Aug 12, 2022
By Rehan Piracha
LAHORE: After protests in Dir and Waziristan, residents of Swat have also stood up to raise an outcry against rising militancy and terrorism in their region.
Residents and civil society representatives held demonstrations in the Swat areas of Kabal and Khaza Khela voicing their concern and worry at what seems to be a possible re-emergence of Taliban militants.
Demonstrators are demanding that it was about time the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa provincial government began to take some control over the continuously worsening security situation in the scenic tourism heartland. The protests came after footage of militants was seen holding hostage one senior police official and three military officials on a mountain top bordering the Swat and Dir districts adjacent to Afghanistan. The militants released the security officials after a local jirga held negotiations with them.
According to media reports, the senior police official Pir Syed who was shot in the gun-battle with militants was moved to a hospital while the police had cleared the area.
RETURN OF TALIBAN?
The return of Taliban has spread a wave of fear and panic among the local residents, demanding the government take action against the militants. Residents in Dir also held a demonstration against allowing militants gaining a footstep in the region.
Sardar Khan, member of provincial assembly (MPA) of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz from Swat, told Voicepk that residents had suffered too much from militancy in the region.
“People do not want to witness another bloody conflict in the tourism capital,” he added.
Sardar Khan said he could not confirm reports of presence of Taliban militants in Swat, adding that the recent hostage incident has spread panic among tourists visiting there. “A lot of tourists have cancelled their bookings to Swat which would badly hit the ecovery of businesses associated with tourism there,” he said.
On the other hand, a Swat MPA from the ruling government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf denied that the Taliban militants managed to build a foothold in the scenic valley. “The local police and law enforcement agencies have full control of all areas,” PTI MPA Fazal Hakeem Khan told Voicepk. He said the hostage incident was amicably settled and there was no panic among tourists and residents.
MPA Fazal Hakeem Khan said tourists were still regularly coming to tourist spots like Malam Jabba in droves and there was no truth in reports that they were leaving or avoiding to come there. He said the identity of the militants could not be confirmed but they had left the area. He termed reports of Taliban presence in Swat as a propaganda to scare away visitors from the tourism heartland.
Separately, PTI leader Murad Saeed has also warned that the resurgence of Taliban in Swat was a dangerous sign that would have a serious impact on the overall security situation of the country.
In a video message released on social media on August 11, the PTI leader accused the incumbent federal government of fulfilling the agenda of their US masters by dragging the region into another bloody conflict.
As reports have surfaced that Taliban fugitives have again started regrouping in parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa especially Swat and Dir, he categorically said that the country must not be dragged into the dirty game again as peace in Swat, Waziristan, Bajaur, and Kurram districts had been restored after rendering great sacrifices.
“The security situation in Swat is once again becoming worse as there is a fear among people and the business community due to the resurgence of the Taliban, he said, adding it would affect the businesses, the daily life of the masses, education, and tourism if prompt action is not taken to eliminate the menace of terrorism.
However, Mohsin Dawar, MNA from Waziristan, expressed surprise at the PTI leaders feigning concern about Tehrik Taliban Pakistan regrouping in Khyber Pakhunkhwa.
“Did (Imran Khan) he not celebrate the fall of Kabul? Does the PTI not support Taliban? His minions had censored any mention of Taliban in the National Assembly,” Dawar said in his speech at the session of national Assembly on August 11.
He said the Taliban would not stop in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but would spread to engulf Punjab too. He said people in Dir and Waziristan are holding demonstrations to protest against presence of Taliban militants there.
Responding to a question about the hostage incident in Swat, Federal Minister for Defence Khawaja Asif had said that he was looking into the matter of the alleged presence of Taliban there.
Speaking to reporters at the soft launch of the Defense Exhibition Ideas 2022 on August 11, the defence minister said he was also in contact with the Afghan government over the incident.
The provincial govt has claimed that police had control of areas in Swat and denied presence of TTP militants there. Pakistan Army had conducted military operations Rahe Raast and Rahe Haq from 2007 to 2009 to flush out militants in Swat.