Tackling the worsening crisis in Swat
Daily Times, January 30, 2009
The chief of army staff (COAS), General Ashfaq Kayani, visited the troops in Swat yesterday and told them that the “Pakistan Army has the will and the resolve to defeat terrorists, restore peace and establish the writ of the state in violence-hit areas”. He was putting the stamp of his authority on the third phase of Operation Rah-e-Haq against the Taliban led by warlord Fazlullah. The message to the troops was no doubt also intended for the rest of the country and for the world community that has become less and less sure about Pakistan’s “will and resolve” after the first two phases of the Swat operation were seen as failures.
The visit came in the wake of a statement made by the interior adviser, Mr Rehman Malik, promising the ouster of the terrorists from Swat “in fifteen days”. The statement ran the risk of being treated as a meaningless hyperbole since he had earlier promised a similar “solution” to the sectarian mayhem of Parachinar “in fifteen days” and not delivered. But General Kayani’s appearance in Swat is a substantial gesture of “signalling” in all kinds of directions. Of them, the most important is the one aimed at the people of Swat and the people of Pakistan who are despairing of the state’s capacity to face up to brutal terrorism. His meeting with the ANP holdout against the Taliban, Afzal Lala, is also a significant demonstration of the intent to fight back.
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