The Pakistani military continues its slow advance against the pro-Taliban forces in Swat led by Maulana Fazlullah. While the government claims its writ has been restored in Swat and “life is returning to normalcy,” several major towns are still under Taliban control almost two months after the Taliban took control.
The military plan calls for moving troops into the mountains and hilltops. Once secured, the military is relying on air power and artillery barrages in populated areas of the settled district to force the Taliban from their hideouts. Eleven Taliban were reported captured on Friday night, including two “foreign fighters.”
“Despite steady progress against the militants, the security forces have yet to take control of Charbagh, Manglwar, Matta, Khawazakhela and some villages of Kabal tehsil, which are still under the control of militants,” the Daily Times reported.
Fazlullah, whose brother has been captured, remains defiant. He was able to broadcast on his illegal FM radio channel for the first time in a week since the government began jamming it, Dawn reported.
“Our morale is high and we will teach a lesson to soldiers,” Fazlullah stated, claiming the government has been targeting civilians in raids. “We have left our positions for your sake because the security forces have been killing innocent people in desperation.” Fazlullah also denied the commander for Matta was killed by locals, instead saying he was killed by Pakistani forces.
As the Pakistani military seeks to restore order in Swat, questions are beginning to be raised about the ability of the police and paramilitary units to hold the Army’s gains. Both the police and Swat Scouts are known to have been infiltrated.
“Nineteen policemen have been dismissed from service by [Swat] district police officer Waqif Khan on the charge of supporting Fazlullah,” Dawn reported. An ambulance driver was also arrested in Swat for shuttling Taliban fighters to and from the fighting and for stockpiling weapons in his home.
Meanwhile, a member of the Swat Scouts was arrested in Kohat “for allegedly blowing up music and CD shops.” The paramilitary soldier “confessed to blowing up a shop on the Jail Road two months ago, saying he had done so on the directives of ‘Amir-ul-Momineen’.”
Amir-ul-Momineen, which translates to “leader of the faithful,” is a nom de guerre for Mullah Omar Mujahid, the leader of the Afghan Taliban. The Taliban has been bombing CD and video shops throughout the Northwest Frontier Province in an effort to impose sharia law.