Operation Rah-e-Raast liberating Swat valley from extremism
Hamza, Irshad and Babar
The Role of “Operation Rah-e-Raast” in the establishment of peace in Swat, how militancy developed in Swat and Maulana Sufi Mohammad and Mullah Fazalullah supported militancy with the collaboration of Tahrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. As a result, the Pakistan army decided to take military action against the militants in Swat. This study shows the weakness of the Provincial and local governments of Swat which led to the birth of militancy. This study also shows the effects on the residents after the military operation in Swat.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa lies between the Indus River and it cover the area of 74,521 sq/km but the area of Swat has 5337 sq/km. According to Census 1998, approximate population of Swat is 1,257,602; 86.17 % of the population live in rural areas while only 13.83% live in urban areas. Male literacy rate is 43.16 while for the females it is 13,45%. The predominant religion is Islam which covers 96.67 % population with the rest Christians, Buddhists and Hindus.
Brief Profile of Mullah Fazalullah
Mullah Fazullah – Dawn
Mullah Fazalullah was born on March 1, 1975 in Mamdheri village District Mangora which is located in KPK. After passing Intermediate exams from the Government College Swat, he was admitted in Madrassa in District Dir. He received Islamic education from Maulana Sufi Mohammad. His father sold all properties for illness and shifted into Dir. He married the daughter of Maulana Sufi Mohammad and became the member of TNSM and Taliban society. He participated in all events and processions along with Maulana Sufi Mohammad. After the 9/11 incident, he also moved with Maulana Sufi Mohammad and participated in the fight against NATO forces in Afghanistan’s Global war on terror. After the defeat, he along with other TNSM followers were arrested by the security forces in January 2002. He was sentenced to Jail in Dera Ismail Khan KPK and released after 17 months.
Maulana Sufi Mohammad – Dawn
After release he went to his hometown where he had no job opportunity. He started his career as a chairlift operator and made relations with the local people. With the help of Habib Khan, he started FM radio station in Mandheri in 2004.[i] Local people made him the chief of TNSM in the absence of Sufi Mohammad. He and his followers gained a lot of goodwill for their humanitarian work during the earthquake on October 8, 2005.
He captured the FM broadcast station in PATA and banned all songs and other western broadcast services. On a daily basis, his sermons about religious education were broadcast in all stations which attempted to enforce the people’s belief in the Shariah system. He had good relations with Ghazi Abdul Rashid who was the head of the Lal Mosque. When the government forces attacked the Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa, he started brutal attacks against the military and destroyed Government institutions and hospitals. He linked TNSM with Tahrik-e-Taliban Pakistan in FATA (Baitullah Mehsud) and was elected as the chief of Tahrik-e-Taliban Swat.
In 2007, Government started various military operations like as Operation Rah-e-Haq and Rah-e-Raast, but was not able to capture him. The Government announced a cash reward of fifty million rupees for the arrest of Mullah Fazalullah.[ii] After the successful military operation Rah-e-Raast he escaped to Afghanistan. Not knowing about his flight to Afghanistan, Pakistan Army declared Mullah Fazalullah was killed in the Army operations. When Mullah’s interview was heard in the media, it was assured he was safe and that he was very much alive.
Why operation Rah-e-Raast by Pakistan Army was crucial for Swat
After Silence Operation, Mullah Fazlullah affiliated TNSM with Tahrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. He was appointed as Chief of Tahrik Taliban Pakistan Swat. He and his followers started their anti-state activities like banning female education, altering the judiciary system, closing barber shops, controlling local radio stations and implementation of their own home rules and regulations. It all appeared as if Taliban was running Swat.
Islamic Laws in line with the Quran and Sunnah were enforced. Mullah Fazlullah and his followers started a progrom of terror in Swat. Religious extremism in Swat was higher than other adjacent districts of Malakand Division. Tahrik Taliban Pakistan (TTP) supporters wanted to implement their extreme Islamic rules that created challenges to the Muslim world.[iii]To support their terrorist activities, foreign funds poured in from India, Russia and Israel. These countries used Fazalullah to create tension for the Pakistani Army in the name of Jihad.[iv]
Present problem in Swat is low literacy rate, poor economic condition of the residents, no health facilities, poor agricultural system, no implementation of constitutional laws, strict on religious indoctrination and cultures. Add to that a cocktail of terrorism and militancy, making life of the residents miserable.
