The dark shadow of the Taliban refuses to leave the Swat Valley. Another reminder that militancy has not been driven away came with the bombing at a busy shopping centre in Mingora. The six killed included three militants. The toll could have been significantly higher and the terror all the greater had security forces not challenged the suicide bomber who blew himself up, as an attempt was made to arrest him and his companions. The reports that intelligence had picked up on the bombing plans and forces put on alert are encouraging.
They indicate we may be gaining an upper hand and learning how to thwart the terrorists. There is a powerful need for optimism in Swat. In the aftermath of a bitter conflict that led to mass destruction and an unknown civilian toll, people in the war zone have received only limited help. According to international humanitarian agencies, trauma runs deep, most evident among women and children. Revenge killings by the Taliban continue whilst close-knit communities stand divided and there is an air of distrust in many places.
Violence of the kind seen recently reinforces fears that the Taliban could return. Such fear will dissipate only if there is confidence that the space available to militants to operate in is being reduced. Improving the functioning of the security apparatus is one way of doing this. Ushering in the development and reconstruction that is so urgently needed in the area is another. Only when this process begins will people firmly turn their backs on militancy and by doing so play a part in ending the horror it continues to bring.
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