Monday, June 1, 2009


True Swat victory won’t be military

* Re-establishing local government and bringing police back to patrol streets is critical to holding Swat

ISLAMABAD: The military says it is close to beating the Taliban in the Swat Valley, but battlefield success alone does not equal victory: Taliban commanders are still on the run, local governments and police forces have been decimated and millions of residents are displaced from their homes.

In announcing Mingora's capture, army spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas acknowledged an unknown number of Taliban escaped.So far, no top commanders, including Swat Taliban chief Mullah Fazlullah, are known to have been killed or captured. Some parts of the valley remain under Taliban control.

Re-establishing local government in the conflict-hit areas – most importantly bringing police back to patrol the streets – is critical to holding Swat once the army offensive ends. To do that well could take months, possibly years. For now, it appears the army and paramilitary forces will have to act as the police, which they were already trying to do in many parts of Swat before launching the offensive there and in surrounding districts a month ago.

For many of the three million internally displaced persons (IDPs), a return could mean finding a crushed home, prompting grievances against political leaders.Many may also find damaged businesses, furthering popular anger and also hampering efforts to jump-start the local economy in a region that was once a crown jewel of Pakistani tourism.

Pakistan has announced $100 million in federal aid to help the Swat IDPs while the UN is pleading with donors to come up with $543 million to ease what is one of the fastest and largest internal displacements in a country since Rwanda in 1994-95. Ordinary Pakistanis also have launched drives to help the IDPs, most of whom are staying with relatives or friends but some 200,000 are in camps.There also are plans in the works to beef up the police force in Swat, in part by hiring retired military officers.But timeframes are unclear, and the country's track record on post-conflict work is not inspiring.Before the latest offensive in Swat,
Pakistan waged a six-month fight against Taliban in Bajaur. Of up to 500,000 people displaced from Bajaur, some 230,000 have returned since the army declared victory there in February, only to find as many as 6,000 homes and shops destroyed or damaged, said political agent Shafirullah Jan said.An AP reporter recently saw tribal police and troops patrolling several Bajaur towns, but at least one area, Loyesam, is still having security problems three months after the Taliban were declared vanquished.Jan said the government was fixing some buildings and roads in Bajur's main town of Khar, and that foreign aid was part of that, but he had yet to see a comprehensive plan for reconstruction for an area that is far more needy than Swat.Swat may not be Pakistan's first attempt to dismantle the insurgency, but it cannot be its last, either. ap

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