It was on Wednesday (November 23) when the district administration of Swat announced a three-day cultural festival in Fiza Ghat to celebrate the restoration of peace in the district.
The event was aimed at assuaging panic among the local inhabitants and rebuilding the confidence of national and international tourists who were hesitant to visit the scenic valley after the recent devastating floods as well as sudden arrival of Taliban militants on the mountain tops.
Needless to say the devastating floods and terrorism attacks as well as extortion calls in Swat shocked the entire region. An MPA of ruling PTI Malik Liaqat was shot dead in Dir Lower, sowing fear among the populace. And then a suicide attack at one of former peace committee members in Swat left eight dead, adding to people’s anxiety.
When the district and provincial governments were celebrating return of peace in Malakand Division, a police convoy was ambushed on the bank of River Gambela in Lakki Marwat district on 25th.
It had been sent to eliminate militant camps in a dense forest on the riverbank. As a result police and Counter Terrorism Department (CTD), encircled the entire forest.
There were reports that militants were present in the region and some of them were encamped in the forest in small groups.
Militants tried their best to divert the attention of police and security forces by suddenly attacking Saddar Police Station but it was repulsed. The operation in the forest continued for three days during which even gunship helicopters were used. The details of the operation were never shared with the media.
Before this on November 18, local residents of Lakki staged a huge protest against the increasing lawlessness in the district as two day ago on November 16, six policemen were killed in an ambush.
“Militants are present in Lakki Marwat as well as Bannu districts and they are staging deadly attacks. Operations have been conducted in which terrorists were killed but they flee after attacks,” said a police official while talking to The Express Tribune.
TTP abandoned its mountain top positions in Swat most probably with the arrival of harsh winter in the Malakand Division despite the government claims that they were driven out. It was dubbed a big victory and thoroughly celebrated but at the same time, they appeared elsewhere – in Lakki Marwat and South Waziristan districts where police remained the primary target.
TTP has employed this simple but very effective strategy in the past too — if there is an operation in one district, cross into the other one. Police has yet to learn its lessons despite being a front line force against terrorism for more than a decade and a half. This has enabled militants to sneak into any area unnoticed without facing any hindrance. Locals too are so afraid that they are reluctant to share information with police.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 28th, 2022.
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