Swat Operation - How People in NWFP are reacting to the developments

NWFP citizens voice support for Swat military operation
Daily Times, October 27, 2007

* Many hold Fazlullah responsible for military operation, but also blame federal and NWFP governments for not taking timely action against radicals

By Akhtar Amin

PESHAWAR: A large number of people across the Northwest Frontier Province voiced support for the military operation in Swat. They said the government had no option but to take action against growing militancy, perpetual attacks on public property and security forces.

“We are not upset about the operation against militants. They challenged the government’s writ and have been trying to establish a parallel government through violence and harassment,” said Jan Mohammad, a Peshawar resident told Daily Times.

He criticised renegade cleric Maulana Fazlullah for going underground to protect himself while leaving innocent people to face the military operation. “The Maulana is definitely responsible for the casualties in the Swat military operation,” he said.

Jan did, however, urge the government to avoid civilian casualties. “The government will face stiff resistance if it targets innocent civilians during the operation,” he said.

Gul Rehman, a bearded 58-year-old bakery owner in Peshawar, also voiced support for the military operation against what he termed “Islamist militants” in Swat valley.

Swat was the most scenic and peaceful area in the country, but turned into a terrorist den within a year, he said. “Had the Muthahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) government taken timely action against the radical elements in Swat, this would not have happened.”

Farman Ali, a taxi driver in Mardan, blamed the government for the deteriorating law and order situation. “As with the Lal Masjid, the government, and in this case also the MMA-led NWFP government, allowed radicals to challenge the writ of the state, and then started a military operation against them.” He questioned the MMA leaders’ silence over the Swat operation. “Where is the MMA’s street power to protest the military operation?” he asked.

The MMA would try to use the Swat operation to gain political mileage in the upcoming elections, he added.

Amir Rehman, resident of Mingora city in Swat district, told Daily Times that Swat residents were also calm during Friday’s crossfire between Fazlullah’s followers and security forces in the Imamdheri area. “Swat residents are fed up with the cleric’s rule in the name of Shariah, and the attacks on commercial markets,” he said.

Mohammad Ali of Nowshera district said the operation against pro-Taliban militants was the need of the hour. However, he also suspected the role of intelligence agencies in the build-up of radicals and the subsequent military operation in Swat.

Mohammad Zamin of Charsadda said Swat would not have seen the prevailing state of affairs had the MMA government taken timely action against Fazlullah and activists of the defunct Tehrik-e-Nifaz-Shariat-e-Muhammadi. However, he accused pro-Taliban militants of destroying Swat’s tourism industry and creating havoc in the area.

According to NWFP Home Secretary Badshah Gul Wazir, Fazlullah has the support of 5,000 fighters in 59 Swat villages. He said the Fazlullah had formed his own force, known as the Shaheen Commando Force, comprising over 400 armed fighters who had been patrolling various areas in Swat.

Wazir said 18 security personnel were killed in the blast on Thursday, and overall, 63 security personnel had died while 140 had been injured during various militant attacks in Swat during the past 10 months.

Swat, with a population of over 1.2 million, witnessed an operation by paramilitary forces in 1994-95, when the Frontier Corps, led by Major General Fazal Ghafoor, seized madrassas from the leader of the now defunct TNSM, Maulana Sufi Mohammad – Maulana Fazlullah’s father-in-law. Sufi Mohammad has been imprisoned at the Dera Ismail Khan Prison for the last six years on charges of taking around 10,000 jihadis from Pakistan to Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban against US-led coalition forces and the Northern Alliance.

Hundreds flee as ‘operation’ launched in Swat: Daily Times, October 27, 2007

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