Friday 2 April 2010

Pakistan army in Swat: a shovel in one hand and a gun in the other

Writing for Washington Post, Karin Brulliard writes
Of 401 schools bombed by militants or left dilapidated, half have been rebuilt. But it was the military, not the government, that rebuilt them while also providing temporary tents for other schools. By some estimates, the army has carried out 90 percent of the building and rebuilding projects
But all of this should be delivered by the civilian government, surely?
The military is rebuilding roads, schools and libraries. It is buying computers for women's vocational institutes and solar-powered streetlights for villages. It is planting a million trees. The work has made soldiers hugely popular, but some wonder why the civilian government is not doing it.
Writing on the war in Swat last year I wrote
It is, however, important to ensure that what appears to be a qualified victory in the short term doesn't turn into a long term defeat.Though a large number of Taliban fighters have been killed in the operation and remaining appear to be on the run, the top tier command structure of Swat Taliban is still intact. Military action has not succeeded in capturing or eliminating key targets like Mullah Fazlullah, Muslim Khan and the like. While these hard core terrorist are alive there will always be a risk of Taliban resurgence once the army has gone back into the barracks.
Situation on the ground has not changed. Swat Taliban leadership is still at large and waiting for army to pull out leaving them free to deal with the jelly kneed civilian infrastructure.

Militancy in Swat was never a mere Islamic fundamentalist insurgency. It had its roots in the absence of a functional civil administrative infrastructure and institutions of law and justice. That need has not changed. Before the 50,000 strong Pakistan army moves out of the region the government still need to ensure that:
  • A new police infrastructure that is trained, equipped and willing to take on the responsibility of establishing the law and order and provide security to citizens without having to rely on military support;
  • A civil administration that does not simply rely of doing deals with the remnants of Taliban or their supporters;
  • institutions of justice and law and order - absence of these gave credibility to the demands of people like Sufi Muhammad in the first place;
  • active counter insurgency mechanism in place with bodies on the ground and in the streets. Having just a military cantonment is not going to achieve this;
  • engage national and regional political parties to create a national voice against the menace. While doing so not to cave in to pressure groups like Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman who are still in the business of making money from dead bodies.
Some of it is being put in place.
government offices in Swat are open, and they have reclaimed their chaotic bustle... officials have reduced a large backlog of court cases, surveyed 10,000 destroyed houses and shops, and plan to distribute $1 million in total compensation to families of victims or survivors of terrorist attacks. "In the entire district, every nook and corner, the government is functioning,"...But security analysts say that keeping insurgents at bay requires the government not just to resume its functions but to improve them -- and that is the worry...

1 comment:

  1. It’s true that the army is doing a great job in Swat, not only in fighting the terrorists but also in rebuilding of the region. Once the area is rebuilt, its people would certainly appreciate the role of army and the government in bringing peace in the region.