The humanitarian crisis in Malakand Division is not much different from epic scale tragedy of October earthquake so far as matter of displaced people is concerned.
Therefore, the government should move on war footing for the rehabilitation of displaced persons to win their hearts and minds. The military operation was inevitable in Swat because extremists and militants were not willing to wean away from their anti-people and anti-state activities, as they believed in righteousness of their cause and success in their mission. In FATA and NWFP there are many shades of Taliban. There are also groups supported and funded by foreign agencies having their own agenda. In February 2009, the Awami National Party had entered into a peace accord with Sufi Muhammad with the objective to restore peace in Swat by demobilisation of Taliban militia and restoration of the state’s writ to the beleaguered valley. But none was anywhere in sight. Fazlullah’s brigands had publicly vowed neither to disarm nor to demobilise. Visibly, the militants consolidated their position in Swat and began advancing to Buner, Lower Swat and Shangla to entrench, and link up with local Taliban and enlist new recruits to hold on to these regions too. When the US wanted from Pakistan to be ruthless with the militants it may have its axe to grind, or may have some genuine grievances that militants from Pakistan side enter Afghanistan to create problems for US and NATO forces. It is, however, impossible to completely stop their movements because of the porous border, though the frequency can be reduced by taking stringent measures. Many people had raised eyebrows over the peace agreement on the pretext that it was result of building up pressure by arm wielding Taliban on the government. So far the residents of Swat are concerned with the enforcement of Nizam-i-Adl, their old demand for restoring system of courts during Wali-i-Swat was met. Agreement to this effect was signed by Sufi Muhammad, who on his part had assured the government that he would use his influence over Maulana Fazlullah of Tehrik-i-Taliban and Taliban would lay down arms after the announcement of Nizam-i-Adl. It, however, transpired that Fazlullah had other motives and he prevailed upon Sufi Muhammad who insisted that he would himself appoint Qazis and Darul Qaza, monitor the entire system, and the government would have no say in the matters in Malakand Division. Unfortunately, the Taliban have proved their skeptics right who presaged that they would not stop at Swat or for that matter in Malakand Division. It so happened that after the announcement of Nizam-i-Adl, they started moving from Swat to Dir and Buner terrorising the people and enlisting more recruits and manpower to run a parallel government. Meanwhile, Maulana Sufi Muhammad in a public meeting used derogatory remarks against the Constitution, Supreme and High Courts, describing democracy and its institutions as nizam-i-kufr. By doing so, he lost the support of a large section of the people who had earlier supported or sympathised with his cause. Anyway, it was duty of the followers of Sufi Muhammad and Fazlullah to ensure the safety of the people, but on the contrary Fazlullah’ thugs continued to play havoc in Dir, Buner and Shangla. In this backdrop, the security forces had no choice but to take action to stem their tide. The Taliban claim that they are fighting for the cause of Islam but the question is how a Muslim could kill innocent Muslim brethren on one pretext or another, and behead members of the security forces who are defenders of the frontiers of the country and the people? They risk their lives and lay down their lives so that their compatriots could live in peace. On Monday, the Taliban had taken control of Mingora and were trying to move into other areas in clear violation of the Swat peace agreement. According to latest report, security forces pounded militants’ strongholds with gunship helicopters and artillery in Swat also. Gunship helicopters targeted militants’ positions in Shahdhari area of tehsil Kabal, Bamakhela, Khawazakhela in Matta and Malamjabba mountains. On Thursday, Taliban militants blocked roads with rocks and trees preventing terrified civilians from fleeing the valley as the army stepped up a ground and air assault on the guerrillas. More than 500,000 Pakistanis driven out by fighting in other regions of the northwest are already living in makeshift camps or with relatives, adding a growing humanitarian crisis to the country’s daunting security, economic and political problems. With Taliban militants roaming the streets of Mingora, Swat’s main town, and troops launching artillery and air strikes on militant targets from helicopter, many residents remain indoors with trepidation and fear. But more and more internally displaced persons are leaving their houses and the figure is estimated to be one million. The government has already arranged camps for the people who are leaving their abodes to avert collateral damage but it needs a massive effort of civil society, non-governmental organisations and political parties to help those people in this hour of need. In view of colossal human suffering, the international community should come forward to help those who are in camps. Meanwhile, the security forces should try to clear the roads to help residents of Swat to vacate the area, so that operation could be taken to its logical conclusion by flushing the militants once for all. In the past, peace agreements were signed but to no avail because after military operation and quelling violence, the army went to the barracks without finishing the job because there were many voices criticising the security forces for killing their own people. But this time around, the government, parliamentarians, political parties and people at large are supportive of the military action and wish to see that armed forces complete the job by eliminating the terrorists from the area. Indeed, when the people see the army succeeding in its mission, they will bear the inconveniences for its campaign to go ahead with all the speed and full vigour. The government must set up well-maintained and tightly-secured camps in safer places near their homes and post officials to guide them to those encampments. The government should bear in mind that challenge of rehabilitation of refugees also provide opportunity to help the displaced persons, who have all the time on their minds as to what will happen to their houses and belongings? They should be assured that they will never be left alone and would be looked after in the camps and they will get all the help in rebuilding their houses after the militants are flushed out of the area. To express solidarity with the displaced persons, the NGOs, civil society organisations and political parties should send their delegations to visit the refugee camps. Right thinking ulema should also visit those camps to tell the people that what militants are doing is against the teachings of Islam and inspire them to never bow down to the imposters who raise the banner of Islam to denigrate it through their barbaric methods, bullying, killing and maiming their Muslim brethren. Armed with the trust and confidence, these people in the camps would prove a great asset and in future they will stand up and fight the enemies of Pakistan and Islam. The media should also play its role by giving all out support to the armed forces and discouraging the so-called intellectuals and religious zealots, who try to prove that action should not have been taken against the militants.