The steady flow of bad news tends to obscure the fact that not all news is bad, and thus we welcome the reports that peace truly is restored in Dir after 10 years and the army has handed back the administration to the civil authorities. This is no small feat, and it has been hard won. In 2008, the Taliban and affiliates challenged the writ of the state and instituted what amounted to a reign of terror. The army fought back, losing 450 and the terrorists 3,500, a bloody fight. It has taken the decade since to restore and build confidence and for the institutions of state to be repaired to the point at which they are today — and it is a catalogue of merit.
Over 300 schools had been forced to close. They have all reopened with facilities enhanced to better-than pre-closure status. There are 32 new schools. The Levies have been trained as have the police. Vocational training has been provided to women in a slow process of empowerment, and there are now 6,000 students in the Army Public School. Add to this the Rs19 billion that is the value of the development projects active in Malakand and it is possible to see a considerable success. The army and the civil administration have worked together and the result is plain to see.
Why this is worthy of note is that here is proof-positive that with the right ingredients, and that includes considerable amounts of money and political commitment, it is possible to turn the tide of terrorism. Ten years ago the state had effectively lost control of Dir and most of the Malakand Division. It has taken two operations by the army to clear the military docket, in parallel the civilian docket was also worked on and a credible narrative was constructed that countervailed that of the terrorist. It has to be possible that the same process can be used as a template for other areas that are either already in the hands of terrorists or marginal. The success in Dir should be replicable. Do it.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 12th, 2018.