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KP government eyes troop withdrawal from Swat


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Pakistani army soldiers patrolling a deserted street in Mingora, the capital of Swat valley, in 2010. -AFP/File Photo.
Pakistani army soldiers patrolling a deserted street in Mingora, the capital of Swat valley, in 2010. -AFP/File Photo.

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI)-led government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is seriously working towards a plan for the army’s withdrawal from Swat – but unfortunately, security imperatives make completely withdrawal an impossibility.

The coalition government has so far discussed the proposal with military leaders, and have also informed the public in Swat of their plan, according to senior minister in the coalition government and central leader of Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), Sirajul Haq.

“First this issue (of withdrawal) was discussed in a meeting of political leaders of the coalition parties of PTI, JI and Qaumi Watan Party as well as other parties,” Haq said, adding: “The idea is to withdraw the security pickets which are causing hurdles in the revival of normal life in Swat.”

According to the minister, Chief Minister Pervez Khattak held a meeting with the Peshawar Corps Commander to discuss the issue: “The corps commander said that if the police and local administration can take over the responsibility of maintaining law and order, they are ready to withdraw from there,” he explained.

Mohammad Roshan, who heads the NGO Swat Participatory Council, told via telephone from Mingora, “It is generally known in Swat that the government is working on this kind of plan ... and a debate of sorts has started in Swat society on whether the army should stay or withdraw from the valley.”

On the other hand, security experts say that the complete withdrawal of the army from Swat is not an option. “The army has plans to construct a cantonment in Swat …100 percent withdrawal is not a possibility,” said analyst Hassan Askari.

The PTI-led government’s determination seems to be based on a prevalent unease in the rural and urban areas of the scenic valley against the heavy presence of the army which has stalled the revival of the economy and daily routines in general.

“We want to create a comfortable situation for the people…..they are facing a lot of hardships because of security check posts in the area,” Haq clarified.

Roshan Khan told that the people of Swat’s frustration arises from the trouble caused by security check posts and search operations and because economic activity has not been revived following the operation. Hazir Gul is an chief executive of an NGO working on agriculture projects in Swat in collaboration with the government of Pakistan and USAID, which goes by the name of Karawan. Gul explained that agricultural activity has failed to pick up in the valley, primarily on account of strident security checks and the terrible conditions of the transportation system, that was destroyed in the military operation.

He added, “Maize is a major crop in Swat which remained banned in the initial four years following the military operation … Last year the security forces lifted the ban on Maize, but the farmers have so far failed to revive maize cultivation to the full.”

This has given rise to the feeling that the withdrawal of troops from Swat is a must if the government wants to restore normalcy to Swat Valley.

Ajmad Ali, a senior Editor of local Swat newspaper Daily Chand, said that the government is right in working on the plan to withdraw troops from Swat: “I think it will be good if the government let’s the local administration and police handle the security and administrative situation in Swat … because we understand them and they understand us, they are familiar with our culture, they are our own people,” he said.

The provincial government, however, is not proceeding without caution. “We are not in a hurry. We will be discussing this with the army and the federal government – we know that law and order has to be maintained at every cost,” Haq emphasised.

And what about the reaction of the army itself to this proposal? Askari is of the opinion that the army will ask the provincial government to put forward an alternate security plan. “There are reports of militant presence in the vicinity of Swat valley, and there is a strong possibility that they will regroup if the army withdraws from Swat,” he said. Secondly, Askari added, a civil administration’s capacity to maintain law and order in the valley is doubtful: “The civil administration has failed to demonstrate its ability to maintain law and order in the valley,” the security analyst stressed.

Comments (18) Closed

Ahmad Jun 29, 2013 07:05pm

Why cant the army pursue these militants to their hideouts and neutralize them. If the army knows that there are hideouts on the outskirts then they should aggressively wipe these militants out. I believe the strategy should shift from defensive to offensive and to erradicate m,ilitancy from grass root level and from the root once and for all.

Hamid Awan Jun 29, 2013 07:58pm

PTI governement is the most suitable government for Taliban and extremists. PTI is against military operation in Waziristan. PTI is also against Military presence in Swat. The same party is against drone strikes and wants dialogue with Taliban. So we should not expect anything good in terms of security from PTI. We should remember that Imran Khan went all out against the Military Operation in Swat and he criticized the Swat operation and Imran Khan proved wrong by Our Army And Militants were wiped out from Swat as a result and thankfully Our Army did not listened to Imran Khan who was talking about dialogue at that time as well.

