Swat: Mission Accomplished?
Dawn, December 12, 2007
THE ISPR spokesman has declared all districts and tehsils of Swat cleared of militants. So, is everything hunky dory and back to normal as the displaced persons return to their homes — and peace prevails? Has the operation Swat codenamed Rah-i-Haq been “mission accomplished” or is this just another ruse — a lull before the storm — an impending turmoil about to explode in the near future?
The phrase “mission accomplished” was used by President George Bush aboard a US aircraft carrier referring to Iraq in 2003, but the insurgency never ceased, rather it has intensified ever since.
Hopefully this euphoria is not misplaced on the part of the Pakistan military.
The rumour mills have already started to work overtime in the absence of verifiable sources other than the military handouts.
The fight against terrorism was cited as a reason to impose emergency but it may not have had the desired effect since an independent media and civil society contribute to keeping an eye on the militants’ activities. While the military may have alienated even liberal elements of society through the measures following the emergency, its intelligence did not appear to be on the mark.
This is why perhaps the notorious training camp like Manja Khwar was spared the rockets and instead the peaceful Kala Kaley village was targeted in Kabal.
In the perception of the locals, the militants were given safe passage by the authorities into the deep enclave of Gatt Peuchaar from the Najia post as an escape route to Dir, Bajaur district. Some locals also allege that militancy will once again be reactivated by the same elements that ‘groomed and assembled’ them prior to their Swat conflict to get the media attention and to raise alarm bells in western capitals of the ‘impending threat of a takeover by Islamic militants’, as President Pervez Musharraf defends his draconian emergency measures.
According to Khadim Hussain, a social analyst, “In some parts naturally there is initial excitement due to the restoration of normality but largely there is growing public doubt and resentment — the people think the army has come to dislodge them just like the helpless Baloch in the name of ‘national security’. Despite tall claims the rural mountains are still under the Taliban.
Worse, many residents report the training camps are still operational in Swat. As for now, Swat has been officially ‘conquered’ by the military!”
According to a prominent HR activist from Swat, “The military cannot be trusted to root out extremist elements as these were permitted to sneak to safe havens, while the ordinary civilians became soft targets. Nobody knows the whereabouts of Mullah Fazlullah and his close associates.
“A well known figure at the ‘tootano market’ was the ex- interior minister’s point man in the whole operation. The terrorists took refuge with the local administration before the army operation.
“What is needed is targeted action against the ‘imported’ militants who have taken cover and were neither killed nor arrested as claimed by the officials. The people have yet to see those arrested or killed militants.”
As these theories are doing the rounds, there is a humanitarian catastrophe emerging in all districts and tehsils, except Mingora, as no relief agencies have been given access to the conflict zones and there are serious health, food and shelter problems that need to be addressed on an emergency basis. The role of the traditional elites, political leaders, NGOs and the so called civil society from Swat has been abysmal in the entire affair as they watched from the sidelines as their land was being devoured.
Posterity will judge their silence and their apparent appeasement when things were sliding towards anarchy.
The most credible analysis of the current turmoil goes like this: “Past and current practices of Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies indicate that they must have concluded earlier that Pakistan would yet again need a ‘working relationship’ with the Taliban to pursue its interests in Afghanistan and to compete with Indian and Iranian goals in the region.
“If this analysis is accurate, then this also explains why Maulana Fazlur Rahman (leader of one of two factions of the Deobandist Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam or JUI) is being friendly again towards the Musharraf regime.
“The new attitude may be the result of guarantees that the NWFP will remain under his suzerainty and might explain why he is not challenging Musharraf openly even when all other major political forces are gunning for the president.” —Hassan Abbas in Terrorism Monitor, Nov 26, 2007.
Tailpiece: “The Taliban are a convenient ATM card for the Pakistan Army. First it was the Afghan jihad. After 9/11 the ATM machine was pulled from Afghanistan into the tribal belt and now it is in the settled districts.
When ever the Pakistan Army needs dollars it just pushes in the Taliban or Al Qaeda ATM Card and the dollars just start rolling in…. . .” — Abdul Hayee Kakar, BBC Urdu service Peshawar.
Also See: Pak sees Jaish hand in Swat - Indian Express