A firm date for the phased return of the IDPs from the Malakand Division has finally been announced by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. A day earlier, military spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas had said that Operation Rah-e-Rast had entered the final phase of creating conditions for the safe return of the displaced persons. At a GHQ meeting attended by senior officers connected with the operation, COAS Gen Parvez Kayani had reviewed the process of the return and a scheme was finally approved. The return and rehabilitation of over three million IDPs is a momentous task requiring full cooperation between the civil and military authorities. Their claim of having completed the basic groundwork is going to be tested in days to come. The NWFP government maintains that it has restored the most essential infrastructure which had been destroyed during the insurgency, and that basic services like electricity, gas, water, roads, fuel stations and the banking system are now back in place. The military claims that major population centres and main roads leading to Swat and other areas in the Malakand Division have been largely cleared of insurgents and most of their middle and lower level leadership eliminated. As the main leadership, including Maulana Fazlullah, have managed to escape, they are likely to use every opportunity to hit back. For months to come, the provincial administration and the Army will have to maintain vigilance to ensure peace and provide security to the returning IDPs. The NWFP government faces a big challenge. A vast majority of those returning to their homes are virtually penniless. They need to be looked after till they are in a position to stand on their feet, which might take months. Soon after rehabilitation, the administration will be required to undertake a mammoth project of rebuilding roads, bridges, schools and hospitals destroyed by the militants. Unless the task is fulfilled, complete normalcy will not return to the area. The insurgency has also taken toll of the morale of local administration from the district to the thana and union-council level. Many lower-level government functionaries have been killed or have absconded. The administration has to be revamped and made fully functional. An efficient intelligence network needs to be set up if militancy is to be eradicated from the area. What is of utmost importance is the rebuilding of confidence among people in the government's ability to provide them security of life and property.