THE NWFP government headed by Chief Minster Ameer Haider Hoti termed on Saturday the military operation in Swat as a failure. It is not the presence of troops that is pinching it, quite the contrary. What it is really angry about is the failure of the security forces to establish the writ of the state besides turning a blind eye to the deaths of non-combatants. One ought to lend an ear to what the provincial Information Minister Iftikhar Hussain said about collateral damage. His statement that there was a perception in the area that innocent people were being killed in the operation while nothing solid was being done to rein in the militant networks should be given a serious thought. It is difficult to find fault with the views of the NWFP set-up about the prevailing mess because for one thing the desired results have not been achieved and for another the area is much worse off today than it was prior to the arrival of the army. If the lawbreakers continue to roam the streets, harass people and burn schools and shops, there is something seriously wrong with the operation. According to reports, militants have so far blown up more than 130 girls schools in the area. The cases of kidnapping for ransom are also on the increase, a technique used by militants to collect funds for their campaign. The adverse effect the poor law and order situation has created on the economy has added to the miseries of the people. It is thus obvious that a new strategy to fight the scourge would have to be adopted and an exit strategy found as soon as the job is done. The Saturday meeting chaired by Mr Hoti urged the federal authorities to make the military operation more effective and reportedly chalked out a plan to nab miscreants. The plan includes strengthening the police, providing it with modern weapons, giving it the powers to demolish the hideouts of the kidnappers and other thugs involved in destabilizing the province. Giving police a free hand would not be without risks but the minister's explanation that the measure was undertaken as a test case is assuring. It is also comforting to know that the magistracy system that was abolished in 2001 had been revived. Since it is thought to be quite effective in strengthening the criminal justice system, one hopes it would make significant contribution to bring peace to the region. These efforts on the part of the NWFP government are commendable and one wishes it Godspeed. The federal government ought to come to its rescue particularly in releasing the emergency funds it has asked for.