Thousands more civilians flooded out of the besieged Swat Valley today as the military once again briefly lifted the curfew it has placed on the region. The IDP (internally displaced persons) camps are packed to the gills already, struggling to cope with what some are calling the largest mass migration the land has seen since the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan.
But even as the military continues to trumpet its success, Defense Minister Ahmad Mukhtar says that the operation was proceeding “gradually” and that there was no timetable for the attack to end. Though he acknowledged that the military is using heavy artillery, he insisted that they were doing their best to avoid collateral damage.
The streets of Swat’s primary city of Mingora are virtually abandoned at this point, and the military is reportedly preparing an assault. Reports suggest that the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) are ready to repel the assault, having drug trenches and laid mines in anticipation of the attack. While the military claims to have killed nearly 1,000 militants since the operation began, estimates put the overall number living in the region at 4,000-5,000, and outrage at the government’s heavy-handed tactics may well be shoring that up with more local tribesmen. Mingora may be a major test for the military’s offensive, which though it has amassed an impressive body count has gained control of little territory.