Mullah Fazlullah and Maulana Sufi Mohammad made various agreements with Provincial Government of KPK and Federal Government of Pakistan, but these agreements were broken soon after the handshakes. They started attacks against the military forces and suicide attacks on the poor people. From January to May 2008, 29 schools out of which 17 were girls’ educational institutions were destroyed by TTPS.[v]
The Provincial Government of KPK decided military action against Mullah Fazalullah and his supporters. Military operation “Rah-e-Haq” was started on October 25, 2007 in Swat. It was concluded in three phases and was completed in 2009. This operation was not completely successful, Mullah Fazlullah fled to Peocher hills with the cooperation of Tahrik-e-Taliban Pakistan.
In the beginning, Asif Ali Zardari President of Pakistan rescinded the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation 2009 and reaffirmed the jurisdiction of Malakand’s civil courts, the Peshawar High Court and the Supreme Court.[vi] The Awami National Party rejected all foreign concerns about the repeal of the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation in Malakand Division and declared the step was purely aimed to bring peace in this region.[vii] On 17 May 2009, the National Assembly unanimously passed a resolution endorsing the counterinsurgency operation in Malakand.[viii]
Military Operation Rah-e-Raast
Following areas in the Malakand division were identified to under the control of Mullah Fazalullah and his supporters.
Biha valley, Shamozai, Peochar, Chaparral, Matta, Khawazakhela, Mangora, Kabal, Banai Baba Ziarat, Sakhra Valley, Saidu Sharif, Khel Kandao, Bunir, Dangram, Kukarai, Jambil, Khazana, ZarraKhela, Garai Shalkosar Jukhtai, Balasur, Kabal, Dhadara, Akhun Khalle, and Rangeela.
Pakistan military launched a massive offensive against Fazalullah group in the last week of April 2009. This operation continued for three months was described as a routine military exercise by the Inter Services Public Relations.[ix] The military operation Rah-e-Raast started in May 2009 to clear areas Swat and capture or kill key militants including the most prominent Mullah Fazlullah and Maulana Sufi Mohammad. Pakistan Army used heavy weapons on militants in Swat, Bunir and Dir. On 30th May 2009, the army declared, it had the entire Mangora under their control.[x]
The Army attacked indiscriminately killing militants as well as a large number civilians. This culminated in a heavy loss of population and economy of Pakistan.[xi] Al-Qaida joined the militants in the fight under the full support of Tahrik-e-Taliban Pakistan.[xii] Sufi Mohammad was arrested again along with his two sons in Lower Dir. In the two operations Rah-e-Haq and Rah-e-Raast, Pakistan Army had the full collaboration of the civil administration and were considered a complete success. During the ISPR reports, 2635 militants were killed and 254 arrested by military forces while 168 persons were martyred and 454 wounded during the conflict. The largest loss in the region was the flight of about 2.5 million into other areas of KPK and other provinces of Pakistan for safety.
Effects of Military Operation Rah-e-Raast on the Residents
The residents were fearful of Mullah Fazalullah and his supporters who wanted to spread religious education in this region. His teachings were more in line with extremism and militancy. In the confrontation between the army and the extremists, the public supported the army.[xiii] Peace and harmony finally came to Swat.
Educational Facilities in Swat:
Local government of Swat acted swiftly in establishing the schools and colleges staffed by well-educated teachers. The institutions were secured with well-trained security guards to maintain discipline and peace. There are 1497 primary schools in which 943 were for boys and 554 for girls. There are also 135 High and Higher Secondary Schools in which 40 are girl’s school and 95 for the males.
Health Facilities in Swat:-
Militants destroyed all hospitals and health facilities. Swat’s population of 1.25 million do not have adequate health facilities. There are 18 BHU, RHC and THQ hospitals providing medical services for the residents of Swat. Seriously ill patients have to be carried to other areas of the KPK, Punjab and Islamabad. Lack of basic facilities have created an additional problem; the problem of drugs used by the younger people in order to take a flight away from their daily miseries.
