PESHAWAR: After days of talks with the Pakistani Taliban, the militants on Saturday agreed to quit the hilltops in the picturesque Swat Valley.
The Taliban militants had arrived in Swat a few months ago and had reportedly occupied hilltops of the Matta subdivision in the district.
It had created panic among the people of Swat and the rest of districts of the Malakand Division, including Dir Lower, Dir Upper, Buner, Shangla and Malakand.
The Taliban’s conspicuous and unexpected appearance in Swat had also caused damage to tourism as the day Taliban were reported to have arrived in the valley, thousands of people had cancelled their bookings in hotels in Malam Jabba, Bahrain and Kalam valleys.
There was anger among the people of Swat as they complained that both the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and federal governments were completely silent on the issue.
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif later broke his silence but his comments were confusing when he said that they were in touch with the Afghan government about the Taliban’s appearance in Swat.
The reaction of the people of Swat regarding Taliban’s arrival in the valley was harsh as thousands of people took to the streets in support of peace and vowed to resist any effort that could destroy the peaceful environment there.
The Taliban militants were staying on hilltops and did not interfere in affairs of the local administration, though it had created a constant threat to peace in Swat and its adjoining areas.
The Taliban had reportedly come to Swat and other districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on the directions of their top leadership in Afghanistan.
Well-placed sources told The News that the government engaged the Taliban leadership and shared its concern. They told them it would be better for them to return to their previous locations so the people of Swat do not suffer in case a military operation is launched.
“The Taliban accepted requests of the local elders and agreed to leave Swat peacefully. By Saturday afternoon, the Taliban started leaving Swat via Dir,” a senior government official told The News on condition of anonymity.
According to sources, the government had moved additional troops to Swat and deployed them in different places for a likely offensive against the Taliban.
“Luckily, the situation returned to normal and there was no incident of violence in the valley. The role played by the people of Swat for peace is remarkable,” he added.
The Inter-Services Public Relations, meanwhile, said in a statement that during the past few days, a misperception about alleged presence of large number of proscribed organisation TTP’s armed members in Swat Valley had been created on social media.
“After confirmation on ground, these reports have been found as grossly exaggerated and misleading. Presence of small number of armed men on few mountain tops between Swat and Dir has been observed, located far away from population.
“Apparently, these individuals sneaked in from Afghanistan to resettle in their native areas. A close watch is being maintained on their limited presence and movement in mountains. Required measures are in place by all LEAs for the safety and security of people of adjoining areas. Presence of militants anywhere will not be tolerated and they will be dealt with full use of force if required,” the statement said.
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