PESHAWAR -- The Pakistani army's recent decision to transfer security responsibilities to the civilian administration of Dir, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), is a sign of the restoration of peace in the region, officials and local residents say.
Military authorities handed over the duties to the civilian governments of Lower and Upper Dir on April 11 during a ceremony in Balambat.
The Pakistani army was deployed to the seven districts of Malakand Division a decade ago when militants began challenging the government's authority, blowing up schools and conducting bomb and suicide attacks, said Malakand General Officer Commanding Maj. Gen. Ali Amir Awan at the ceremony, Dawn reported.
Now that the militants have been rooted out, all checkpoints in Lower and Upper Dir have been handed over to police, he said. Security forces will remain in border areas and will fully co-operate with the civil administration in maintaining peace and order.
Awan said he appreciated the role that local elders, journalists and the civil administration have played in the restoration of peace in the region, adding that 470 soldiers died in the line of duty fighting against terrorists.
A transfer long in the making
Planning for the security handover in tribal areas began at the end of 2017, Dawn reported April 12.
A decision was made to start the process in Malakand Division, where civilian law enforcement agencies appear readier to assume the military's former responsibilities.
The military not only restored peace but also rehabilitated 300 schools damaged by the Taliban and built 32 new ones, Malakand Commissioner Syed Zaheerul Islam told Pakistan Forward.
"The military has imparted training to police to enable them to cope with terrorism-related incidents," he said.
The number of security checkpoints in Swat, which neighbours Dir, has diminished from 60 to 6, and the process of transferring responsibilities from the military to the civil administration there will be complete soon, Zaheerul said at a news conference April 12.
The overall security situation is satisfactory, a result made "possible by joint efforts and the sacrifices of the army, police and local residents", he told Pakistan Forward.
Maintaining peace, preventing return of militants
A commitment to democratic processes has enabled the return to normality, KP Information Minister Shah Farman told Pakistan Forward.
"Our people underwent immense hardships when militants emerged in Swat ten years ago, but they showed unity against extremism and stood like a rock behind the army," he said.
Mushtaq Ahmed, a Dir-based transporter, praised the efforts of the army and political leaders in maintaining peace.
"The local administration is now able to take up security responsibilities as the residents are ready to co-operate and deny footholds to extremists in the future," he told Pakistan Forward.
"The people have breathed a sigh of relief, and all trade, education and sport activities are in full swing," Khalilur Rehman, a political science lecturer at Malakand University, told Pakistan Forward. "Now, the population stands united in rejecting militancy in all its forms."
Murad Saeed, a lawmaker in Pakistan's National Assembly from Swat, credited the army, civilian government and the public for eliminating the hotbeds of extremism and terrorism.
The transfer of security duties "will usher in an era of economic development of the area and the residents will reap the fruits of peace", he said.
Awami National Party chief Mian Iftikhar Hussain urged the army to continue its campaign against all those who threaten to disrupt the peace.
"Any laxity on the part of the civilian administration could strengthen militants, and we have to keep strict vigilance over the situation," he told Pakistan Forward.
"Malakand's residents have been the worst victims of extremism, and they should realise the situation and fully support the administration for a durable peace," he said.