The Pakistani government has “lost control” of the settled district of Swat to the Taliban, a senior politician said.
The military is losing the battle that began more than a year ago in the former vacation paradise once known as the Switzerland of Pakistan, according to Haji Adeel, the Senior Vice President of Awami National Party, the ruling party in the Northwest Frontier Province.
The military’s inability to quell the Taliban insurgency in Swat has eroded the confidence in the security forces and the government, Adeel said.
“What will be the credibility of the military operation in Swat when houses of ministers are destroyed and their family members are queued up for shooting,” he said. “What I see is that the situation has gone out of control of both the federal and provincial governments and the people have lost confidence in the government and the army.”
Adeel noted that Swat was outside of the tribal areas along the Afghan border.
The Pakistani military launched an operation to retake the settled district of Swat after Mullah Fazlullah forces overran police stations and paramilitary outposts. The neighboring district of Shangla was overrun by the Taliban in November. More than 200 policemen and soldiers were killed during fighting in Swat in 2007.
The military said the operation to retake Swat would be over by Dec. 15, 2007 and the ski resort would be open for business. The Taliban was driven from Shangla in November and fighting tapered off in Swat in February after the military made some gains. But the government never took full control over the district. The government signed a peace agreement with the Taliban in May.
The military admitted that Swat, Shangla, and other unnamed districts outside the tribal areas are under Taliban control during a briefing to the parliament in October.
Pakistani forces have been fighting forces aligned with Mullah Fazlullah, a radical cleric of the outlawed Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM – the Movement for the Implementation of Mohammad’s Sharia Law).
The TNSM is known as the “Pakistani Taliban” and is the group behind the ideological inspiration for the Afghan Taliban. The TNSM sent more than 10,000 fighters into Afghanistan to fight US forces during Operation Enduring Freedom in October 2001.
Fazlullah merged with Baitullah Mehsud’s Tehrik-e-Taliban, or the movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, in December 2007.
Fazlullah has successfully organized anti-polio and anti-girls’ schools campaigns throughout the region. The Swat region has been a safe haven and training ground for the Taliban and al Qaeda.
The fighting has destroyed Swat’s tourist industry. Fazlullah’s forces have burned down the ski lodge and bombed the lifts.