As Swat gradually returns to normalcy, Pakistan Army has started reducing the number of checkposts it had set up to curtail militancy.
Locals have welcomed this step as the checkposts, even though necessary for security purposes, created many problems for commuters. Many people participating in an informal survey by The Express Tribune termed it as a positive step towards normalcy and stability.
Public transport drivers especially seem to be relieved by the change.
When Mohammad Sadiq returned to Swat it took him six hours to drive his van from Mingora to Khawaza Khela because of “dozens” of checkposts set up by the army at the time. “Now there are almost no checkposts, so the same distance takes us barely 10 minutes,” he said.
Bakhte Rawan, another driver plying the same route, told The Express Tribune, “Initially, the security forces would stop us and begin checking passengers one by one, which would take nearly 20 to 30 minutes. Now they glance into the vehicle and let us go, which takes no time.”
But it is not as if the valley has returned to complete normalcy. The remaining checkposts, though few, still pose a number of hurdles and cause delays to people.
Nasir Khan, an NGO employee who goes to Al-puri Shangla for duty, said, “The situation is peaceful now and everything is normal here, but there are still a number of checkposts where passengers must show their ID cards, which takes a lot of time and really affects my duty hours.”
Another government employee was of the opinion that there is no more need of checkposts. “They were needed in the beginning, but now there is no need for checkposts.”
The decision to decrease checkposts was announced by Peshawar Corps Commander Lt General Asif Yasin Malik during his last visit to Swat. Noting the need to encourage tourists to return to the scenic valley, Gen Malik said that the security situation had improved and peace had prevailed in Swat valley. “Special security measures have been taken for tourists, while checkposts will be decreased,” he said.
When asked how much the step will help improve tourism in the valley, Wakeel Ahmad, general secretary Hotel Association Swat, told The Express Tribune, “We do appreciate this step by the security forces, but still we want a further decrease in checkposts.”
He said that tourists should be checked once while entering Swat and not bothered again during their travels inside the valley. “In this way, tourists will come freely to Swat and our businesses (and thus the tourism industry in Swat) will benefit.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 28th, 2011.
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