LAUNCHED on May 16, 2009 Swat military operation was one of its kind of military operation which carries a success story of armed forces of Pakistan against miscreants. That military operation which was carried out 8 years back but still today it is referred as one exemplary case study where armed forces fought fearlessly and made the territory free from Taliban controlled activities. Pakistan which has paid a huge price for being an ally in war against terrorism but eventually ended up with a war within its own soil has attained international acclaims for its resilience to stand up against any odds.
Swat which is referred as “Switzerland of East” because of its scenic landscape, was once a princely state till 1969, and known as The Yusafzai State of Swat. It was later dissolved and made part of then NWFP which is Khyber Pakhtunkhwa now. However, this beautiful valley witnessed tough times under Taliban regime. Swat peace treaty was signed on February 15, 2009 between the government and the militants led by Sufi Muhammad, head of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). It was agreed to establish Nizam-i-Adl in Malakand Division and Kohistan District of Hazara in return for Maulvi Fazlullah who was son in law of Sufi Muhammad, and offered that they will steer militants, submit their weaponry and promised to refrain from all sorts of violent acts. But, by contravening the peace pack, Taliban restarted their previous practice of beheadings, kidnappings, attacks on the check posts of the security forces etc.
In Swat, they were creating terror among masses by attacks on government buildings, girls’ schools, video shops and police stations and many other public places. In some regions, particularly in Swat, Taliban leaders had created states within the state, and had been involved in a number of crimes such as drug-smuggling, forced marriages, hostage-takings for ransom and car-snatching and established their own courts to punish people. They had their own radio station through which they used to issue sermons for local populace. Fazlullah started an illegal local FM radio channel in Swat in 2006 from where he used to spread his so called Islam teachings and from where he got popularity with a nick name Radio Mullah. FM signals were relayed from mobile transmitters mounted on motorcycles and trucks. During night broadcasts, prohibited activities were declared and violators’ names were announced for assassination, which often included beheading.
Therefore, with the intensification in unlawful and unethical activities by Taliban and by negating the terms and conditions of peace agreement they started strengthening themselves in Swat and Dir and made ingress in Buner too. Prior to this military operation, Army had launched operation Rah-i-Haq to stop Taliban and his allied groups from their activities however, TTP regrouped and started capturing the areas of Swat, Buner, Shangla and Mingora. On request of government, Army was asked to take military offensive to counter Taliban insurgents. To get the area completely free from Taliban control, massive aerial and land strikes were carried out and Swat was cleared from militants control within three months.
Swat was made free from Taliban control within a marked time. Later displaced locals and residents were asked to make the area worth living again. Rehabilitation work done in Swat is also archetypal as state of the art hospitals and schools were built and tourist activities were restored. When case study of Swat is monitored different aspects come in front of us keeping in view the present situation in Zarb-i-Azb. Firstly Taliban never stood up and truthful to their words. Despite the political efforts to curb militancy and somehow negotiating on their demands, they turned back from dialogue table and were dishonest. Therefore military had to intervene to protect masses from the brutalities of terrorists and despite huge losses they are standing firm in their mission to protect homeland. Political parties still today acknowledge their efforts in curbing militancy and they all are on same page when it comes to protection of homeland. One of the biggest challenges which military had to face during all kind of operations was how to handle and accommodate local population. During Swat operation large number of people already fled away from their houses because of fear from Taliban rule. There were many who were not willing to leave their places but on guarantee and confidence by armed forces for the safe return to their homes they all vacated and today they are happy residents of Swat again.
Same challenge was faced during Zarb-i-Azb but in that military operation mostly local population already left the area and Taliban had hideouts in mountainous and barren areas of Waziristan. Secondly those who were displaced had enough time and their evacuation was well planned in many areas of Pakistan. For Swat, time was very less for citizens to react and flee from their residences. In Zarb-i-Azb proper planning and implementation of system for IDPs helped in restoring their confidence on armed forces and civilian government. Lastly, war against terrorism is not alone war for armed forces of Pakistan. It is a war to keep peace within country all the time and together with determination we all can defeat terrorism.
— The writer works for Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, a think-tank based in Islamabad.