As Operation Khyber-2 comes to a close the military celebrates a successful campaign which has driven the militants out of Tirah Valley and Bara Plains and has captured major points of entry into Pakistan from Afghanistan. With the initial assault complete the military’s concern turns towards maintaining a sustainable presence in the region to thwart any future return of militancy; a task that the government should take the bulk of the responsibility for.

While the military has destroyed vital militant infrastructure, captured weapon caches and secured strategic points the militants themselves are a separate matter; countless have been killed, yet countless more have fled to Afghanistan and nearby regions in Pakistan. Before the commencement of the operation and during its height, reports from neighbouring tribal regions and even provincial districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Swat have indicated a large influx of militants who have fled the battlefield to take refuge in these lands, which are equally inaccessible as the mountainous terrain in the tribal region. Without their support structure, these militants will be a reduced threat, but a threat nonetheless, and the state has to devise a method to clear these lands from fugitive militants, only that will ensure a complete success.

The second element of a sustainable presence is well-trained and organized law enforcement. Presently the task is carried out by the Frontier Corps, backed up by Khasadars and levies; for the future these forces need to be institutionalised and embedded into the local populace, which should make up a portion of these law enforcement bodies. Similar to this is the government responsibility to make these newly liberated regions politically active and inclusive in the state apparatus; providing them a safe avenue to voice their grievances. Political activity makes people vested in the state and its fortunes, and as of this moment ensuring that the residents of these lands re-join the fold of the state remains of utmost importance.

If the government can successfully do this and couple this with economic opportunities, a comprehensive education policy and efforts to rebuild damaged infrastructure, then the state can be optimistic of peacefully securing these lands for a long time to come.