Swat Valley is known as “the Switzerland of Pakistan” the most visited tourist attraction located in Northwestern Province of Khyber Pakhtunkwa. The valley remained a stronghold for the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan from 2007 to 2009. Pakistani Army deployed troops in Swat in 2007 to launch a large-scale operation against Taliban militants.
First Battle of Swat, was held in late 2007 in which Pakistan Army launched Operation Rah-e-Haq against the TTP terrorists over control of the Swat District of Pakistan. The battle started on October 25, 2007 and involved the Pakistani Army initiating the offensive operation against TTP-led forces in the Swat region. On November 15, 2007, a Pakistani offensive commenced inflicting a huge damage to the TTP forces.
In July 2008, Operation Rah-e-Haq-II was launched as the first infantry division was deployed. This time the military operation was led by both Air Force and Army. Both heavy artillery and Airpower was used in this operation. In Bajaur Agency TTP led by Faqir Mohammed played hovac soon after the second phase of Rah-e-Haq started in Swat. So, the Army started Operation Sherdil to counter the terrorist elements in Bajaur that resulted in operational success in Swat as well. The Army launched Operation Rah-e-Haq-III in January 2009 to secure the main supply lines and consolidate the Swat District. Frontier Corps infantry troops provided help to four Army Infantry brigades. The last week of January saw intensive aerial and artillery bombing. The forces regained Mingora and were poised to push the Taliban out of the district when Sufi Muhammad was released and so called Shariah was introduced in Swat and Malakand.
The Second Battle of Swat also known as Operation Rah-e-Rast, began in May 2009 this time Pakistan Army targeting the terrorist hideouts with an upper hand as Operation Rah-e-Haq provided them a fair understanding of the terrain and loop holes of enemy. The first Battle of Swat had ended with a peace agreement, that the government had signed with the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan in February 2009. However, by late April 2009 LEAs and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan began to clash once again, and in May the government launched military operations throughout the district and elsewhere to defeat Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. Another military operation, Operation Black Thunderstorm commenced on April 26, 2009 with an aim to retake Buner, Swat, Lower Dir, and Shangla districts from TTP. After that, the Armed Forces of Pakistan were successful in defeating the menace of terrorism.
The next few years were meant to ensure no terrorist could enter the region again so Army established temporary check points for ensuring safety of the local people. In order to seal the infiltration routes into Upper Dir from Kunar (Afghanistan), Operation Takmeel-e-Azm was undertaken in general area Shahikot of District Dir in November 2013 and completed by April 2014. At the end of November 2013, command of Pakistan Army was assumed by General Raheel Sharif. In May 2014, on reports of presence of terrorists in the general area Ilam Mountains, Malakand Division, Operation Koh Shikan was launched which was completed within 15 days.
Pakistan Army became successful in pushing the terrorists outside the region and in the process sacrificed a huge number of men & officers. Post-military operations the Army had control of the region for a couple of years to ensure all the supply lines and safe passages for terrorists were blocked. In October 2018, Pakistan army “successfully” wrapped up its decade-long anti-Taliban offensive in the restive northwestern valley of Swat and handed over the territory to KPK government in an official ceremony. Addressing to the ceremony Chief Minister of KPK, Mehmood Khan said: “Today is our victory day and we proudly announced that now there is no presence of any terrorist hideouts in Swat as Pakistan military successfully defeated them and destroyed all their hideouts in Swat and other parts of Malakand region.” He further added: “Terrorists had destroyed our educational institutions, health facilities and killed thousands of innocent people in Swat, Dir, Bunir and other parts of the Malakand Division. Today complete peace has returned here.” The recent furore against the resurgence of TTP in Swat is being called by defense analysts as a failure of KP government. However, Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa has clearly indicated that any attempt to distort the peace and stability in the region will be dealt with an iron hand. Pakistan has suffered immensely at the hands of terrorism and countless sacrifices have been made by the Armed Forces and people of Pakistan to bring back peace in the country. What is needed now by the political leadership and the provincial government to rise to the occasion and do its job in ensuring good governance and establish full writ of the state through efficient policing and internal management of the area.
About Author: Humais Sheikh is an independent Defence Analyst based in Islamabad. He has completed his Masters in Defence and Strategic Studies from Quaid-I-Azam University, Islamabad.