The retrieval of Mingora, the main town of the Swat valley, from the militants' control, sooner than it was expected, is a matter of great relief and raises the expectation that it will not be long, perhaps, before the military campaign draws to a close. In fact, Defence Secretary Syed Athar Ali, who is presently attending a security conference at Singapore, has said that it would just take another two to three days before the operation is completed, a view termed by officials back home as "overly optimistic". It is interesting to note at the same time that the army's rapid advance into the rebel-held areas at a relatively much lower cost to its personnel (81) compared to the loss of militants' lives (1,217) has given the lie to the alarmist, masquerading as informed, view in the West about the threat to the very authority of the state and its nuclear assets. Yet, as top army commanders have opined, military operation is not the solution; it is a temporary remedy. One might interject though that the operation's real challenge, after the terrorists have been routed, lies in hunting down those who have chosen to lie low till the time the troops have withdrawn. In this difficult exercise of differentiating between militants and innocent citizens the help of local residents should prove crucial. And there are reassuring reports that the people are coming forward to identify them. There is little doubt that a vast majority of the population is averse to the ultra-conservative (rather un-Islamic) version of the glorious religion the militants wanted to impose. Only after these sinister elements have been removed from the scene that one would say with confidence that the area is clear for the peaceful residents to return. But, perhaps, a still more daunting challenge for the authorities is the return and rehabilitation of the displaced persons whose number is being variously computed between 2.5 million and three million. Not only is there the question of confidence about the security aspect but also of the objective realities of existence once they decide to get back. Their homes might have been so damaged that they have become uninhabitable, their shops and businesses looted and ruined, and basic infrastructure like water supply, gas pipeline, electricity lines, road and bridges network destroyed. There is urgent need to repatriate the IDPs if the government wishes to avert a much severer crisis emerging from the camps presently housing them. Thus, things have to move fast and the damage has to be repaired. There is no time to lose.