MINGORA, Jan 25: Army troops were authorised on Sunday to shoot at sight curfew violators in Kuza Bandai, Bara Bandai, Ningolai, Chota Kalam and Shakardarra areas of Swat in the wake of reports that Maulana Fazlullah had ‘summoned’ 50 influential people to ‘appear’ before a Taliban ‘court’ within a week.
“People must remain indoors during the curfew,” an army statement said.
It may be mentioned that the military had earlier claimed to have ‘cleared’ the areas of militants.
“The military had cleared the areas but militants penetrated them again and it was decided to clear them again and hold on to it to prevent militants’ movement there,” Director-General of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj-Gen Athar Abbas told Dawn.
The army, he said, was following a “new strategy to clear” major urban areas and villages from militants. “There is a new vigour and new approach,” Gen Abbas said. “The military will not be static, it will not be reactive. They will be reaching out to people to get their support,” he said.
The statement also confirmed clashes which followed a raid on a militants’ hideout in the Ningolai area in which “eight hardened militants, including ‘commander’ Bakhtiar, were killed”. Security forces also recovered a large cache of arms and ammunition.
A senior government official said the new military strategy matched the NWFP government’s demand for “boots on the ground.”
“This has been our longstanding demand,” the official said. He said that militants’ ability to penetrate the district headquarters of Mingora at night was of more concern. “They knock at people’s doors and when they come out, they kill them.”
But a military spokesman said that Mingora “has been secured” and it would be made a ‘role model’ for other areas to fall in line.
According to sources, Maulana Fazlullah made an announcement on his FM radio warning more than 50 people, including MNAs, MPAs, nationalist leaders and other influential people, to appear before an “Islamic court in a week’s time, or face action”.
The broadcast said some of the 50 people had been asked to appear along with their families.
It is learnt that most of the people on ‘the list’ have already left Swat. The only man, who defies militants is veteran ANP leader and former federal minister Afzal Khan Lala, who lives in Durushkhela under the protection of an army unit. He has twice come under militants’ attack.
Others on the list are: PML-Q’s provincial president and MNA Amir Muqam, MNA Muzaffarul Mulk District Nazim Jamal Nasir, former MNA Shujaat Ali Khan, provincial ministers Ayub Asharay and Wajid Ali Khan, MPAs Dr Haider Ali, Dr Shamsher Ali Khan, Sher Shah, Jafar Shah and Waqar Ahmad Khan, former MPAs Irfanullah and Qaimoos Khan and two union council nazims.
“The rest of the people of Swat should feel secure while those who have fled and have not been included in the list may return to their homes,” militants’ spokesman Muslim Khan told journalists on phone.
Meanwhile, militants blew up the remaining portion of a silk factory in the Kambar area of Mingora on Saturday night. The militants had also attacked the factory two days ago.
APP adds: DG ISPR Maj-Gen Athar Abbas has said that security forces will establish peace in the Swat valley.
In an interview with Voice of America, he said: “We are hopeful of establishing peace in Swat. We will not let these militants succeed in their designs.”
He expressed the hope that local notables would stand by security forces to rebuild the masses’ confidence.
Gen Athar said three MNAs and MPAs had returned to Swat from Peshawar and they had also addressed a press conference and started interacting with people.
He said the Lashkars had achieved successes in Fata. However, he said, there was no Lashkar in Swat.
He said intelligence operations were under way to determine the militants’ foreign financiers.
“Mingora has been completely secured. The army has full control over the city and people are supporting and cooperating with the security forces.”
He said all schools were closed in the area because of winter holidays.