While the government and the military are partly justified in claiming a victory over the militants in Swat, recent incidents of militancy including the target killing the other day of a known anti-Taliban notable in the district should serve as a wake-up call that the fight is far from over. Of course, to be fair to the government, the Swat of today is very different from that of a year ago. People were being beheaded and their bodies left to hang in public squares while women who refused to give up their jobs (mostly as teachers) were dragged out of their homes and shot dead in cold blood. The valley and its people saw brutality and gruesome acts, the likes of which had till then never taken place in Pakistan. Post-operation a certain degree of normality has returned in resident’s daily lives, though even now one common complaint is that freedom of movement is restricted by the numerous checkposts.
Having said that for militancy and the Taliban to be stamped out completely – and at a time when Taliban sympathisers can just about be found in all segments of the population – is expecting a bit much. In the shortterm, better intelligence and improved security may help prevent a recurrence of violence. However, what is absolutely necessary is that in the longer-term, there has to be a concerted plan to not only rehabilitate the population in economic, and even psychological, terms, given that the conflict exacted a heavy toll mentally, but also to take measures that remove a militant mindset and intolerance from the population. Swat’s proven economic sectors – particularly tourism – need to rise from their ashes, the district’s schooling system needs a thorough revamp and its madressahs need to be brought under the umbrella of government regulation.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 24th, 2010.
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