ISLAMABAD — Public confidence cannot be restored in the Swat valley until the top leadership of the Taliban is eliminated, said analysts, army officials and residents of Swat on Oct. 26. “Everyone here dreads the prospect of a return of the Taliban,” said Shamsher Khan, 40, who is in the hotel business. “Taliban leadership must be eliminated to restore confidence among the people of Swat.”
According to Afzal Khan Lala, a former federal minister and current Awami National Party (ANP) leader, ministers of the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) have declared some victories against Taliban militants in the area. Pakistani army authorities have also highlighted losses inflicted on the militants.
“Military operations alone, however, will not completely eliminate them,” said Lt. Gen. Nadeem Ahmed, who heads the army's Special Support Group. “We will need the cooperation of the local people to keep an eye on their activities. Right now the government priority is to capture or kill Swat's Taliban leaders.”
Army officials concede that the insurgents have not been completely rooted out and there are still some strong pockets of resistance. “The Taliban are still present in some mountainous areas. Troops have been battling them in Shahdehri, Kuza Bandi and Matta, not far from Mingor,” Nadeem said.
While escapes by members of the top militant leadership are always a major cause of concern, army officers dismiss fears about the Taliban’s return, saying there is no possibility of their regrouping.
“Their capacity to regroup and launch major attacks has been destroyed,” Nadeem said. “The army is going to stay in the area to ensure that the militants are not able to return.”
There is a consensus among government and military officials that the Taliban leadership must be eliminated to restore public confidence in Swat and make it difficult for the militants to stage a comeback.
The 20 'Most Wanted' list of Taliban in Swat is gradually being reduced as the current offensive has resulted in their death or arrest. The capture of five Swat Taliban Shura members, including spokesman Muslim Khan and leading military commander Mahmood Khan has further weakened the militants.
Civilians who supported the militants in the past are rethinking their positions. A woman who once donated gold to the Taliban cause said, “I had no idea that our [money] would be used to raise an army, to kill and humiliate, to confine us indoors and to flog us in public. We are ashamed we supported them. Now the army should eliminate them."