Pakistan's war refugees losing patience
Some say they don't mind being uprooted for now – if the Taliban are ousted for good. The Army says it should clear militants from major towns within days, though rooting them out from rural areas may take months.
As Pakistan's military operation to clear the Taliban from Swat Valley enters a decisive phase, it's won support from an unlikely group: the residents who had to flee the fighting and whose homes and business may be destroyed when they return.Skip to next paragraph
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But that backing is on the decline, as internally displaced persons (IDPs) taking shelter in camps, community centers, and other people's homes, wait in vain for the news of key Taliban leaders being killed or arrested – and as temperatures top 110 degrees F.
Some worry this Pakistan offensive may turn out like previous two in Swat since 2007: a military defeat, and an even stronger Taliban.
"Although our houses were destroyed, businesses suffered, near and dear ones killed, even then we shall be happy if the Army eliminates the Taliban chief [Maulana] Fazlullah and his key commanders," says a local elder from Matta Tehsil in Swat, who is currently living in a rented house in nearby Mardan District.
"This whole practice [operation] shall be no more than a farce if they [the Pakistan Army] conclude the operation without killing Fazlullah and his commanders, who are responsible for the destruction of Swat," he continues.
Pakistan's Army has reported significant progress since it launched its current offensive, Rah-e-Rast ("The Right Path") last month. It should clear Taliban fighters from Swat's major towns and cities within days, military spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas told the Associated Press. Many militants are thought to have fled into the hills. Those would take longer to root out, General Abbas said.
On Monday, the Pakistani military lifted curfews in seven Swat Valley towns to allow residents to get food and other supplies. Officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross who toured some areas in Swat over the weekend were "alarmed" at what they saw. "There is no running water, no electricity, and food is scarce," team leader Daniel O'Malley said in a statement Sunday.
But the Taliban is striking back elsewhere. On Monday, some 400 students graduating from a military-run college in North Waziristan were taken hostage. Their relatives and teachers were also reportedly captured.
One family shelters 17,000 refugees
Meanwhile, an estimated 2.5 million residents from Swat and neighboring Buner and Lower Dir districts, where fighting has also occurred, have fled elsewhere for shelter, food, and water.