Where: Islamabad, Pakistan
May 14, 2009 : Pakistan’s government signed a peace agreement with the Taliban*, which had taken control of the country’s Swat valley region in February 2009, and allowed it to impose Islamic Sharia law there. The militants started moving towards the capital Islamabad in the following months. Pakistani forces launched a military operation against them in late April using airstrikes, artillery bombardment and rocket attacks by helicopter gunships.
On May 11, a spokesperson of the Pakistani armed forces said that 200 militants had been killed in the fighting. Around 15,000 troops are now said to be fighting 5,000 militants in the Swat valley. Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani called the conflict a “fight for the survival of the country”.
The United Nations records state that over 800,000 Pakistanis fled the area to escape the fighting between the army and the Taliban. The civilians could only move freely when curfew was relaxed. Many of them were in makeshift camps which offered little protection against the summer heat. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, called for a massive aid operation to help the displaced people. He warned that their large numbers could add to the instability in Pakistan.
The *Taliban, the most dreaded extremist Islamic militant group in the world, is present in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.