In Pakistan, Swat Valley police give up in face of Taliban attacks
Taliban struck a police station Wednesday. Many police are resigning because of death threats.
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As a result, nearly 800 policemen – half the authorized force in Swat – have either resigned or gone on long leave. Only one of the 600 recruits trained by the military at the Punjab Regimental Centre in Mardan volunteered to serve in what is becoming known as the "valley of death," according to a local newspaper.Skip to next paragraph
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Today, Rehman runs a small general store where he sells toffee and household items. He says he is making less than what he was earning as a constable, but is happier.
But his store is in Mingora, where the central square, the Green Chowk, has now become known as Chowk Zebakhana, or "slaughter square." On one day in December, militants dumped 27 corpses in the square. The square is also the location for numerous sniper attacks, often aimed at traffic cops. Police officers have refused traffic duty in this area, prompting the military to impose a night curfew.
Like Rehman, around 400 cops resigned in the last year in Swat. Fazal Khattak, police commissioner in Swat, says they are encountering major problems in recruiting officers. "We recently advertised ... for police constables," he says. "Only seven people applied and on the day of the interview even these people didn't show up."
Khattak says that there are more than 100 vacancies. "I don't have hopes of filling these up soon," he says. "Hardly anyone wants to become a police officer nowadays."
Another officer, who wished to remain anonymous because he feared being punished for talking, says he took out an ad announcing his resignation two months ago. "I was too scared, and with all the kidnappings going around, I decided not to continue," he says.
This constable blames the Pakistani Army for not making adequate efforts. "If the Army was more aggressive in Swat, the police would feel safer working here," he says.
Retired Brig. Gen. Mahmood Shah agrees that the Army is at fault in the valley. "It's a question of will," he says. "Militants are successful in demoralizing the law enforcing agencies, and the deteriorating law-and-order situation in Swat is another incentive for police officers to resign. The Army has to act more aggressively, squash the militants, and provide some protection to the police."
Currently the Army has four brigades in Swat and has promised to add more boots on the ground if need be.
Rehman and other police officers say they will be happy to go back to their old jobs if they regained confidence in the government. "I want nothing more than to be a police officer," he says.
"But I have a wife and children," he adds, "and don't want them to be deprived of their only earning hand. If Swat becomes peaceful, I will go back immediately – without question."