Pakistani security forces Tuesday claimed to have killed at least 35 militants in the troubled Swat valley late Monday. During the day forces kept pounding hideouts of militants in various areas of Swat, where an Islamist insurgency has been raging since November 2007.
Pakistan's police have often been targeted by militants
The valley of Swat was once known as Pakistan's Switzerland. Today, tourists are avoiding the area, and the entire hotel industry has shut down. Over 400 hotels are dysfunctional, and thousands of workers jobless. Hundreds of girls schools have been blown up and several hundred are closed due to Taliban threats, while the majority of police and government officials are absent from duties.
After staying mum for over a year, the advisor of the ministry of interior Rehman Malik admitted before the national legislature last week that the situation in Swat had gone from bad to worse because of the Taliban linked to the groups based in tribal areas.
Half of the police have deserted
Pointing out that the Pakistani police were not fully trained to fight against terrorists, Rehman Malik added: "Out of 2,400 policemen, I am sorry to say, more than half have deserted. I don't say they were cowards, but when families are abducted, and threats come... And what do you pay to soldiers, to policemen? Four thousand Rupees, and the Taliban pay 15,000. There is no insurance, they don't have bullet proof jackets."
Pakistani officials say the Islamist militants are the product of the anti-Soviet Russian Jihad in the 1980s, that Pakistan helped fight in Afghanistan with the US and Saudi Arabian money.
Most areas in Swat are virtually under the control of Islamist militants, and the army has not been able to regain the lost territory. Fikre Zood, the country director for the British nongovernmental organization ActionAid in Islamabad believes:
"The army alone cannot bring this situation to normal but at the same time if the government is negotiating from a weaker ground, I feel then it becomes more complicated. For two groups to negotiate, there must be a balance of power."
Pakistani army officials believe they can clean and secure most Swat areas within few weeks. The prolonged military operation however also raises questions as to whether the Pakistani army has the capacity to fight the raging insurgency.
Politicians have disappeared
Almost all members of parliament from Swat have also fled the area, leaving it to the army to fight the militants. But social activist Amjad Nazeer says politicians must get back to Swat and perform their primary duties as public representatives:
"Things don't unfold in a single day, they took some time. Whatever political government is there, whatever political party is there, because they seek votes, they represent these people, they must come to the surface and deal with the situation! It is their basic responsibility!
The Pakistani government claims the army is now fighting the insurgency in a pro-active mode and will not leave the area until the civilian administration is in full control again.