Effects of Military Operation on Agriculture:
During military operations residents had to bear heavy loss in agriculture. Militants destroyed their crops and used their cultivable lands in war against the military forces. Residents were facing shortage of food and many died from hunger. Estimated loss in agricultural areas in Swat was approximately 1804.75 million rupees.[xiv]After the military operations, Government provided seeds and chemicals so that residents could cultivate their lands.
Internal Placed Persons
Federal and Provincial governments provided basic facilities to the residents of Swat. They were provided some cash to build houses for residency with the support of NGO’s and INGO’s and International agencies like as UNO, UNESCO and WFP. America provided help under USAID. Under this program, the residents were facilitated in all forms.
Maulana Sufi Mohammad and Mullah Fazalullah tried to impose extreme rules on the residents of Swat. These rules were against the Constitution of Pakistan. Some residents supported them economically, politically, socially and morally to make their operations successful. Both militants have had close contacts with foreign terrorists and agencies. These agencies provided funds for the terrorist activities, suicide attacks on military forces and bomb blasts on crowded places. In the name of Islam and Jihad they resorted to these ill motivated tasks. It caused a lot of deaths, pain and agony on the population. These militants challenged the laws of the country and wanted to establish a legal code based on strict Sharia. People of Swat finally achieved peace and got spared from the scourge of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism at the least for the time being. The good future can follow if the residents of Swat work hard to maintain peace and discipline under the laws created by the national government.
Author’s Names: (1) Muhammad Hamza, (2)MuhammadIrshad and (3) SummarIqbal Babar
- Scholar of M.Phil Studies, Al-Khair University AJ&K Bhimber
- Lecturer in English Department, Government Postgraduate College, Chishtian
- Lecturer in International Relation Department, Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad.
[i]Khadam,The Militant Discourse Religious Militancy in Pakistan, 94.
[ii] Amir Mir, Khaled Ahmed, Talibanization of Pakistan From 9/11 to 26/11 and Beyond. (New Delhi, Pentagon Security International Press, 2010): 436.
[iii]Rashid Ahmed, Taliban: The Power of Militant Islam in Afghanistan and Beyond, Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd, UK, (April 30, 2010) p. 87
[iv] Muhammad Amir Rana, The Militant: Development of a Jihadi Character in Pakistan, Narrative Publications Islamabad, March 28, 2015 p. 113.
[v]Kiran Firdous, Militancy in Pakistan Strategic Studies, Volume 29 Issue Summer &Autumn (2&3-112009).
[vi]Islamabad/Brussels, Asia Briefing N°93, 3 June 2009, Pakistan’s IDP Crisis: Challenges and Opportunities, Policy Briefing, International Crisis Group, working to prevent Conflict Worldwide.
[vii] United States Department of State Review Authority: Archie M Bolster Date/Case ID: 24 JUN 2011 201000373, DRONE/DOS/000826 (23-01-2001)
[viii]Sadia M Malik. Horizontal Inequalities and Violent Conflict in Pakistan: Is There a Link?Economic& Political Weekly Volume 54, Issue 34 (22August 2009).
[ix] Rashid Ahmed, Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Penguins Book England, March 15, 2012 p. 159
[x]Seth G. Jones, C. Christine Fair, Pakistani Operation against Militancy, Counterinsurgency in Pakistan. Santa Monica, United States of America; RAND National Security Research Division (2010) p.194.
[xi]Shuja Nawaz, Crossed Swords: Pakistan, its Army, and the War Within, Oxford University Press, (November 05, 2008) p.86
[xii]Rashid Ahmed, Decent into Choas: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia, Viking Penguin; First Edition (June 3, 2008) p.144.
[xiii] Rashid Ahmed, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in central Asia, Yale Press United States, April 13, 2010) p. 210
[xiv] Perception Survey on Reconciliation in Malakand division, 2012 United Nations Development Programme Pakistan Material in this publication may be freely quoted or reprinted, but acknowledgement is requested. This publication is available from: United Nations Development Programme 4 Floor Serena Business Complex Islamabad, Pakistan. P. 14 (1-94)