NEWS & VIEWS
TODAY, people of Swat are living without trepidation and fear. One can see smile on their faces, which is result of the resilience of people of Swat and army’s contribution towards bringing peace in the region. All the schools that were destroyed and burnt by the militants have been reconstructed. Swatis’ businesses are flourishing today and tourism is increasing. Expressways are linking Swat with motorways, which helped the residents increase their incomes. In September, 2017, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa inaugurated the Army Public School and College at Kanju Garrison, Swat Cantt., and declared it as one of the best Army Public School in entire country. Not only people of Swat but people of all regions of Pakistan also remember that the Army stood by them when they faced natural calamities like floods and earthquakes, and man-made calamities like militancy and terrorism.
Many theses have been written by the researchers to examine the causes of extremism, militancy and terrorism in the world. One case study of militancy in Swat revealed inequalities and inaction in its foundation. Of course, people of the area had grievances against the system; and wished to see police and justice system independent of political influence, strong institutions, realization of local concerns and strong weapon control system. However, once the militancy had erupted, it was imperative to take clearheaded and timely decision to get rid of the spectre of terrorism. If the governments in Province and Centre had taken timely decision for military operation, big losses could have been avoided. Swat’s case should offer us a future path correction, if similar situation emerged elsewhere.
The objective was to identify the causes that led to militancy, and the measures suggested for avoiding recurrence of such phenomenon. Pakistan Journal of Social Sciences had published treatise by Murad Ali, Professor of Development Studies University of Malakand, Pakistan under the title “Factors Responsible for the Rise of Militancy in Swat Underdevelopment or Ideology: Exploring the Undercurrents behind Religious Militancy in Swat, Pakistan.” The paper argued that the rise of militancy in the Swat Valley of Pakistan was the product of various factors, events and processes. It will be naïve to attribute escalation of religious insurgency in this once peaceful region to just one cause or factor. Issues such as underdevelopment or sense of deprivation coupled with lack of good governance and administrative reforms as well as ideological and political factors all played due role in exacerbation of situation.
There are various issues including ideological, constitutional, judicial, administrative and political factors that led to the escalation of religious extremism and militancy in the Swat Valley. The author summed up: “Along with ideological factors, lack of judicial reforms and bad governance were mainly the key causes that developed frustration among the people who were accustomed to a completely different mode of governance, judicial and administrative system during the era when Swat was a princely state.” The paper illustrated that it was an entirely different scenario after the end of the status of Swat as a princely state. New mode of governance, particularly the dispensation of rapid and reasonably inexpensive justice disappeared with the arrival of new judicial system, which was extremely cumbersome, slow and expensive. The author concluded that “the crisis was very much the result of bad governance as the situation was exacerbated by inefficient administration. Based on all this, it is wrong to hold underdevelopment or religion as the single and exclusive cause of militancy and extremism in the Swat region of Pakistan.”.
As a matter of fact, the problem was compounded by the apologists of Sufi Muhammad and Fazlullah because whenever the security forces went into action against the militants with a view to establishing authority of the state, some political parties and leaders started crying hoarse that they were killing their own people. They held the view that the government should negotiate and conclude peace agreement with the militants. In July, 2008, Swat operation was re-launched. After February 18 elections, Awami National Party (ANP) formed the government in KPK (then NWFP), and signed a peace agreement with the Tehreek-i- Taliban, and even allowed Fazullah to enforce Sharea in the areas they held sway. But on the instructions of Baitullah Mehsud, militants wriggled out of the agreement. Once again, Pakistan Army and other security forces were in a state of war with the militants who in the past had been attacking their convoys, training camps and check posts.
After the national consensus was reached to eliminate terrorists, militants and enemies of Pakistan, there was a swing in the national mood. Tribal people that were earlier scared of the militants of Tehrik-i- Taliban Pakistan in Waziristan and people of Swat, terrorized and traumatized by Fazlullah’s thugs and his fighters, had picked up the courage knowing full well that army would support them. Of course, Mullah Fazlullah had a free hand to indoctrinate the people of Swat for years, and he carried out his campaign through illegal FM radio. The then NWFP government, instead of putting up a brave face, had buckled under his pressure to enforce his version of sharea. Political leadership was also found wanting when Charsadda was attacked by the thugs, and leader of the ANP Asfandyar Wali left his abode to find a safe haven in the President House in Islamabad. On May 16, 2009, operation in Swat was initiated, and within months paradise was regained.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.