ISLAMABAD: Senate Defence Committee has been assured that security situation in Swat is under control and that the reports of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) re-establishing there are exaggerated.

“The committee was assured that the writ of the state is paramount and the law and order situation is under control,” the committee said in a statement after an in-camera briefing on the security situation in Swat on Friday.

Senator Mushahid Huss­ain presided over the meeting.

Several TTP fighters returned from Afghanistan, in June and July, during peace talks with the government. The returning militants were first noticed in Swat-Dir region in early August when they took hostage an army officer and a policeman. While both were released after talks with local elders, since then there has been a spike in violence in the area and there have been reports of kidnapping for ransom and extortion cases.

The recent Mingora bomb attack in which eight people, including former peace committee member Idris Khan, had lost their lives underscored the fears about TTP regaining strength in Swat. The impact of TTP’s return has also been felt in other parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Sources privy to the defence committee proceedings said the security officials at the briefing downplayed the reports of TTP resurgence, terming the same ‘exaggerated’. The sources quoted the officials as contending that there had been some four or five terrorism incidents in Swat, but not all were linked to the TTP. “The culprits have been traced and caught,” they said and specifically praised the role played by Malakand counterterrorism department of police.

The security officials, according to the sources, also denied reports that ‘armed TTP men’ had been allowed to return to the country from their safe havens in Afghanistan under some understanding reached during peace talks.

It is speculated that nearly 450 militants had been allowed to return along with their arms. It was also stated then that they were permitted to keep arms in the hills, but were supposed to visit their homes unarmed.

When these reports first surfaced, it was claimed the militants had been permitted to visit their homes as a goodwill gesture by those negotiating on behalf of the government.

However, the sources said the officials made it clear that there was no such understanding, and a few militants had sneaked in through unfenced parts of the Pak-Afghan border. The committee was also given the impression that peace talks with the banned TTP were no more taking place, they added.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2022

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