Syed Jun 30, 2013 12:34am

Good idea PTI, lets give Swat back to militants. They will need some place of their own to start 'the talks' that entire PTI policy is revolving around.

Shaikh Mohommd Jun 30, 2013 03:09am

The Army has vested interest in occupying countries and creates cantonment areas where the Army rule is prevalent. This means that all the cantonment areas are beyond the control of civil administration. PTI government should make clear to the Army that the responsibility of maintaining peace and tranquility in the country is the responsibility of the Government and not the Army.

Will Imran Khan rise to the occasion and say enough is enough and that the Army should return to the barracks. Also Army's economic empire should be nationalised.

Greek Tragedy Jun 30, 2013 04:06am

So after all that hullabaloo, Swat is still under martial law. Shame on the Pakistan Army acting as a mercenary force.

Adeel Baluch Jun 30, 2013 05:09am

Very little do they seem to be concerned about resurgence of the Taliban, and they also seem to be forgetting how it was when the Taliban took over Swat. Anybody who worked for the Pakistani Govt, a Police constable for instance, was beheaded. Withdrawal of the military from the Swat Valley would be a straight suicide.

malole Jun 30, 2013 08:21am

KP wants no military, no drones. Only terrorists.

yoyo Jun 30, 2013 10:05am

I don't think it will be a good idea ..many more innocent would die and it would become a lawless state ...further becoming a breeding ground of hardliners . who have brought Pakistan to world map for all wrong reasons

Dr M AHMAD Jun 30, 2013 03:04pm

Troops withdrawal without a very robust, effective and a proactive civil administration can be disastrous. It is very easy to criticise but let's not forget that a lot of young officers and jawans gave the ultimate sacrifice to achieve peace and security in Sawat.

noaman Jul 01, 2013 01:34am

Did the army resolve the Bangladesh issue? Is army sorting out Karachi problem? Is army helping in sorting out the Baluchistan issue? Is army handling the Waziristan issue in right direction? If the answer to all above is no, then please do not give justification for army presence in swat. So far the army is just torturing and killing innocent people and this is the sole reason why people hate them .enough is enough just leave swat and do not make it a heap of explosives and guns. People are smart enough now to understand the real game which is being played in KPK and FATA, even the USA and Europe know it very well. So please control the monster which the ARMY has created as soon as possible.

Hasnain Haque Jul 01, 2013 02:20am

@Ahmad: The answer to your question is that the army has many sympathisers who nurtured the extremists for their own use. The army now has a situation where the Frankeinstein monster is out of control.

Asif Jul 01, 2013 06:05am

@Ahmad: I agree 100% what are they waiting for, in this war Swat has been the only succcess story, lets keep it like that and wipe out the rest of Zaliman

Israr Khan IsamilZai Jul 01, 2013 10:01am

@Hamid Awan:

Oh really??? It is very easy to sit in your house somewhere in punjab and "support" drone attacks and military operations against other people. Do you know that more innocent people die (on both sides by the army and the taliban), than the bad guys????

I do not agree with what taliban do, but force is not the solution for this problem. Even the americans are talking to the taliban, we must stop killing our own people (the pakhtoons, if we do consider them Pakistani) other wise i will not be surprised to see history repeating itself (1971).

Akhter Husain Jul 01, 2013 11:55am

Normalcy in Swat should be the precondition before taking any decision about placement of armed forces from the valley The KPK government must not play petty politics and get itself properly briefed from the soldiers in field.Wars and politics are altogether two different.areas of knowledge.

Kesar Jul 01, 2013 01:55pm

This is a typical approach of the PTI in addressing militancy. Give militants every inch!

faiz ahmed Jul 01, 2013 02:45pm

There should not be complete withdrawal of troops because it will be the waste the efforts of our troops and their lives laid by them to bring piece and stability, I think building of cantonment not only create jobs, economic activities in the region and also keep the presence of army for a quick response against terrorist activities.

AHA Jul 01, 2013 07:41pm

And then ask the Taliban to take over the security. Is PTI raising its true colors.

Shahi Jul 02, 2013 12:56am

They should withdraw all the troop from Swat. What do they do in Swat just have some check post. They should send all these troops to those part of Pakistan where the law and order are worst than Swat. They should send them Karachi. Can you tell me where in Pakistan they do not need troops then why in Swat. The people in Swat can defend themselves.