the Taliban reacted with the fullest of their force and vengeance.

Later in 2009, this issue got hype in media when Pakistan army launched the operation Rah-i-Rast that started with a massive air-campaign. The groups of extremists melted away into the mountains to prepare themselves to fight another day. Taliban were expert in guerilla warfare they had a large following in the masses. Although it was a hard target for the soldiers of Pakistan Army, yet they made them surrender or dispersed. After a series of slap operations the army restored the jurisdiction of this area according to the constitution of Pakistan. With the well-disciplined manpower, organized brain force and technical expertise, men in khakis were proven themselves immensely instrumental to convert the rubbles into structures with amazing speed. Today, if someone asks you this question, I am sure you would be able to answer.

And answer lies in a well-planned replacement of army with an effective civil administrative setup if we wish to avoid military operations in future.

Kanwal Habib, QAU, Islamabad

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