The Swat operation is rightly quoted as an example of military success over extremist forces wanting to impose their version of Islam after slaughtering those who dared to dissent. What is often forgotten, however, is that this they left their homes for camps in the scorching summer sun and left their livelihood and loved ones for the sake of Pakistan.
When the military first entered Swat the people welcomed them with open arms. In spite of long curfews and road blockades they felt happy with every victory of the military over the Taliban. This cooperation made the operation successful. But now they are becoming tired of their saviours. Perhaps they thought the operation would only take a few months if not weeks. They might have hoped that reconstruction and development would begin within that timeframe. But that has not happened.
A great number of schools were destroyed by the militants and there was tremendous loss to agriculture and property. The people had also hoped there would be an end to mis-governance and corruption as these were factors which provided easy recruits to the militants. To date, however, none of this has happened. Compensation promised by the government to the affected has been delayed by officialdom and whenever they are ‘kind’ enough they only pay a small fraction of it. Naturally, people have begun to lose trust in the government. They are also resentful because the army does not have an effective policy to take these people into confidence.
Many grievances are often based on miscommunication. There is a general perception in the valley that a man who is not known to be part of the Taliban may be deemed as such — and vice versa. There are peace committees at the village level but these are dictated by the officer in command stationed in the village concerned. Many people contend that by being involved in rehabilitation, the military is not able to focus on the core issue of security.
Yet it is evident from some of their repair work of schools that the military can manage it well and that this work is appreciated by the people of Swat. The fact is that we have a very lazy and incapable civil administration which is there but in name only. It is high time for it to take responsibility and do its job. The military should also realise that all is not yet well in Swat. It should evaluate the impact of the operation with the locals of each village. This will further improve its performance and enable them to strengthen their relationship with the people of Swat.
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