Just as the region seemed to have returned to ‘normal’, clashes between security forces and suspected militants erupted in the Bishban area on Monday.
According to Swat media spokesperson Colonel Arif Mahmood, a search operation by security forces has been under way for the past five days after receiving reports of militants in the area.
In fresh encounters with militants echoing the 2009 Swat military operation, security forces, assisted by a local lashkar, killed one militant. One member of security forces was also killed while two people from the local defence committee were critically injured.
The search operation against militants has entered its fifth day. Security forces have now imposed a curfew in the area.
In a separate incident, local police have arrested a high-profile militant commander in the Kanju area of the town of Kabal, identified as Paye Mohammad. He was wanted in connection with various ‘anti-state activities’. Mohammad was also allegedly involved in recruiting teenage boys for the Taliban in the area.
Security forces, after launching a search operation against suspected terrorists, claim to have killed five men earlier during the operation, including two militants on Sunday. As a result of the search operation, thousands of tourists spending their Eid holidays in Malam Jabba were trapped in the area. Since the clashes started, security personnel have beefed up security on all entrance and exit checkpoints. Tensions heightened in the region after a suicide attack attempt, targeting a mosque in Kabal, was foiled by security agencies.
Earlier, in accordance with the supposed return of harmony to the region, the army had, perhaps prematurely, organised a 20-day-long ‘Peace festival’ in June. Area Commander Brigadier Salman Akbar, who inaugurated the festival, had stated that the celebrations indicated that ‘normalcy’ had returned to the valley.
In April, Peshawar Corps Commander Lieutenant-General Asif Yasin Malik had announced that the security situation in Swat had improved drastically. The ‘peace’ that appeared to have returned to the region followed a massive counter-insurgency operation carried out by the military in May 2009, known as Operation Rah-e-Rast. The operation was hailed as one of the most successful army operations the country had seen in its history.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th, 2011.