Since the Pakistani military began its offensive in the Swat Valley, police across the valley and surrounding area have been deserting from their respective departments at an alarming rate. Over 30 percent of the overall force of the Malakand division have quit or simply stopped showing up for work in the past several months.
In the Buner district, which was among the first targets of the offensive, the number was a shocking 77.5%, as the source claimed that “310 cops out of the total 400 policemen have reportedly deserted the force.” Across the Swat Valley itself, 820 out of 2,000 deserted. In Upper and Lower Dir, roughly 250 out of 2,100 have left. The Buner police encouraged their members to flee with their families at the start of the offensive, but to report in after they arrived in camps. They eagerly left, but few appear to be reporting in.
Many national police are declining to be assigned to the area, preferring to quit instead of being deployed in Swat. Assignments to the picturesque valley have become incredibly dangerous, with the Taliban factions occupying or burning many of the stations, and capturing police in some towns.
Fighting across the Swat Valley has been slow for the military and disastrous for the civilians, millions of whom have been chased from their homes. As President Asif Ali Zardari vows to expand the war into many other portion’s of Pakistan’s northern frontier, it seems the number of places unpleasant for police and civilians alike is going to grow precipitously.