Accessibility links

Nearly Two Million Pakistanis Displaced by Offensive Against Taliban


Pakistan's military says its troops have recaptured a large swath of territory in and around the northwestern Swat Valley, destroying terrorist bases and killing hundreds of Taliban militants. A regional commander dismissed reports that many civilians are dying or that homes have been destroyed in the fighting.

Pakistan says it has stepped up its offensive to flush out Taliban militants from the northwestern Swat valley. The army is claiming major gains, which cannot be independently verified.

The number of Swat valley residents displaced by the fighting has reached more than two million, creating a humanitarian crisis, despite government claims that there has been no collateral damage.

At least 70,000 have found refuge at the Jalozai camp run by the United Nations near the city of Peshawar.

"I lost two of my sons, Adnan and Noman, during the evacuation from Mingora in the Swat Valley. We don't know where they are," Abdul Qayum said. Qaytum is from Mingora, the main town in the Swat Valley.

In the valley itself, damage from the fighting is evident in the villages. Mohammad Ayaz lost everything.

"I lost my tractor, my bed and all the things in the house," Ayaz said. I don't know who will pay for that."

The offensive is seen as a major test for Pakistan's army and its will to quell the Taliban insurgency.

Public opinion so far appears to support the offensive, according to reports.

But some analysts say the mood could quickly turn if the fighting drags on or if the refugee crisis is badly handled.

There have been protests in Islamabad and Karachi against the operation.

Muhammad Hussein Mehanti belongs to the Islamic political party called Jamat-e-Islami. "This operation is not against any Taliban," he explains. "It's against the nation. Our demand is the operation should be stopped and, through talks, solution should be found."

Some experts say the army is used to conventional warfare with India, but is not adept at fighting insurgencies. That's why, they say, so many people have been displaced.

Pakistan built these camps for some four million Afghan refugees who fled the fighting in neighboring Afghanistan, first during the Soviet occupation and later because of the Taliban.

Today, Pakistanis have become refugees in their own country.

XS
SM
MD
LG