Q. What’s your take on the military operation in Swat Valley? Are Taliban on the retreat now, as the army claims?
A. There is no doubt that a resolute military effort is under way against Taliban insurgents as we speak. There are ground operations. There are air assaults. But you and I both know that Pakistani army is not traditionally trained to fight insurgents. So every step of the way it needs to learn from the mistakes. Hardcore Taliban must be physically exterminated through precision targeting, so that there should be less and less collateral damage. But for this the army has to have effective ground intelligence.
Q. But how can we be sure about the figures of Taliban casualties, because there is no independent source to corroborate the army’s claims?
A. Well, that’s the real dilemma when you fight terrorist-insurgents. The Swat valley had to be cleared before the operation began, because the terrorists were located in the population centers. The limitation on media was also essential, partly for security reasons and partly because of the fact that quite often an unhindered access to media may prove counter-productive to counter-terrorist operations.
Q. Is the government effectively handling the IDPs from Swat Valley?
A. It has not done what it should have done. It should have planned before hand, before the military started to strike Taliban targets in the Malakand Division in late April. Give the presence of Taliban in the area, people from there had to displace. Probably the government failed to comprehend the gravity of this displacement. Instead of running around for securing international relief, it must focus all its energies on taking proper care of this population, which is now touching nearly three million. If we are able to win the hearts and minds of these people, then we will be able to defeat the Taliban once and for all.