PROTESTS against creeping militancy have been taking place in KP for several months now. But the latest demonstration in Swat, which was held after gunmen killed a van driver, Hussain Ahmed, and injured two schoolchildren in an attack on Monday, was amongst the biggest of its kind, with solidarity protests held in Haripur and Battagram as well.
The disturbing incident brought back memories of the attack on Malala Yousafzai a decade ago in the same region, in similar circumstances. Though militants had been behind the attack on the Nobel Prize winner, the authorities are tight-lipped about the latest incident, while no group has claimed responsibility as of yet.
However, the people who bravely came out on the roads of Swat have no illusions about who is responsible for this and other acts of violence in their area as they chanted ‘no more terrorism’. A cross-section of civil society and political activists joined the demonstration.
Meanwhile the KP government spokesperson has said ‘splinter groups’ opposed to the faltering peace talks between the state and the banned TTP were behind the upsurge in violence. It is very difficult to agree with this assertion as the TTP and its splinter groups are amorphous in nature, coming together when the need arises, and separating when the situation demands it.
Therefore, attempts to differentiate between the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban will do little to bring peace to KP.
The people of Swat and other areas of KP must be commended for courageously demanding their right to live in peace. They have witnessed firsthand the bloody rule of the militants, and the associated pain of conflict and dislocation. As mentioned above, they have been protesting for long against growing militant activity in their area, but their remonstrations have fallen on deaf ears where the state is concerned.
The chilling attack on the school van should prompt the state — its civilian arm as well as the security establishment — to take action against the terrorists present in KP. If this is not done now, a familiar scenario is likely to play out, with the militants establishing their presence and making a mockery of law and order, followed by the state moving in and using kinetic means to dislodge the terrorists, as the people of the area suffer, again, for no fault of their own.
To prevent a repeat of the past, the administration must strike now and flush out all militants active in the area.
Published in Dawn, October 13th, 2022